Pheasant Lake: Realizing an Idea
By the late 1970s the Apprentice Bushman, fugitive from urban life, had had sufficient experience in improvising solutions to the daily challenges of rural living.
This base of experience was enough to give the Bushman the notion that he had become a fully fledged Bushman and had left his apprentice status behind. He had survived, more or less intact even after he had all but severed the thumb on his left hand with an electric saw while cutting cedar siding for the house. A young Orthopedic Surgeon at Prince George Regional Hospital reattached the digit after convincing the Bushman that the opposable thumb was an important distinction between humans and our primate cousins. The Bushman was thankful for that reminder. He could ill afford to forgo any detail confirming his status as a human.
Shortly after the rescue of his left thumb, over the inevitable cup of coffee, the Bushman and his mentor for things rural and friend, Ken Lund discussed an interesting possible alternative to traditional farming to supply protein for consumption: fish farming. The Bushman was all ears. He was motivated to use the land for purposes other than a simple repository for a residence. He had little real life skills and lacked the knowledge and culture of farming and had had an abiding passion for fish and for fishing from his early years. Ken recalled that prairie farmers created ponds, dugouts, to store water for livestock and then introduced trout into those ponds to keep the mosquito population in the dugouts in check. Both fiiends had an excess of inexpensive land and decided to pursue the fish pond idea.
Ken located the tool needed for the fish project. Barney Durocher of Hixon was selling a late 1950s Allis Chalmers HD11 bulldozer which had been used at a sawmill. Allis was no toy. Rated in the class of a D6 Caterpillar, this 6 cylinder diesel was a serious earth mover. A couple of years of practice clearing snow, removing stumps and doing general landscaping on the property prepared the Bushman for the ambitious project of pond digging. Ken declined the half ownership of Allis but the Bushman plowed on. He had fish on his mind. The Bushman and the Bushwoman had gambled $4500 for Allis, the price of the 40 acre bush on which they had built the Pan Abode “folly on the hill”, counting at least on her snow clearing capacity if she had lost her power in old age to do more important things.
It was time. Armed with nothing more than a vague idea, the Bushman begun to implement his planless plan. The Bushman had chosen a poorly drained part of the property which already was pock marked with stump holes. Scrub willows had replaced the healthy base of coniferous trees on the property and their loss was of minimal importance if the project bombed.
Old Allis performed miraculously. The Bushman cleared an area slightly less than an acre and fashioned a rough circle 200 feet in diameter. He then excavated the area pushing the dirt out to make a 10 foot berm at the outer edge of the circle. He excluded a small area within the circle from his excavation. This became an island. For good measure the Bushman added a couple of peninsulas.
Nearly one hundred hours later, a reddish brown hole emerged circled by a ten foot wide walkway around the perimeter. It was a handsome hole! One neighbour looking at the hole, congratulated the Bushman on the size and impressive look of the pond and likened it to an elaborate sewage lagoon. There were other skeptics.What if the big hole did not fill up? What if the bottom of the pond did not seal and the water seeped out if it did fill up?
April was an auspicious month the next year because the most ambitious of the Bushman’s dreams were materializing minute by minute as the massive snow pack on the hill delivered a pond full of water and more, in less than three weeks! Rivulets of water, muddy brown from particles of clay silt pulled down from the hill all made their contributions to a feature which would later become, through the Bushman’s tongue-in-cheek hyperbole, Pheasant Lake.
Late that first year, a bridge was fashioned to connect the island to the berm walkway and a Pheasant house fabricated on Ken Lund’s property was pulled through the bush to the banks of the pond. Ken and the Bushman bought pheasants from George Fisher a breeder of pheasants on the Hart Highway in the north end of Prince George.
Pheasant Lake was born!
(See slideshow of Pheasant Lake, the first year below click on image to start )
Gallery of Pheasant Lake- The First Year