Near my home is a small pioneer cemetery called Clover Cemetery. It contains the graves of Civil War and even War of 1812 veterans, as well as pioneer farmers and their families from the 1800s. It’s a peaceful, picturesque place with tall trees and wrought iron fence.
Just to the south of Clover Cemetery is a small, u-shaped pond that was recently dug out by the city of Columbus, presumably to help with drainage in this perpetually-wet area. I don’t know much about this little bit of water, but I’ve named it Cloverfield Pond, after the cemetery, after the ubiquitous clover growing all around it, and after the giant alien sea monster from the recent movie.
Anyway, each day that I can I ride my bike through my neighborhood, always finishing with a stop at Cloverfield Pond to visit the local residents. Generally there’s a Great Blue Heron wading the shallow water who always flies away upon my approach. “You again?”
I park my bike on the gravel path that runs behind the cemetery and walk through the matted clover to the edge of the pond. Turtles have already slid off rocks and into the water by the time I bumble my way to the water, but frogs always seem surprised and go hopping away with terrified peeps, sometimes skipping like stones over the surface. Strangely, the ticks in the tall vegetation never seem alarmed by my approach, and I often have to flick one off.
The carp in Cloverfield Pond also seem to look forward to my approach, as soon after I make my way to water’s edge they begin swirling up mud and poking mouths and fins above the surface. I suspect that the heron keeps the carp from enjoying their morning, but my beak, being much less sharp, doesn’t worry them nearly as much.
Occasionally I’ll see a turtle pop her snout above the surface, only to disappear again as the turtle recognizes me on the shore. Once an enormous snapping turtle swam my way. At first the turtle looked like an abandoned tire, until I realized that the “tire” was swimming toward me, its ancient head and tiny eyes half in, half out of the water.
The real stars of the show, though, are the family of muskrats that live in the drainage pipe connecting Cloverfield Pond with nearby Clover Groff Run. One of these furry creatures is by far the braver. Also the larger of the pair that I see regularly, I suppose him to be the male of the pair. This morning he actually swam right up to my feet, beneath the vegetation at the pond’s edge, and gave me the eye before swimming away.
It’s almost as much fun to watch the muskrats swim underwater as on the surface. I can follow their progress through the bubbles that come streaming off their coats, as well as the wake they create in the water. They remind me of the diagrams of jets creating sonic booms as they travel through the air.
The other muskrat is far more timid, and also smaller. She’ll swim out of the pipe, see me standing there (“are you STILL here?”) then flip her tail in contempt and swim back in. A few minutes later, she’ll poke her nose out again and replay the scene once more. Occasionally I’ll catch her further out, and when she spots me she’ll take off, swimming underwater, making a beeline straight for home. Maybe someday she’ll trust me enough to hang around a little.
A few days ago I spotted what I think was a mink. It was an exciting site, but it also made me worry a bit for my little muskrat family. I didn’t see any muskrats that day – I hope they were hiding well.
After watching the action for a few minutes, I jump on my bicycle and pedal back up the path to home. “Finally,” I can almost here the muskrats say, “I thought he’d never leave.”