Friday, July 14, 2006

The Mystery of the Stranded Carp

To pick up where I left off about my stay in rural Minnesota:

Lindi and I (remember, I’ve changed her name to protect her from unwanted fame) found the bike path not far from the house, winding its way through parks and along lakes. Once on the path, we discovered a creek and the Troll Bridge – so named by our niece Nancy – which allowed us a rare vantage point from which to watch large fish swimming, playing, and seemingly talking amongst themselves about the best strategy for navigating through a small dam of rocks. It didn’t look that hard to us, but they weren’t privy to our aerial perspective. We called out suggestions, but to no avail.

The next day while lazing around the house reading, I suddenly stopped and announced that I wanted to go back to the Troll Bridge and watch the fish. Quite unlike my usual dawdling style of exiting, on this occasion I was ready to go in seconds and it was Lindi’s turn to be last out the door. Though I didn’t realize it at the time, I was soon to find out why I felt such an ugent pull to return to the creek.

We climbed under the bridge this time and sat on large uncomfortable rocks, not a one of which offered a single surface that was horizontal. Right away I heard a loud ticking sound. “What is that?” I asked Lindi, expecting her to say it was Nancy sneaking up on us, trying to scare us or hoping to lure us into a game of Billy Goat Gruff.

“It’s a fish,” she answered.

“A fish?”

“Over there, a fish flipping around in the water. I can see its tail.”

I made my way over the unaccommodating rocks to where she pointed and peered into various pools in the dam. Loud flipping noises drew my attention to the rock under my left hand, against which an enormous fishtail slapped itself silly. My mouth popped open at the size and unexpected proximity of this beast of nature, and at the desperate violence of its flailing. The poor creature was stuck between a rock and….. another rock. And a boulder. Or two. Fortunately, pooled in the middle of these rocks was enough water to keep the fish submerged up to its side fins. But its whole tail-end half stuck straight up into the air, leaving not an inch of space or a glimmer of hope for it to extricate itself from its suicidal position.

How, and especially why, it got into this predicament was unclear – its current location wasn’t visible from the calm pools the other fish were milling around in, so it couldn’t have aimed for this spot. It must have taken a flying leap with only the blindest hope of landing in water at all. And there were other, much easier routes through the dam that it could have chosen. I guess humans aren’t the only creatures who make inexplicably poor choices when sensible alternatives are available.

To be continued …….


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