As a kid, there was a farm pond I enjoyed fishing. The name of the pond escapes me, lost in the same part of my brain that swallowed the combination to my sixth-grade gym locker. The first 20-plus-inch smallmouth I ever caught came out of that farm pond though, and I’ll never forget that.
Fishing that pond was an adventure. After sneaking through a tree line and crawling through the adjoining hay field, I reached the shoreline. I usually caught five or six fish before the farmer who owned the pond saw me and I was forced to vacate the premises.
You see, the kids in the area were allowed to come and swim in the pond, but the fishing was off limits. Temptation proved too strong for me, though, mostly because of the number of fish I saw every time I swam in the pond. The end result, being chased off the property by the irate farmer, didn’t even bother me too much. After all, as a kid I spent the majority of my time being chased away from places anyway. As a kid, I also had no concept of the term “trespassing.”
Now, having become an adult — something many in my family would have bet good money against, by the way — I am much more cognizant of other people’s property. As an avid outdoorsman, that trait is a necessity. Vast acreages of hunting and fishing lands are not something I possess. While public lands are great, sometimes a fellow just wants to get to a pheasant field or trout stream that no one else can. How does one gain access to such places? Quite simply: One just has to ask.
The last time I was chased from that farm pond as a kid, I tripped and skinned my knees. Looking to my mother for some sympathy, I explained what had happened. She was completely compassionate and understanding ... immediately sending me to apologize for using a pond that was not mine to use. In the midst of my apology, something amazing happened. The farmer and I got to talking about fishing, and I asked, “May I come back and fish your pond sometime?”
He in turn responded, “Sure. All you had to do was ask.”
I was stunned. A great pond, stocked full of fish, and all I had to do was ask for permission to fish it. In the years since, I’ve gained access to private hunting and fishing havens hundreds of times in much the same way — simply by asking, “May I?” I’ve also never sneaked onto someone’s property again. That’s probably a good thing, as I’m way too old to be chased off a farm these days.
Doug Berdan is a columnist and outdoor humorist who also writes under the pseudonym Remington J. Crockett.