By Albert C. J. Elett


Mrs. Tom Dustin has asked me to do a “run-down” on the Dutch Ridge neighborhood, the land, history, families, etc.  I’ll be glad to do the best I can, as I’ll have to play it entirely from memory;  and 78 years haven’t sharpened it any.


Danny Myers, one of my boyhood pals tells me that there are only four of us left that went to the Dutch Ridge School in my time, 1900-1905.  I’m supposed to be the most virile of the four, and I am pretty good except for some “rheumatiz” in my legs that has some connection with the weather.


Danny lost a hand in a cornpicker some years ago, taught himself to write with his left hand.  Moved on to a small farm just outside of LaOtto.  Then he had several operations for cataract, sold his place some months ago, when his eyesight didn’t do so well.  Is now living with the only son he has left, in Texas, and flirting with blindness.  He is a fighter.  We write back and forth regularly.  He does the writing of his letters.  Hustles me to figure them out but I’m glad to do it, even if it is largely a matter of adding guesses together.  He can’t read anything;  the family does that.


Danny gave me no information on the other three “Last of the Mohicans”, so when I mention a person or family, that will be in the past tense.  I have no knowledge of our farm, now the Isaac Walton headquarters, after the spring of 1911, or anything else that may have happened on Dutch Ridge since then.


                                                                        Albert C. J. Ellett

                                                                        January, 1979


The three farm wagons, their hayracks loaded with our possessions rattled their way northward on the Old Auburn Road.  Ma and I rode with WILL WARNER on the lead wagon.  WILL, and his wife, NORA, and his mother who everyone knew as AUNT MARY, and her daughter EMMY lived as two families in a big house, and would be our nearest neighbors.  We were about 2 ½ miles from our destination and Will started to name the people on the farms: 


“The BELLEAUS live here, French people.  We don’t see too much of them;

  they are in another threshing ring.”


Neither the French nor the threshing ring interested me.  I had seen either a nice big pond or a small lake back of the barn.  I hoped there would be one at our new home. 


“This is where the VANDOLAHS live.  Used to be several big families.  Folks say it was from them that this neighborhood got the name Dutch Ridge.  They had a grist mill down by Cedar Creek.  Ground flour and feed.”


French people, Dutch people……what would the next place be?  I asked Will.


“The GLOYDS used to live there.  They had a mill at the bottom of the hill.  The GLOYDS left and folks named BLEEKMAN bought the place.  What are they?  I guess like most of the rest of us, just plain damn Yankees.  They built a new plank dam up the creek a ways, but the high water took it out.  Then they tried to run the mill with a steam threshing engine.  They gave that up.  They don’t farm much.  Just across the road from the old mill a road goes west along the millrace and up a winding hill past the HABIG farm and about three miles further to the north edge of Huntertown.


Little did we think our mail would soon be postmarked Huntertown, a village of 300 people.  We passed the GLOYD mill, old but in a good state of repair.  We crossed Cedar Creek, here a fast flowing clear stream about 60 feet wide, and about 100 feet further on turned to the left into a little side road.


“Pretty soon you will be in your new home.”  Soon we came to the top of a hill and on our right were a set of buildings, and a blacksmith shop at the roadside.  “That’s GEORGE WARNER’S home.  He is the blacksmith and general repair man, and fits shoes on the horses.  Across the road is his brother, JOHN’S home.  A little further along we will come to the PEQUINOT cabin.  That was GEORGE WARNER’S wife’s girlhood home.  She was French.  The Warners had two girls, CLARA and ELSIE.  That big house ahead of us everyone knows it as AUNT MARY’S home.  She is my mother, and NORA and I live there too.  When we get there, you’ll be able to see your new home.”


“Whoa!”  Will stopped the team where a tall, regal looking woman was standing at the side of the road.  She was AUNT MARY, who would be our nearest neighbor.


“You won’t be able to do much cooking until you get straightened up.  I’ve fixed up this basket of food for you to take along.  I’ll send Will down with some more tomorrow.”


Ma thanked AUNT MARY and they chatted a bit.  Will spoke to the horses, and we were on our way.  A short half mile brought us to the end of the road, and the beginning of our lane, a mere two muddy, sticky clay wagon tracks, about three city blocks long, to our new home. 


The RALSON MYERS family, who had been living in our house, moved into another place on the Chapman Road, and Mrs. Myers had our house all scrubbed and polished when we arrived.  The next morning the family was back to help us get settled.  A rather far cry from what goes for neighborly help today. 


Pa hired Ralson to help get the fences in shape to hold cattle, as well as make necessary repairs to the buildings.  Pa was in his element;  the farm had been mishandled and offered a challenge that he simply could not resist.  He was way ahead of his time as a farmer.   


Some ten or twelve years ago I was listening to the “big boys” of a state agricultural college discussing “soiling” the plowing under of green crops, clover, rye, etc., to improve both the fertility and tilth of soil, and they said they thought maybe it did have some value.  I’ve known and practiced that very thing;  but what interested me was that Pa had received a citation from the John A. Salzer Seed Company at Lacrosse, Wis., in 1895 for his experi-ments and proof of the value of soiling, in that case the plowing under of Hairy Vetch.


Even though Pa was a top shelf farmer, he wouldn’t have ranked very high in today’s computer-managed, get-rich-quick swindle.  Just so he made enough to pay expenses, live well, and put a few dollars in the savings.  We had no debt, worked hard, had a “picnic” somewhere along the creek almost every Sunday, and Ma and I always had it in our mind, “when would Pa decide that another farm was sadly in need of his expert attention.”  We both knew that that was as certain as sunrise.


The History of Dutch Ridge???  I have no cut and dried history of the “Ridge.”  My guess has always been that since there were a number of VANDOLAH families, and “Van” is associated with Dutch names, it could be that’s how the Ridge got its name. 


Let’s go back to GEORGE WARNER’S.  They have small farm, 40 acres.  A large garden and truck patch, a small field of corn;  the balance of the land not taken by buildings given over to hay.  George is busy in the blacksmith shop.  The women take care of the garden, chickens, pigs and 2 cows.  George fishes in the summer, hunts a few rabbits and traps in the winter.  For recreation he makes violins, good ones so far as tone is concerned.  George also takes care of a lot of bees.  I never saw any of the family when they weren’t happy.


George’s brother JOHN lived across the road on another 40.  He also had a garden and truck patch, about 5 acres of corn, some hay meadow, a few pigs, 2 cows, a small horse and a bunch of chickens.  Like George, he fished in the creek and Viberg Lake.  In the winter he hunted rabbits, and trapped.  He and George teamed up at making firewood for both houses.  John was happy, too.


Mrs. George Warner’s father, MR. PIQUONOT, a real old Frenchman, lived in a little cabin a short distance north.  The George Warners took good care of him, and after his death the cabin stood empty. 


At AUNT MARY WARNER’S there was along with the big frame house a big log cabin that had been the family’s original home.  It was about 16 or 18 feet wide and 30 or more feet long.  Will used it for a shop.  All we need to say is that this was a typical farm, and that they were wonderful neighbors.


A little way to the east and on the south side of the road that went east past Viberg Lake was the home of LINCOLN WARNER, his wife and young son.  They had 5 acres of land, a small house, small barn, chicken house and a few other small buildings, and 2 cows.  WILL WARNER supplied the hay and grain, and did any wood hauling or other horse work that needed to be done, and Lincoln worked for Will.  Good old-fashioned barter.  Both he and his wife were “shorties” and stocky build and the little boy showed all the symptoms of following in their footsteps.  (A note here by Gladys Warner Marshall Losure:  The young son was Reed, who later had Zella and Harry.  Harry died in 1998.  Zella still living in 1999.)


If a stranger accosted a native and asked where he might find Lincoln, the reply would be given with a smile most likely would be:  “You must be looking for our ‘Linkie’.”  Almost every community sooner or later has a “character” appear among the natives.  Such a person was Linkie.


At that time the weekly newspaper and the farm magazines were alive with ads exhorting people to go into the ginseng growing business.  Make fabulous profits.  There was a considerable amount of ginseng growing wild on all the “Ridge” farms, but not for long.  Linkie gathered the entire plants and took them home to plant in his ginseng garden, a space about 100 feet square with a lattice top on which there was a light cover of brush.  The idea was to furnish partial shade such as ginseng is used to in its natural habitat.  Linkie got so busy at building lattice, and hunting and planting plants that it interfered with his fishing.


Linkie was a combination clown, comedian and yarn spinner, all in a friendly way, and all wrapped in that one and only Linkie drawl.  We kids like his stories.  Linkie didn’t say they were true, he left the story prove itself………


“Grandpa Warner had caught a big bear in a trap, but the bear got out, no doubt a bit out of humor.  Years later a big bear took after me, and I took after the top of a red cedar tee with the bear close behind.  Just as he was going to bite me, the limb I was on broke and I started falling, and my hand went in his mouth and right on through.  I grabbed his tail, and at the same time another limb.  Before the bear could close his mouth to bite me, I gave his tail an awful jerk, and turned him inside out.  That sure was a close call for me.”  Linkie drawling. 


Let’s go down the cut-off past GEORGE WARNER’S to the Old Auburn Road, and then to our left up the winding road.  Just past the top of the hill we come to a T road that runs roughly east.  In the corner was a house seldom inhabited, and just across the old road was another house, mostly unused.  To the right down the T road was the ED RINEHOLD farm.  Just an ordinary farm.  They had a girl, maybe 4th or 5th grade.  She died of TB.  That was still a scourge during the first third of the 20th century.  Fort Wayne had a lot of it.


The next place on the east side of “Old Auburn” was a sizeable farm with nice buildings.  Never seemed to be much activity there, and they didn’t mingle with other people.  Name forgotten. 


Across the road was a nice little place that was occupied a goodly part of the time.  George Warner’s daughter, CLARA, and her young son lived there for some time.  (Note by Gladys …

Son was Lohman Reed, who died in April of 1983 at 72 years of age.)


Next to this place was the SNYDER home and blacksmith shop.  I’d judge it to be one of the older homes.  Father, mother and two boys and a girl.  The girl was the oldest.  Boys, one about my age, the other maybe 6 years older.  Both boys went to school.  The girl was a pretty young lady, out of school, and I believe also had TB.


Now we will go on to the next road (the one that ends at our lane), and turn east.  On the right is the FLANNIGAN farm.  An ordinary farm.  Father, mother and 2 boys.  Well past high school age, but they went to school.


Across the road was the AUNT (somebody?) WARNER place.  The old lady had 2 sons, one maybe 16 and the other 18.  Both went to school.  (I think Linkie was a considerably older brother, maybe 25 years old.)  This family had made a small, but nice fish pond back in their woods.  Don’t know what all they did, but made a living. 


Joining this farm was the JIM WARNER place.  So far as I ever knew there was only an old couple.  Nice small farm, and I’m pretty sure that the neighbors did the farming on both this and the preceding farm.  On the back end of this farm was a tamarack swamp with about a 2-acre pond in it, alive with muskrats.  No doubt in my mind that Linkie and the other two boys did a profitable pelt business.


We’ll go back to the Old Auburn and turn north.  The first farm on the right is the old RINEHOLD homestead.  The old folks died and the son HENRY took over.  A brother to ED.  Sometime later the house burned down and was rebuilt.  I don’t remember their having any children.  What I do remember is the sweet apple tree.  I’ve never eaten any like them, either before or since.  I asked Henry whether I could have some.  He patted me on the shoulder “take all you want, anytime, and take some home too.”  They were all nice people on the Ridge.  Henry had a small pond too in the southeast corner of the field across from the church. 


The next place, on the west side of the road, was the GRANDPA DAN MYERS farm, Danny’s grandpa.  He was getting too old to do much in the way of farming.  Years before he had made a nice pond in a small gully, among some cedars, and across the road from, and about halfway between Linkie’s and Will’s.  Dan neglected the pond and the dam went bad.


We’ll keep on going past the church and the school.  We’ll come back to them later.


The first place was AUNT POLLY GARMAN’S farm.  Her son, FRANK, and grandson, EDGAR,  lived with her.  I don’t know who farmed it.


The next place, with a much newer frame house belonged to ELI GARMAN and his wife.  They had two children, a boy and a girl.  They and EDGAR went to school.  Were about my age.  Eli and his wife operated the general store, known from all around as “Eli’s.”  It was the gathering place, where all the nation’s troubles were settled by the men sitting around the pot-bellied stove, while the women discussed the latest fashions, and all the various news of things that had happened, were happening, or were going to happen around the Ridge.


Before the days of Rural Free Delivery, the area postoffice was at Eli’s, and was known as Collingwood.  A “star-route” carrier dropped the mail pouches at each of a string of these small post offices once a week.  For the people who lived near the post office it wasn’t too bad, but for those several miles away, particularly in the winter, it wasn’t exactly fun.


The next move by Washington was to have post offices closer together.  Collingwood stayed, and another post office was put in a little building maybe 10 feet square, that somehow stayed put on the edge of that ravine south of BLEEKMAN’S house.  It was known as Blloyd.  I’m not sure of that spelling.  (Was that Gloyd??)


Shortly after that, everyone got a notice telling them to buy a certain kind of metal rural mailbox and put it up a certain way and in a certain place, handy for the mailman.  Our first mailman had a light weight wagon, all enclosed with sliding doors to get in and out.  The box was about 3 by 6 feet and maybe 5 feet high.  MR. BRUDI’S first power plant was one mule power.  Later on account of the hills, it was two mule power.  That was daily delivery.  Our mailbox along with Will’s and Linkie’s was at the road corner just north of SNYDER’S BLACKSMITH SHOP. 


The “mall” at Eli’s consisted of three “buildings”:  the central one, two story, about 20 by 45 feet.  The store was in the first floor, and the second floor was the Mason’s meeting place.  This building had gotten tired, and leaned to the south, 6 inches or more out of plumb.  It was propped up with 3 good sized timbers like telephone poles leaning against it at an angle.  In front of the building was an 8 foot wide platform the width of the building – a roofless porch. 


To the south was another building maybe 20 by 60 feet, one story.  The front end was the storage room for butter, eggs, pop, etc., and just about anything else that needed storing.  From there back it was an ice house. 


To the north was a smaller building that was a coop in which the poultry that Eli bought was kept until he had a load to sell.


As you entered the store the grocery counter was to your left.  The candy case sat on top of the counter.  It was the width of the counter and about 5 feet long and about 18 inches high.  Penny strips of cocoanut, licorice, peppermint and other flavors.  Trays of jelly beans, both mixed colors and black licorice ones.  All sorts of special one-cent candy.  In those days a penny wasn’t ashamed of itself, and bragged about its purchasing power.  The largest display was of the most popular candy, the old fashioned chocolate drop at 10 cents a pound. 


On the shelves back of the candy department was the tobacco.  Not too many cigars;  there were self-respecting cigars and stogies at 3 for 5 cents, and the really good cigars cost 5 cents each.  For the pipe smokers there were some bags of “smoking” tobacco whose pedigree was unknown, along with 8-oz. packages of cigar clippings for those who demanded the real thing, and could handle it.  There were packages of sweetened leaf tobacco for chewing, as well as JT, Horseshoe and Star plug chewing tobacco for those with good enough teeth to be able to bite off a “chew”.  The plug tobacco cutting machine sat on the back counter ready to cut off a 10 cent chunk.


There were shelves all the way along the north wall.  The canned goods started next to the tobacco.  There were but few brands, and by today’s standards, only a relatively few varieties.  Virtually none of our modern “taste improvers.” 


The “standby”, corn, peas, beans, and any other non-acid vegetable were in goodly supply because the real pressure canner was still somewhere around the corner, and some women didn’t care to take a chance on the water bath way of canning.  Many used it.  Peaches, nectarines (in experimental stages), fancy pears and the big sweet cherries grew well in northern Indiana, but relatively few people grew them, so they were well represented on Eli’s shelves.  We had about a dozen peach trees. 


The big round cheese was on the back counter, along with a long, wicked looking long knife.  There was a metal cover for the cheese “wheel” to keep it from drying out and to fool the flies.  At night the wheel associated with several blocks of Swiss cheese in the big ice box type refrigerator.


Under the counter were big barrels of salt, granulated sugar, brown sugar and crackers.  There was a scoop in each barrel with which to fill the paper bag that was then weighed on the old fashioned, but accurate, beam scale.


The rest of the space under the counter was used for storing just about anything you could think of, if it was small enough to go under.  The shelves next to the canned goods were loaded with pots, pans, kettles and cooking ware in general.  Also table ware, dishes, kerosene lamps, lanterns.  Just any small things that a farm family might want.


Across the back end of the store were roofing, paints, rope in 1200 foot rolls or bales, all sorts of hand and garden tools, and the vinegar, oil and turpentine and linseed oil barrels.  In another section of the back end of the store were bins for bolts, shelves for boxes of screws, many kegs of different size nails, bins for smaller common repair parts for farm machinery, and draped on a rack a dandy set of double work harness, and collars and sweat pads for some lucky farm team. 


The right side of the store was the “home dept.”  Overalls, work shirts, socks, etc., shelves with bolts of various cloths, shoes, notions, “aw shucks” just ask Eli’s wife, EMMA;  if farm folk have use for it, it’s somewhere in the store.


On Friday Eli made the route with his “huckster” wagon.  This was a mini edition of the store, plus some chicken coops on top, along with clumsy items that would not fit very well inside.  Hanging under the wagon was a steel drum full of kerosene.  Eli bought the farmwife’s chickens, butter and eggs, and she in turn bought what she needed from the wagon.  There were even bolts of calico and gingham from which to select apron and little girl’s dress material. 


Directly across the road from the store was FRANK GARMAN’S saw mill.  Between the mill and the road was a spring that was boxed in with timber to prevent caving.  It supplied the water for the boiler.  The mill was an old-time mill, built when there was plenty of big timber.  Even in my kid days there were cottonwood, sycamore and red oak that were from 4 to 6 feet in diameter on the stump.  The yellow poplar (tulip tree) and black walnut were pretty well cut out. 


Frank maintained a stock of rough lumber and timbers.  Some farmer was always busy building or repairing a building.  A goodly part of his business was custom sawing, sawing the farmers’ own logs.  Almost all of the later buildings in the area, even beyond Dutch Ridge, got their start at Frank’s saw mill.  Almost certainly the homes of the original settlers had been log cabins, but the big one at AUNT MARY’S was the only one that I remember.


A quarter of a mile north of Eli’s store was a brother, (I believe WILL GARMEN), and east of him was brother JOE.  Each farmed, and each had 4 or 5 kids in school.  On the county line was the KISTLER farm, with several kids in school;  Mt. Olive Church, that had services “when the Spirit moved” someone;  and to the east was ROWLY’S CORNERS that had been a little store until Eli started his store.  That was the end of Rowly’s, but there was a post office there for a short time.


Now, we’ll go back to the Dutch Ridge School and church corner at the east end of the Chapman Road.  The church was across the road from the cemetery, and there was one thing in common with Mt. Olive;  there were services when some itinerant preacher left it be known that he would preach on a certain Sunday.  Between the church and the Chapman Road was a vacant lot with a hitching rail along three sides, a memory of the horse and buggy days. 


At the road intersection corner of the lot was a big cottonwood tree that looked big enough to shade the whole corner.  That tree must have sacred;  I never knew any kid to climb it.


The “Little Red Schoolhouse” I think is still there, and now a home.  It was as full of desks as it could be and still have enough room for “pot belly,” the-burning stove.  The blackboard took in the rear wall, and the teacher’s desk was a little to the left of center.  There was a row of single desks along each side wall.  The rest of the desks were “doubles” two kids in each one, and that made a close fit on the seat, but nobody minded. 


The teacher, WESLEY HURSH, was a solidly built man in his middle fifties, who demanded real attention to business, and he had it.  He wasn’t mean, but he was strict.  The kids, from first-graders to those who were old enough to be out of high school, all liked him.


Wes had a unique way of teaching English, spelling, writing, and composition.  He would call the kids to attention and then read to them an interesting “short” story about what a kid could write on a 4-foot length of blackboard.  We paid attention because he read it only once.  Then we wrote it as we remember it.  The big, overgrown “men and women” wrote in a tablet, and so did the small kids that couldn’t reach the top of the blackboard.  As many as could manage it used the blackboard;  those that couldn’t get to the blackboard used their tablets and would go “up front” the next time.  That “up front” approach helped us tune our ego – everyone could see how good or bad we were.


I doubt if any kid knew what grade he or she was in.  It was a question of your approach and what you could do.  The older pupils would help the younger ones.  If you wanted help, all you had to do was ask Wes, and he would be glad to help you after school.  He taught school!  I’m no gambler, but if I were I’d be glad to give 10 to 1 or more odds that every kid who went to school to Wes Hursh, could read, write and “figger,” composition, a fair amount of history and geography.  No modern overnight “sociology.”


Let’s shift gears and go west on Chapman Raod.  The first place west of the school was the AMOS FREDERICK farm;  there were two grown sons that went to school and a daughter, NORA, WILL’S (Warner) wife. 


The next place was the JOHN WARNER’S.  John was Will’s brother.  There were three boys, ANSON, SYLVESTER AND CHARLIE, and a girl INA;  their ages in the above order and they all went to school.  Anson and Sylvester were about the same age as all the other older pupils, then a gap, then Charlie, maybe 14, a gap, Ina about 10.  Ina died, TB, in school years, and I believe Charlie a few years later.  Anson married soon and lived in the next place.  (Added note by Gladys Warner Marshall Losure……Charlie was married, was the father of Rose Mary and Dick, he was killed in auto accident)


The next place on the corner was the GRIFFIN farm.  Never knew them well enough to know who lived there, and I remember no children.  Their folks were all farmers.


Next on the north side of the road was the BARRETT farm.  There were the father and mother, ORANGE who was one of those older pupils, and PERRY, probably 11 or 12, who died relatively young.  I shuddered every time that I passed the place because of the story that persisted that grandpa had “cold cocked” grandma with a stick of firewood.  He went to prison and died there.  PERRY  was married to KATE BLEEKMAN, my choice of the family.  She was still living not too many years ago.  Maybe still is.


Across the road was the RALSON MYERS place.  RALSON, his wife, sons, CLYDE and DANNY, and daughters OCEY and GUSSIE.  Ralson took care of the threshing ring;  grain, clover seed, corn shredding and wood sawing, along with the farm work.  A nice family.


The next place was also a MYERS’ place.  I wasn’t acquainted with the people, except that it seems to me that there was a boy CECIL.  ( Probably the family of WILLIAM HARVEY MYERS and ALPHARETTA PENCE MYERS, as they had a son Cecil, who lived most of his life farming on the Mathias Fitch farm on Fitch Road……noted by BFitch)


Next was the WILLIAM CHAPMAN farm.  I wasn’t too well acquainted with the Chapmans.  There was a Mr. and Mrs. Chapman, and it seems to me there was a Chapman girl.  Also a NORA JACKSON stayed there and went to school.


So far as I can remember that is all of the people that were actually Dutch Ridge natives.  There was one more person who really was a part of the “Ridge”.  A MR. FREESE who operated the grist mill on Coldwater Road, just a short distance north of the Chapman Road bridge, and ground flour and feed for the entire area.  He lived in a big house among evergreens just across the road from the mill.


I don’t think this mill operated after 1904, if that late.  Whenever Big Cedar Creek was dredged in DeKalb County, that was the end of the water supply, and in my opinion the ruination of Cedar Creek as a nice, live, clean stream.  We have the same kind of stream improvement up here.


Up until about 25 years ago, the area around the village of Winter, Wisconsin, was a trout fisherman’s paradise;  enough creeks, and a few other creeks that somehow had gotten the name “river,” to keep a horde of beavers busy, as well as making it possible for the natives to claim that the Winter area had more trout and trout fishermen than any other similar place.  Then “the plague” struck it.


Several men with letters back of their names, and a vacuum that in normal humans is occupied by a brain, decided that the area that had gotten along real well until the advent of the white man, was sadly in need of “improvement.”  The beavers were uprooted, and it’s my guess, liquidated.  The dams blown out, as were rocks, logs and anything else that interfered with a nice clean drainage ditch status.  The steady flow of water had been done away with;  too much at one time, and within days, too little.  I don’t trout fish, and have it on the word of friends who do fish trout, that most of them were gone too.  I’m told the same is true in the Port Wing area.  When I think back, the turn of the century must have been the proper time for ruining things, particularly the environment.  It was then that the large Kankakee wetlands were also improved, or ruined, take your choice.  The dredge got in there and the natural river became another drainage ditch.  The wildlife refuge that existed before improvement is something akin to a dustbowl, or at least was in 1969, and I’ve not head that it had been restored.


In 1900 I could take a can of worms and a hook and line and catch fish as fast as I could pull them out;  various members of the sunfish family, small mouth bass, and an occasional pike, crayfish (crawdads), frogs, and turtles in abundance.  Within two years after Cedar Creek’s improvement, I didn’t go fishing any more.  The clean deep water was gone, and so were its inhabitants.


I have three small man-made ponds, and cattails, wild ducks, wild geese, herons, bittern, coot, red wings, big frogs, all these for me to enjoy.  No “improvements.”