Yes, that is right, we are living in Fish Pond Village, off Fish Pond Road, in Waco, Texas, but there are no fish or pond in sight. Like many village and town names, there is some history associated with the name and we are told that at one time there was a fish pond in the area. But either the fish or the pond (or both) dried up and now all we have is the name.

It is a name that is easy to remember. “Where do you live?” people ask us. And when we say “at Fish Pond Village” they have either driven by it or think they have. “Oh yes, Fish Pond, I know right where that is”, and they usually do.

When we lived in Duncanville, Texas, there was a road not far away called “Fish Creek Road”, so we were somewhat aware of the importance of fish in Texas history. And of course fish need water, a pond or a creek will do, so the names have stuck and it is not uncommon for someone to claim that they have smelled fish when they get near either of these roads. But that only shows how words trigger our imaginations and how these lead to stories. I doubt if I would have a story to tell if we lived on Second Street or Franklin Boulevard, at least one that would be as true as this one.

We have now lived here in Village Circle (which sounds much more sophisticated than Fish Pond Village) for two months, so some of what I have observed is preliminary and open to further investigation. Like all efforts in science, someone will someday stand on my shoulders and revise or extend the story, creating more history, drama and nonsense.

There are 25 units here in Village Circle and, quite naturally, they are in a circle–well sort of, perhaps more like a square that is squashed along the top and the bottom so that it bulges out at the ends like a turkey egg. The units are in threes, fours and one five—all “plexes” of one sort or another in the local jargon, but known elsewhere as “Condos”, “Townhouses”, “Semi-detached Units” and other assorted names.

Our small community is “gated”, meaning that we are somewhat “protected” and “safe”, need an electronic device and code to get in and a car or the same device to get out. With a car we simply arrive at the gate and the Great Village Spirit opens it—all we need to do is stare at the gate for several seconds. Coming in we press a button on the device and the same spirit is alerted and opens the gate, quite slowly, so that the people inside the gate have ample time to get out of harm’s way.

Once inside, we follow local custom and park our car in the garage, although one or two owners (including us) often shamefully leave them in their driveway. In Duncanville we were the only people on the street who parked our car in the garage. Most people’s garages ware so full of junk they couldn’t help but park their cars (or trucks—real Texans own pick-up trucks) in the driveway, street, or lawn.

I, as an anthropologist, have been observing life in the Village, talking to the natives, and learning the language and culture. I have found that most of the people here are old (like us), some are crippled and use walkers or canes, and most stay inside until the mail comes or it is time to put the garbage containers out for the pickup on Friday. I have also noted that every fortnight the blue containers, with recyclable stuff, can be put out with the green containers, which alone go out every week. I have not yet examined their garbage (and who knows else), but this sociological exercise is on my “bucket list”. After the garbage is collected is when much of the social activity takes place. People will say “hi” and “it’s good to meet you”, share a bit of the local gossip, ask how you are,  and then go inside to watch stuff on TV and eat.

It was too late when they first advised us to “Put everything in garbage bags inside the garbage containers”. We somehow thought garbage went in garbage bins and did not need to be put in bags before they were put in bins. However, we violated a well known and perhaps sacred rule of the Village. We paid dearly—the Village Spirit Wind blew our stuff all over the neighborhood and as we chased it and picked it up we could feel the eyes of the Village Spirit (and inhabitants) on us.

Most of the people are not only old, they are also single—widows, divorced, spinsters—and the occasionally married couple like us. One lady told me “We need more men here”, looking at me approvingly, but I later checked the Village history. There were once a lot of men living here and something has happened to them (in cruder terms, most of them have died) and now only the women are left. It got me thinking—this might not be the ideal place for me, but my wife thinks it is superstitious to think like that.

I have gotten to know the one widower that lives just two doors away and he likes it here. He says it is quiet, safe, and very convenient to “everything”. By that I think he was referring to all the stores and eating places that are on Valley Mills Road, just a couple of blocks from us. He, like me, only more so, is hard of hearing, so it is no surprise that he thinks it is quiet. In addition, the speed limit is 10 mph, dogs are not allowed to bark and are put to bed when it gets dark, birds are warned that singing too early in the morning will result in less birdseed, garage doors are well oiled, BBQs are not allowed to distribute smoke widely, and if there are other noisy problems, the association will take it up at their next meeting.

It does cost us a bit to be quiet and safe, convenient and cheerful, but so far it has been worth it. My wife and I sometimes walk around the block in the evening and we occasionally will meet someone and they will say “I saw that your car was out this morning”, “Are you new at the Village?” and friendly stuff like that. But mainly they just look at us through their windows, like we look at them out of ours.

But we are learning and I am taking notes using Field Works, a program that SIL International developed for overseas workers. I don’t think anyone has tried it out on their own Western community, so I hope it will be a major contribution to our organization. Of course I need to meet more people and this is hard for and INTJ like me. Joice is helping me and has already met a good share of the Fish Pond people and then introduced me to some of them.

One of my future projects is to elicit their family stories so that I can then share some of my field notes with you later. This seems to be the best way that can I effectively, conscientiously, and boldly contribute to science and, just possibly, religion. I hope you will not be disappointed. If you are, please come and help me at Fish Pond Village.

Village Circle, Waco, TX
May, 2014