The historical Duck Pond was drained last weekend in an attempt to clean years of build-up and promote community service awareness through the Sam 136 classes. The pond was drained several times last week and then student volunteers cleaned out the muck by hand Saturday as part of their Sam 136 curriculum.
The students, with the help of their professors John Jordan, Jessica Payne and Jeff Kennon, formed a “bucket brigade” by shoveling the muck from the bottom of the impoundment into buckets and passing them down to the last person, who dumped the mud into a nearby stream. According to Gene Pipes, Curator of Education for the Sam Houston Memorial Museum, this was the only way the pond could be cleaned out because of the way it was originally built in the 1930s.
“We’ve never been able to clean out the whole pond this way,” said
Pipes, “but cleaning it by hand is the only way we can get the job done with out doing any harm to it. Dredging [with machinery] wouldn’t lend its self to what we are doing.”
Since the news of the Duck Pond draining, many students have wondered what would happen to the ducks. Pipes said that since the pond was only drained halfway, the turtles and fish would stay where they were and the ducks, “don’t enjoy being around people. They’ll get out and squawking and flocking and wonder around the museum grounds like they usually do,” he said. “Its nothing that unusual for them.”
The draining of the Duck Pond also brought up another aspect regarding the history of the pond. Students and residents of Huntsville all know the rumors of love and heartbreak surrounding the pond; the draining had an opportunity to either corroborate or negate these rumors.
“The student volunteers got to keep what they were willing to dig out of the muck,” said Pipes. “A lot of engagements are made in the area of the Duck Pond and a lot of break-ups occur as a result. When people are upset, they have a habit of taking their jewelry off and flinging it in the lake. We have a lot of requests actually, of people asking us to find rings. ‘I know exactly where she threw it.’ We can’t do that though.”
Although the rumors call for diamond engagement rings to be located at the bottom of the lake, museum employees and residents usually find class rings along the sides of the pond according to Gene Pipes. The student volunteers did not find any diamond rings or class rings last Saturday; however, they did find a silver ring in the shape of a rose and an old glass bottle while cleaning out the muck.
The draining and cleaning of the pond was a community service project that not only helped the community, it was a chance to inspire the student volunteers to continue to do good works according to Sam 136 coordinator Dana Grant.
“The intent of this project was to have the students reflect on what they’ve done for the community, take what they’ve learned and hopefully volunteer where ever they go after college,” she said.