In early July, Oklahoma temperatures were on the rise and, because of ample rains this spring, the humidity was almost unbearable at times. With this oppressive heat, it seemed I was continually cleaning and filling water sources. Many afternoons, I freshened the water in the chicken yard and deer pens, making sure good, cold well water was available. I filled bird baths daily and kept the old cast iron bathtub down in the canyon filled so that wildlife could get water too. All of our rehabilitated fawns drank from that bathtub after release, and continued to as long as they were in the area. Squirrels, birds, foxes, opossums, and raccoons drink from it daily, though am I never too happy when the raccoons use it for bathing, or crows use it as a cleaning station for a recent kill.
In early July, I observed Gracie standing in the small stock tank we kept in the deer pen. I remembered buck Ronnie when he was little – he had a fascination for water and often dunked his head way down in the water. Tukker loved the water too, and often utilized the small tank to cool off on a hot summer afternoon. But when I saw Gracie in the stock tank, and then Ruthie tried to vie for a spot in the water, I wondered about finding a bigger solution. I did not want to spend money on a larger stock tank, and it would not be feasible to dig a small pond in the barnyard area. Later in the week I came up with an idea!
Three years ago, while checking fences on the west end of the orchard property, I heard water running. The neighboring property, owned by a cattle rancher friend of ours, had a stock tank just across from our fence. I walked over to check out the source of the noise and found a horizontal split about six inches down the tank wall from which water was pouring out. Seeing that, I flipped off the circuit breaker to the pump so water would not continue to pour into the damaged tank and onto the ground. I then reported this to our friend and, within a few days, his farmhand came out and installed a new tank, shoving the old, damaged tank to the side. Each time we passed by the discarded tank afterwards, I thought about how so many large plastic items are simply left as landscape trash. Over time, trees grew around and over it, trapping it along the fence line.
When I asked Forrest about possibly repurposing the old blue tank into a small swimming pool for the fawns, he was game! This surprised me because I am always coming up with projects and this one would require some work. But that very afternoon, when we headed out to the west end of the property with the Mule to gather game camera cards and have a nice, cold beer along the way, Forrest stopped at the old water tank to check out the viability of my proposal. After a short assessment of what would be involved in rescuing the old tank from its tangle of brush and getting it back to Ten-Acre Ranch, Forrest grabbed the electric chain saw from the back of the buggy and began cutting away the brush and shoveling out years of soggy debris that had collected in the tank, despite neither of us being dressed for this kind of work. But, with Forrest cutting and me dragging the cut limbs away and along the fence, the brush clearing went much quicker than I thought it might.
With the tank now free from its tangle, Forrest headed back to the house to get the utility trailer, while I shoveled and scraped the remaining sludge from the bottom of the tank so it could fully drain. After the water level in the tank dropped and I had most of the sludge removed, I decided to give it a tug just to see how heavy it was going to be. I managed to slide the tank just a couple of feet when a skunk bolted from under it! I noticed this clever skunk had forged a little dugout under the far end of the tank to create a shelter. The plastic was an excellent roof to protect from wind and rain, and the sludge in the tank was a perfect insulator from cold and heat. I felt bad about ruining the skunk’s cozy home, but he would have plenty of time to relocate before winter weather arrived. After loading the stock tank on the trailer and transporting it home, Forrest spent the afternoon scrubbing the tank clean, cutting off the top lip down to where the split was, and then buffing the edge smooth so it would not be sharp and cause injury to the fawns.
Mostly, the girls use their new splash pond as a drinking station. But every now and then I see Gracie standing in it, and I’ve seen Scout jump into it while on one of her runs, splashing water everywhere and getting Gracie and Ruthie rousted up. I am proud to have given this discarded stock tank new life by providing a watering hole of sorts for the girls to enjoy. And it did not cost more than a day’s work to clean it up and do a little fixing!
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