Dead Horse Pond

Lately I’ve been exploring a conservation area on the far side of the hill from me. A map identifies it as the Laurel Bank
conservation area.

As kids, we called it Dead Horse Pond, for a small pond on the property, and it was strictly off-limits. That didn’t stop us, of course.

Back then – we’re talking 50 years ago – there was a wooden gate at the entrance of a long dirt road. There were signs – no trespassing, private property, etc. We never went down that road, but we did cut through the woods, convincing ourselves that the signs didn’t apply there.

The property is at the foot of the hill, and in those days we could stand on the hill above it and see the peak of a roof poking up over the treetops. The story – among us kids, anyway – was that a crazy old man lived there. He had a shotgun loaded with rock salt ready to use on anyone who came on his property. Supposedly he also had vicious dogs. The story of the pond was that a horse had fallen through the ice there and drowned, and if the winter was cold enough and the ice was clear enough you could still see its bones.

Sneaking through the woods to the pond was the stuff of boyhood dares, a rite of passage in the neighborhood.

For the record, I went down to the pond a few times, never saw the bones, never heard so much as a bark, and never got chased by a crazy old man with a shotgun, though others told hair-raising stories of barely escaping being sprayed with rock salt or mauled by dogs. It was good for scaring the little kids.

At some point while I wasn’t living in the area, the old man died, the house burned down or was torn down, and I vaguely remember hearing that the property was given to the town. I may be wrong.

In any case, today it’s public land. There’s quite a network of old wagon roads winding around the property, and it makes for a pleasant place to walk or snowshoe in season, with plenty to explore. But more on that some other time.