July 21, 2005
Berrien County-- People in small towns often find out the local news from one another within minutes, sometimes hours, of it happening. But in the Berrien County, a two-year old secret somehow never got revealed until now.
Rush hour in the small town of Enigma, population 850, about 12 miles east of Tifton on Highway 82, where most locals head to the local bar-be-cue restaurant for lunch.
"I have plain chips," says Marie Harper of Enigma Bar-B-Q when a customer asks about her potato chip selection.
The only thing hotter than Marie's French fries is the latest news about one of her neighbors. "It's hard to keep a secret in Enigma. Most everyone knows it in 24 hours," says Marie.
You could say the same thing about most towns. "Everybody knows what the other person is doing," says Woody Spurlock as he takes his bag of sandwiches and chips. Don't bet your lunch money on everybody knowing your business.
In what you could call an oasis with beautiful flowers, Dru Harper did what some people thought impossible. "It looks like a regular pool out here," says Dru Harper, about an above ground swimming pool, with a wooden deck on one side and a small slit in its blue liner.
She converted it to a goldfish pool three years ago and to the surprise of many, they never knew it. "That's a well kept secret," says Marie when told of the converted swimming pool. Dru wasn't trying to keep it a secret; No one noticed. The pool has seen better days.
The water cleaning equipment failed a long time ago, but Dru comes from the old school of using something until it completely wears out. "I had to do something with it," says Dru holding a long brush on an aluminum pole.
She didn't want to tear it down and realized her goldfish, that once lived in a gallon jar, needed a bigger home. "I had five altogether," says Dru, remembering when she started the conversion. She had gotten tired of feeding the fish everyday and thought the fish would like a much bigger place to live. At first, Dru noticed the goldfish seemed a bit confused at first when she put them into their new, much larger home. But it didn't take them long to spread out and take advantage of all the space.
It appeared they liked their new surroundings. "You don't know what goes on down there," says Dru with a laugh. It seems obvious. The fish multiplied like crazy. "It seems they raise two or three families a year," says Dru as she watches several young fish eat.
Her flock has grown to about a hundred fish that she herds like cattle. She pushes the brush on the long handle two or three times over the bottom. The water churns and shortly dozens of healthy goldfish appear at the other end of the pool.
Dru seems to have the perfect pets. They don't eat very much, don't go to the vet, they don't require a fancy cage. Just leave them alone. "Goldfish are tougher than you think they are. They raise themselves," says Dru.
She finds they help reduce her stress. "They are sort of calming and relaxing. You can't talk to them, either," says Dru who can spend 15-minutes watching them swim. "The color. The fins. They have pretty fins," says Dru. No two fish seem to have the same color pattern. Some fish have much longer tails. They eat mostly algae, that grows naturally in the pool, and where they swim to the side, where the water meets the blue liner, where they nibble.
On rare occasions, she'll give them fish food she bought two years ago. Dru extended the life of her pool, defied a local custom where everyone knows everyone else's business, and she did it with honest fish tails.