Pond Culture

Published by The Idaho Statesman on Aug. 8, 2003

NAMPA — There´s something in the water on Diamond Ridge Way.

Often, that something is a goldfish, or a lily pad. Or an ancient Japanese carp.

But there´s something else. Something that makes folks like Tom and J.J. Waskow dig a series of five ponds in their back yard.

It makes Terry Martin excavate a 4 1/2 -foot hole next to his back porch. And it leads Rick and Gretchen Robertson to pile rocks into a 15-foot-long waterfall.

Some call it “pond culture,” and it seems to be centered in this upscale subdivision a couple of miles south of Nampa.

“Ponds are just beginning to be a big thing,” J.J. Waskow said. “People just love them.”

“It´s better than therapy,” she added, and laughed. “I do therapy also.”

Waskow helped organize the Idaho Water Garden and Koi Society’s Canyon County pond tour Sunday, and her house was one of the featured stops.

Four others on the same short road showed off their ponds, too.

It´s that kind of neighborhood.

“We´ve never met a pond we didn´t like,” Waskow said.


The Waskows are plant people. John and Cheryl Sargent, though, are fish people.

Koi people, to be precise. Big-time koi people.

You can tell from the koi flags waving in the front and back yards, from the koi posters on their porch, from Cheryl Sargent’s koi earrings.

Oh, and the giant pond in their back yard.

“I usually don´t have plants in here because of the mess they make,” John Sargent explained, as his 21 elaborately colored carp noisily slurp at his fingers. “But the fish like them like candy.”

The Sargents have some kohaku, a few sanke. Maybe a showa or two.

They have what the rest of us would call fish.

But they have the 1999 grand champion. Its name is Lipstick, Cheryl Sargent explained.

“She´s named them all,” her husband said. “I don´t get into that. I don´t think they can hear me.”

The Sargents, who don´t live on “Pond Row” along Diamond Ridge Way, have turned almost their entire back yard into an 11,000-gallon pond.

They carried out all the dirt in five-gallon buckets. They carried in the Owyhee lava rocks that line the water.

That´s the kind of people they are.


The Waskows used some heavy equipment for two of their ponds. For the other three, they relied on elbow grease.

“One shovel at a time,” J.J. Waskow said. “It´s not that hard. Of course, I´ve had two hip replacement surgeries since then.”

Pond people have good senses of humor.

When the Waskows were just getting into it, they were amazed at the kind of people they met. Why did just laid-back and casual people build ponds, they wondered.

Then they figured it out.

“It must be the pond that makes you laid-back,” she said.

So laid-back, it seems, that life´s little trivias just slip right past you.

“We got married in ´95,” Tom Waskow explained, standing near the cannas, elephant ears and umbrella palms. (Those are plants.)

“´97,” his wife interjected.

“We got married in ´97?” he asked, surprised.

But they´re a fun group of folks. Saturday night, they held a pre-tour party that ended at Terry and Kathy Martin´s place.

Underwear ended up in a neighbor´s grape arbors. It still was there Sunday afternoon.

It´s that kind of neighborhood.


“The blue heron loves koi for lunch,” J.J. Waskow said.

And Diamond Ridge Way was like a smorgasbord.

The larger koi can handle themselves, but the babies — and the regular and fancy goldfish many pond owners keep, too — aren’t so lucky.

“We had to build a place for the fish to get away from the heron,” Gretchen Robertson said. “He came when we had the smaller pond and just wiped us out.”

He hasn´t shown up this summer, and the water-loving residents are glad, if quiet.

“I think someone offed him,” Rick Robertson said and grinned. “But nobody talks about it.”


British novelist Ben Rice recently wrote a short story about koi lovers.

It was called “Look at Me, I’m Beautiful!”

In it, two men are obsessed with their champion koi. One man’s wife finally loses it and stands screaming, stark naked, in his pond.

The other man, to keep his wife, takes $10,000 worth of fish and releases them in a nearby canal.


John and Cheryl Sargent know a woman who spent $150,000 on one champion koi.

It died at a Portland show.

All about pond people

Pond people love:

  • Waterfalls
  • Reeds and grasses
  • Ceramic frogs

Pond people hate:

  • Ducks
  • Kingfishers
  • Anaerobic bacteria

Pond people don´t talk about:

  • The near-divorces
  • How much their fish that died cost
  • What happened to the heron that terrorized Diamond Ridge Way one summer

Pond people like to talk about:

  • Filtration systems
  • How much other people paid for fish
  • The underwear in the grape arbor

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