Lake St. John residents get a little water therapy

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 28, 2010

Most children dream of having a swimming pool in their back yards, but for sisters Ashley and Haley Mott dreams are reality. In the backyard of the Motts’ house in Ferriday sits a six-and-a-half mile long, one-mile wide water wonderland called Lake St. John.

“You have a swimming pool in your back yard when you live on a lake,” Ashley said.

Ashley, 8, and Haley, 7, fill their summer months with swimming, water skiing and tubing. In the cooler months their favorite thing to do is ride in the boat with their grandfather Tom Bell and look at all the wildlife such as the birds and alligators.

For Bell, watching his granddaughters grow up on the lake is like watching a flashback of his childhood.

Bell’s parents moved to Lake St. John in 1949 when he was 10 years old and opened a grocery store. Like his granddaughters one of his favorite things to do was swim as well as fish and hunt.

After graduating from high school, Bell went to college and received a degree in chemistry and worked in Oklahoma City until 1969 when his parents offered to sell him the store. Being a lover of the lake, he took the offer and moved back.

Today Bell owns Lake St. John Grocery and spends his days operating the store and enjoying the peaceful tranquility the lake has to offer.

“The lake has a therapeutic effect,” Bell said.

Every two or three weeks, Bell revs up his boat “Miss Charlotte,” named after his wife, and picks up friends at their piers and takes them for a ride.

“It relaxes me,” Bell said. “I could have a bad day and take a ride and when I get back it’s gone.”

For his friends Lawahi and Bill Skinner, who often go on rides with Bell, the lake has calming effects, too.

“It’s peaceful,” Lawahi said. “You can go out and sit on the pier and really enjoy it.”

The Skinners retired to the lake seven years ago and have loved every moment of it.

“I like the people,” Bill said.

Like the Skinners, Bell said many of the people who live on the lake are retirees who grew up on the lake and wanted to come back, or who have inherited homes and come back to renovate them.

“I think it’s the serenity and privacy, that brings people back,” Bell said. “There’s no hustle and bustle; it’s laid back.”

Aside from the peacefulness that the lake offers, it also offers a good amount of game fish for the recreational and serious fisherman, and resident George Prince takes full advantage of the game.

Prince and his wife Tammy moved to the lake in 2006, and since then George goes bass fishing whenever he can.

“It’s something I have to do,” George said. “It’s my therapy and my getaway.”

George’s parents bought a summer house on the lake in 1956, and when he was 9 years old his father taught him the art of bass fishing.

“I like to try and figure out the fish,” George said.

Fishing on the lake as often as he does, George has several favorite spots that he revisits. Using the techniques he has perfected over the years, he fishes every weekend, looking for that big bass in the lake that he can show off to his fellow fisherman.

“Lake St. John can be a tough lake to fish,” George said.

When he does make a big catch he likes to take a picture of it with his cell phone and send it to his friends to rub it in.

His wife Tammy does some fishing, but her favorite activity is pontoon boating with friends.

“You can’t beat walking out to your backyard and onto a boat,” Tammy said. “There’s nothing like it.”

The Princes also enjoy the flotilla, a parade of boats each Fourth of July, and the Harvest Festival, which is in the fall.

“(The events) are good for meeting people,” Tammy said.

The Princes feel they know just about everyone that lives on the lake, which is also the consensus with Bell and the Skinners.

“You’re tighter friends with your neighbors than you would be in a higher populated area,” Bell said. “We look out for one another.”

When a neighbor goes out of town, Bell said that he will look after their house and help care for pets while they’re gone, and they do the same for him when he goes out of town. Bell and his neighbors also help one another out with work that needs to be done around their houses.

“Anyway we can help each other out we do,” Bell said. “It’s just a courtesy we have for our neighbors.”