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Dawn Barnidge grew up in Jackson’s Belhaven area. For fun during summer months, she used to climb a tree in her backyard and watch the late Eudora Welty write books and short stories.
“We lived two doors down,” Barnidge says. “I knew who she was and I knew she was famous. Looking back on it now, it’s almost surreal. But it was a beautiful thing to watch her sit there and do her work.”
Barnidge, 51, has found another unique form of beauty to admire as an adult.
For the past 16 years, she has operated Falling Waters Koi Farm in Raymond, specializing in raising authentic Japanese koi, which look like rainbows with scales and fins.
And they come in countless varieties: The scales of the kinginrin, for example, are gold and silver colored, and glitter when bathed in sunlight. The kumonryu – which means “nine-crested dragon” in Japanese – have no scales and look like miniature black and white whales. And the asagi are navy blue along the upper half of their bodies, and deep red along the lower half.
“Since they’re from the carp family, they’re not a fish that you eat,” says Barnidge, who now shares the business with her husband, Brian. “They are fish to look at and enjoy. In Japan, they are considered a jewel. They have been known to live for more than 200 years. And they’re very tame. If you were to walk up to the water and begin doing a figure-eight pattern with your hands, the koi will follow the pattern in the water.
“We sell to people who want to add an extension to their garden … something to make a small pond unusual.”
Caitlin Van of Clinton often takes her five children to Falling Waters and allows each to pick out a koi for the family pond.
“The koi are so soothing and relaxing to watch,” she says. “It’s all about the colors. You don’t see colors on another fish like that.”
Tom Truett of Raymond has “17 or 18″ koi in his pond. “Most of them are around 12 to 14 inches, and everybody comments on how pretty they are,” he says. “I sit out there on the deck and watch them swim around. You can carry a handful of food down there, and they’ll about nibble your hand off.”