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The Frozen Duck Caper – Revised October 26, 2013 Posted on October 23, 2013 by lynamstories101


We lived in a small town known as Agassiz (Ag a see) in Beautiful British Columbia, Canada. When I was a kid in the 70’s it used to get pretty cold in the winter as far as I was concerned anyway. The kind of cold where long johns, mittens and full-faced toques were barely enough to keep you warm.


Of course you could never talk weather with the old folks in town this was taboo. “Why you should have seen the flood of 48” They talked about this flood like it was biblical and the Arc made its way into town. Now when the old folks talked about the winter weather well forget about it, we had it easy.


On one of these occasions when it got really cold brother Doug and I went out looking for ice to skate on. We spent a lot of time outside when we were kids and although I do remember getting cold all the time cause I was so skinny you couldn’t keep us in the house.


Man if we could find a nice pond that had frozen over in the cold it was time to put on your skates and play hockey or just skate. It was fun and we enjoyed ourselves very much.


Along with the cold arctic fronts that would come in you would sometimes also get these brutally cold winds that would freeze the water in the fields faster but the breeze moved the water and made the ice impossible to skate on. The problem with water freezing when you had a strong wind was that you had much less area to skate on and the ice was not smooth as glass but rippled and bumpy. Skating on a pond that was rippled and bumpy was unbearable.


We had a cold snap around 1975 and the big pond that we usually skated on, you know the one out in Gus Loy’s field. It froze over but it was no good to skate on because it was in an open field and well I am sure you can figure out the quality of the ice from my prior dissertation.


Being resourceful and not wanting to miss out on a chance to skate we went for a walk down Hardy road looking for some smooth ice to practice our pirouettes and triple sow cows on. Hardy road was about a mile long and we walked about 8/10 of the way down the road looking for the glass, that virgin ice.


You know what I’m talking about and that sound that you only heard the first time you stepped onto the pure smooth ice, the sound of the skate cutting into the ice before everyone else had skated on it and scuffed it. There was also the sound of the ice cracking a bit under your feet not because it was going to break and you were going to fall through but because it was settling or at least that’s what we told ourselves. As I think back I am glad we always skated on field ice at a depth of maybe three feet at it’s deepest.


On this particular day in question we hopped over the fence to get out to a new pond that we had not tried before. This pond had some bushes and small trees on one side but the rest of it would have been perfect for skating on. A little sheltered from the wind our expectation was that we would find the smoothness we were looking for. What we saw was the most amazing and saddest thing that we had ever seen in our years of outdoor pond skating.


In the field there was close to 80 ducks. Now ducks in the field was not a strange thing to see, they often landed as the sun was going down especially if it was getting too dark and they couldn’t fly to open lake water in Harrison Hot Springs. Ducks don’t fly very well in the dark to the best of my knowledge.


Nope the strange thing was all these ducks were frozen stiff into the pond. This obviously took our attention away from skating, I mean ducks frozen into the water would have been even more difficult to skate on then rippled water. It would have been a mess with feathers and guts flying everywhere. We broke one or two ducks out of the ice and brought them back home to tell our mom about what we had found.


We came back after and got the rest of the ducks out of their icy tombs, hell eighty ducks would make a lot of duck stew and the feathers would make several down quilts Mom made all of us kids feather quilts by hand they were pretty amazing and incredibly warm.


Dead ducks were not an unusual sight in our shop because Brother Michael would go hunting and when he brought the birds home he would hang them in the shop for a day or so before they were plucked and the breasts were used for duck stew. If you were not careful and paying attention when you walked into the shop you might just walk into 6 or 8 ducks hanging from the rafters.


We were thinking that the ducks had all been poisoned they were all in the same location and same condition; I mean the dead condition so eating them was out of the question. We didn’t even think about the fact that the weather might be too cold for the ducks to fly to the lake and rest for the night.


The feathers and the down were there for the picking and picking we did until we filled many plastic garbage bags. The feathers were then left in the bags in the shop for the duration of the winter. The thought behind leaving the down and feathers in the bags was that if there were any mites or bugs that lived off of the blood of the ducks they would starve to death and we would have pristine feathers to work with in the spring.


Mom would then purchase something called ticking and she would sew all around three edges and then sew tubes into the material and fill these tubes with the down and feathers. We all got a homemade feather quilt that year.


We found out from the local experimental farm that the ducks had not in fact been poisoned but we decided not to take a chance and we did not eat these ducks. They probably would have been better then Mikes ducks because none of them would have had lead shot in their bodies that you could bite on when you were eating dinner.


Sad but true - This actually happened, I have never seen or heard of it since the ducks probably have a very strong safety committee with lots of new protocols for flying in inclement weather but on that night it must have been a pretty weird experience to be swimming in smaller and smaller circles and then not being able to even move anymore and finally coming over all dead.

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We used to get cold winters in Agassiz to my way of thinking not from the perspective of some of the old timers in Agassiz who remembered the 48 flood like it was the water that carried the Arc in Biblical times and snow storm of epic proportions but cold enough to mandate mittens, toques and scarves oh and of course the warm boots.


Well on one of these occasions when it got really cold brother Doug and I went out looking for ice to skate on.  We spent a lot of time outside when we were kids and although I do remember getting cold all the time cause I was so skinny you couldn’t keep us in the house.


Man if we could find a nice pond that had frozen over in the cold it was time to put on your skates and play hockey or just  skate without playing hockey it was all fun and we enjoyed ourselves immensely.  Sometimes along with the cold arctic weather you would get the brutally freezing winds that would freeze the water faster then just the cold alone.  


The problem with water freezing when you had a strong wind was that you had much less area to skate on and the  ice was no longer smooth as glass but rippled and bumpy.  The skating on a pond that was rippled and bumpy was unbearable so when we had a cold snap around 1975 and the big pond out in Gus Loy’s farm field froze over it was no good to skate on because it was an open field and  well I am sure you can figure out the quality of the ice from my prior description.


Being resourceful and not wanting to miss out on our chance to skate we went for a walk down Hardy road looking for some smooth ice to practice our pirouettes and triple sow cows.  I think Hardy road was about a mile long and we walked about 8/10 of the way down the road looking for the glass that virgin ice. You know the stuff and the sound of the skate cutting into it and the sound of the ice cracking a bit under your feet not because it was going to break but because it was settling or at least that’s what we told ourselves.


Well on this particular day in question we hopped over the fence to get out to a new pond and we saw the most amazing and sad thing that we had ever seen.  In the field was probably close to 60 or 80 ducks.  The ducks in the field was not the strange thing but the fact that these ducks were all dead and frozen into the pond was pretty strange.  


We broke one or two out of the ice and brought them back home. We came back after and got the rest out of their icy tombs hell eighty ducks would make a lot of duck stew and the feathers would make at least 10 feather ticks Mom made all of us kids feather ticks and they were pretty amazing.We were thinking that the ducks had been poisoned all in the same location and same condition I mean the dead condition so eating them was out of the question but the feathers and the down were there for the picking and picking we did until we filled plastic garbage bags.


We found out from the local experimental farm that the ducks had not in fact been poisoned but because of the strong wind and the cold weather they most likely set down in the field because it was getting dark and they were also probably close to exhaustion from trying to fly in that wind that they just froze to death in the water.


Sad But True.

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Abey Flap


 


I was born in December 1963 on the 21st if you want to send me a present :)  I was the youngest of 7 kids at the time of my birth, that would change a couple of years later when my foster brother Doug came along, but that is another story.   I have been told that I was a happy baby, I didn't have a care in the world except getting on the tit occasionally, that was a bit of a challenge as I was born with a cleft lip and palate and if you can imagine with the roof of my mouth not connected I was not able to get suction to extract milk from the breast as it were so I was relegated to drinking from a cup right from the get go.


 


The birth defect I had is called a bi lateral cleft lip & palate (check it out online, it’s pretty groovy) The way this situation affects you is as follows.  Your upper lip does not close so it appears that you have a split lip, to add insult to injury the roof of your mouth does not come together either.  In a normal birth your mouth, nose and lip are all sealed and you are able to breath normally and get suction for the tit. (I am not completely breast focused its just one of those things)  Besides this weird looking face I was a pretty happy baby, probably because I was given a bit of extra attention from my family.


 


When I was a year old I had the first of 15 or so surgical procedures, closing the roof of my mouth and my upper lip.  Each surgery making improvements on the last one.  Of all of these surgeries the one that had the biggest psychological effect on me as an individual was something called “the Abey flap”


 


Let me describe this procedure if I might, first a little preamble, typically with a repaired cleft lip and palate you will notice that the upper lip is tight to the teeth and the lower lip, although normal appears to jut out in relation to the upper lip.  The Abey Flap works like this.  You take the lower lip and you slice a w in the middle and you reopen the upper lip in the centre and you take the cleaved lower lip and sew it directly into the upper lip.  At no time do you slice the piece of the lower lip that has now been sewed into the upper lip.  Picture this, you now have a mouth with two openings on the right and left side of the mouth with a flap of skin sewed into the upper lip.  They leave the lower lip piece of skin attached to the upper lip for three weeks in order to maintain a constant blood flow and have the skin grow into the upper lip.


 


 


I ate for three weeks through a straw, pureed everything, carrots, potatoes, ground beef etc etc. I gained three pounds in three weeks unusual for me I was pretty skinny.


  


After three weeks you go back into the surgical suite and the Dr. slices what was previously your lower lip and you can again open your mouth and talk like a normal person.(My Normal)


 


The difference was I now had a bit more flesh in my upper lip and although it was a little swollen from the surgery I was pleased to look a bit more like everyone else.


 


There have been a couple more surgeries since then, bone grafts and the like, but none that have had the same effect as the Abey Flap.


 


Matthew         

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