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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