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April 9th, 2007

Ducks on Easter Sunday

We all know that one avoids those little painted ducklings and chicks for Easter. We don't buy painted creatures, particularly those which do not thrive under our care.

I grant you, too, that a duck and a duckling are very different things. A duckling is a duck-in-waiting, after all, and often is more on the cute side, in the same way that some toddlers have a certain pizzazz that fades by age 47.

Yet there is nothing wrong with a minute or two of ducks on Easter Sunday:

little red cabin

From the air, we wondered what lake lay beneath us--was it Grapevine? Was it Lewisville? There's the Gaylord resort. That should answer the question. But then again--which lake has the Gaylord Resort?

Our family cabin was on White Oak Lake. It was across the street from the lakefront, and it was red. Our Great Dane Cary had her puppies there. Little anole lizards raced hither and thither outside, and one might get the rare pleasure of seeing a venomous snake once in a while.

I have never understood what emotional payoff the cottonmouth snake gets from swimming towards strangers. I have noticed certain people behave similarly in bars; also, that some junior partners I have known in my pre-partnership days had their personal reptile stretched as attractively as any boot made of snakeskin.

I remember on the drive to the cabin we'd pass a small house which had been built around a small sailboat. It was like a ship in a bottle writ large. At Stearns' Landing, a rather small boatdock with a bait shop, the vendor would open the carton of worms upside-down, to prove there were worms in the carton and not merely soil. This was conducted with a jovial dignity. At my current favorite fishing shop, Farmersville's "The Minnow Bucket", the manager opens the nightcrawler box unceremoniously and always says "wakee, wakee, guys, time to get to work!", which, if my opinion were solicited, I would deem less than filled with appropriate worm gravitas.

My brother and I were permitted to paddle the little Aluminum Monark fishing boat out to anyplace within eyeshot, just as at home we were permitted to wander anywhere in our neighborhood within earshot of a huge, ringing school handbell. Just off the shore was a set of trees that contained a crappie bed, where fish dwelved deep down in search of food, but we usually caught bream.

I liked the life preservers with their oranges and 70s plaids, and the tug of a bass pulling the cork under when one used a cane pole to fish. Deep down, I believe that cane poles are the height of human technological achievement, as they alert one to the location of fish more accurately than any divining rod or fish finder might do.

Our school chess team played a match against an opposing chess team at that cabin. I read many a work of science fiction while we stayed at that cabin. It was 20 miles from the town in which we lived, so that once or twice we would spend even school nights there, driving into town for school. There was skillet-fried fish with hush puppies, and long, multi-day beef stews.

Sometimes I suggest to my wife that we ought to buy a cabin, but she imagines a cabin as merely one more place to clean. I imagine it as a retreat and a self-discovery and perhaps a landscape for portraits of daydreams. Yet when I row out from shore, you can always see me, on the close horizon, an easy paddle away.