TIME OUT WITH LOIS: Duck lessons

This week I was entering some notes in a journal, quotes to keep and lessons learned. These might be retreat topics or even new book ideas down the road. One came from a personal study on people in the Bible who faced tough stuff and did not give up. One was the man by the pool of Bethseda who waited 38 years for healing (John 5).

Lois Olmstead


Reminds me of my ducks. For a  while we lived by Castle Rock Lake in Colstrip. I raised mallard ducks. No one told me that I should give my ducks ice skating lessons as part of their upbringing. I prepared for winter. A rancher friend gave me eight bales of straw. I covered an old rabbit hutch with plywood and hauled it down by the lake and put the straw bales around their house. I thought I was ready.

After two days of below-zero temperatures, I went down for their daily feeding and called the ducks. They quacked loudly as usual. But the ice formed a barrier about 25 feet from shore. They swam back and forth quacking in distress. No amount of cajoling would induce any of the 19 ducks to jump up on the ice. I flapped my arms yelling, “Fly. That is what you are ducks for!”

I poured wheat and corn onto the ground by their house in case they got brave when I left.

I related the events to He-Who. “I guess I’ll have to walk out on the ice and put their food out there.”

He said,” Well, that ice better be a whole lot thicker than it is now if you are going to attempt that!” 

I ignored the implications of that remark and asked him to come down to the lake and help me. We walked along the lake to where the water was open. Then, with me in the front with the feed bucket and him in the back, we walked-waddled the ducks to their house.

They ate with gusto. When they finished eating, they started across the strip of ice to the open water. They fell, they slid, and coasted with a splash into the lake. The next day we repeated the trek. A flock of wild ducks flew onto the ice and came right up to the duck’s house. They had no problem with the ice. I told my ducks to watch those ducks. I was beginning to feel like a failure as a stepparent. My ducks didn’t fly well nor could they ice skate. A friend suggested I glue sandpaper to their feet.

As the lake froze over in December, the ducks kept a hole open in the ice of the lake. Many wild ducks joined them. But the little open space kept shrinking each day. They did learn to come when I called. The more they hurried, the more their feet would slip out from under them. It would have made a delightful video to film them with the Skaters Waltz playing in the background. On Jan. 17 the ice froze solid. The ducks stood on the ice so forlorn, they seemed to be saying, “Now what?”

That day I rebuilt the duck house, making it big enough for 19 ducks to have walking space. Then I put them all in the pen. In February, it warmed up. I opened one end of the pen and let them out. They went straight to the lake. They splashed. They swam. They weren’t too friendly with me, for days. After all that loving care I gave them! Just wait until they have ducks of their own someday!

I think of all those times in the Bible where we see God’s everlasting love and grace and patience with us his people here on this earth. And I wonder if I am a lot like my ducks? 

Our Bible verses this week are Psalm 18:2 and Matthew 6:26. Enjoy!


EDITOR’S NOTE: Lois Olmstead is an inspirational speaker and author who lives in the Shields Valley. Email her at loiso@wispwest.net or visit www.timeoutwithlois.com.