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Stories Just For Children
by Donna Flood
Flopping Fish and Waddling Ducks

    The little duck pond was marked off by the town as a place where only children could fish. They needed no license to drop a hook and line into the shallow water. It was a quiet place all surrounded by drooping branches of willow trees. There were silly old ducks who were veterans of the place as well as descendants of those who had come here years before. Mixing of different kinds of wild geese, Mallards, Canadian Honkers and white tame birds made them of a new variety with spots, speckles and mottled colors. If the tame geese had taught the wild ones how to greet the visitor this was anyone's guess but made for a pleasant time for kids living in a wild world themselves and who were possibly in need of this sort of respect to be given to them.

    Whoever was holding the sack of bread crumbs was converged upon by flanks of swimming and waddling birds and it didn't matter if the person was an adult or child. Because the holder of the feed sack was sometimes small and a bit intimidated this could cause that little one to have to summons up a bit more courage in order to hold their ground while the pushy birds, boldly approached them. Rarely did the child drop the plastic bag to turn to Mama for protection. Something in the child's protective spirit made them the benefactor and protector of these hungry ducks whose beaks and bills looked to be threatening.

    Minnows, tiny fish, who in the same way the ducks had learned about handouts, knew the crumbs forthcoming from the bits of pieces of bread were landing here and there in scattered abandon in the water as the birds shook the bread slices into smaller, more easily managed portions. Of course, these fish that were able to avoid being eaten themselves, became larger. Mothers who were alert to their children's need for adventure brought along with them a fishing pole, line and hook. Worms for bait were available from a box in a refrigerated machine at one of the bait shops. Or some of the less squeamish Moms might have disturbed a rich flower bed to search for a few of the wigglers.

    The look of pure surprise and pleasure for when the child's first fish was caught became recorded on Mother's mind, forever, and even without a camera. The instructions to follow were necessary because the child after bringing the prize fish of a few inches long on shore became, seemingly paralyzed. They were undecided about what to do next. The fish was flopping about and its scales made lovely rainbow colors as they caught the sun.

    “Be careful how you pick him up!”  Mother advised. “Don't let him fin you!  Those fins can poke through your skin just like needles and does that ever smart. Hurry!  He will flop all the way back into the water again and be gone, line and all,  if you don't hurry.” 

    A pair of pliers came from Mom's coat pocket as she helped her child learn to remove the hook from the fish's mouth.

    “Does that hurt? Are we going to throw him back?  Is he big enough to keep?” The child's questions came in rapid succession?  “Dad says you have to throw small fish back.”

    “Dad has a different reason for fishing.”  The Mom answered her son. “I want you to take this fish, learn to scale and clean it. My folks always taught us catching game was not for sport but for food. This is what you must learn to do.

    The son had a lesson that day and even though he was very young the teaching stuck. He learned how to clean, scale and cook the fish all on his own with only his mother pointing out and giving directions while he worked. Even the breading and cooking of his meal gave a studied, mature look to the boy while he stood patiently waiting for the fish to brown crispy in the skillet. The tasty tid-bit of a morsel he slipped onto a plate his mother had prepared for it.

    The question for that one who devised and designed the tiny duck pond on the edge of a greater lake at the side of town might be, “Were you able to see into our future to a time when, even in these country places, nature would have to be available in such a way? Into our own mind is a realization and respect for those who have gone before us. How they could teach so quietly and to generations they themselves did not know is as beautiful as the rainbow colors on the scales of fish. 

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