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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Lock (03/06/06)

TITLE: Lord Love A Duck
By Jan Ackerson


Sault Ste. Marie, in Michigan’s scenic Upper Peninsula, is remarkable for its series of locks. These marvels of engineering allow passage on St. Mary’s River for ships laden with ore and traveling between Lake Superior and Lake Huron. The world’s busiest locks, they are also one of the region’s most important tourist attractions—people can board an open-air boat and experience first-hand the effect of rising and descending in an enormous, water-filled elevator.

My husband and I were passengers on just such a ferry—the Chief Shingwauk, departing from the Canadian side of the locks—with our two little daughters, perhaps twenty years ago. Once we had boarded, the immense gates of the lock began to swing closed, isolating the tourist-filled boat which sat temporarily motionless in the middle of the river. As we watched the gates close, I noticed a lone duck paddling lazily in the water below.

The gates continued to creak together—slowly, slowly—and from my viewpoint it appeared that the duck would surely be crushed between the massive slabs of metal. They were enormous—as tall as a two-story building and perhaps a yard thick of solid iron. The duck was just calmly swimming, apparently oblivious to the gates, now only a few yards short of being locked shut.

I couldn’t take my eyes off that stupid bird. When I pointed it out to my husband, he just laughed tenderly at my anxiety. “Sweetie,” he said, “that duck can fly. When it realizes that the gates are closing in, it’ll just fly out of there.”

Feeling somewhat sheepish, I acknowledged that ducks can, indeed, fly. Nevertheless, I continued to watch, chewing my lower lip, as the two doors of the locks drew closer—closer—closer together. By this point, the girls had seen the duck, too, and had caught my anxiousness on his behalf. Rather than watching the operation of the lock, their eyes were drawn to the little speck bobbing in the water. He was simply making lazy circles, precisely where the gates would eventually meet.

I now suspect that ducks—or at least this particular duck—are fairly low on the continuum of animal intelligence. It wasn’t until the gates were perhaps two feet short of closing that he realized his predicament. But instead of flying to safety, he began to paddle madly in the direction of the lake, while the gates continued to creak and groan toward him.

By this time, several other passengers on the Chief Shingwauk had noticed Mr. Drake. Everyone was laughing at his frantic paddling and his waggling hind end. At the last possible moment, he made it through the gates of the lock and into the waters of Lake Superior. His narrow escape was punctuated by the applause of dozens of tourists.

How often I have paddled furiously in circles, and narrowly escaped a situation fraught with danger—simply because I have forgotten that I can fly!

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This article has been read 1558 times
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Marilyn Schnepp 03/13/06
I loved it! I, too, got caught up in worry as to whether Mr. Drake would escape the locks closing! Kept my interest throughout...great job and writing was superior!
Amy Michelle Wiley 03/14/06
You almost lost me on the technical stuff at the beginning, but at the last minute I decided to skim it and get to the story. I'm glad I did! Good story and I love the closing line.
janet rubin03/15/06
I echo what the last commenter said about the technical stuff, but ultimately, it was a wonderful story with a great point. Very good.
Lynda Schultz 03/15/06
This is tremendous. I almost broke out into a chorus of "Oh, Canada" (which has nothing to do with anything), but the description was excellent, the illustration perfect and the conclusion hit me right between the eyes. Great job.
Pat Guy 03/16/06
I was on pins and needles for Mr. Drake! I think this was the perfect balance of info, intrigue, and message! (great message by the way!) Whew! I am so glad this story ended with Mr. Drake escaping! Great devotional!
Rachel Rudd 03/16/06
Very nice story....I agree about the technical bit, but I understand that you needed to give a good picture of the setting.
Thank you for reminding us that we can fly!
Kate Wells03/16/06
Good story! I love animals and it drew me in as I wondered what would happen to the poor duck. I felt silly worrying when her husband told her ducks could fly. I was right there with her.
Sue Dent03/16/06
Okay, I'm going to go ahead and get this out of the way. Everybody knows they want to say it. This story just "quacks" me up! I don't know though, I think there are some ducks that can't fly. Now you have me doing research!! I really enjoyed this though.
Jessica Schmit03/16/06
This is so cute. I must admit, I was very afraid your little ducky friend was going to have a sad ending. (so glad he didn't. I love ducks) Written well. Great job! I found the beginning was a little dry, but the second paragraph took off nicely.
Shari Armstrong 03/16/06
What a great lesson! We do tend to go in circles a lot, don't
we? I could just see that duck :)
Shari Armstrong 03/16/06
ps - I keep hearing SOME tv character saying, "Love a duck!" and I can't get it out of my head, and I can't remember who it is LOL
Venice Kichura03/16/06
Jan, this held my interest all the way! As usual, you did a awesome job!
Teri Wilson03/16/06
Jan, this was very nice. Your flexibility as a writer never ceases to amaze me.
Cassie Memmer03/16/06
I don't see a lot of technical stuff here, I think every word is needed and woven beautifully in with info about the duck. I'm sure glad he made it. (What a waste he would've been, wild duck tastes awful! LOL) Great message, if we could only remember to 'fly' above those circumstances that threaten us. Wonderful writing!
T. F. Chezum03/16/06
This is a cute story. I agree with some about the technical stuff, but it was necessary to set the scene. Good story, I enjoyed it.
Helen Paynter03/17/06
Yes, lovely writing, but I'm in the 'lose the first paragraph' camp, for what that's worth.
Debora Dyess03/17/06
Awesome, awesome, awesome! Beautiful use of description. You painted a wonderful picture with words.
One smill suggestion (almost too insignificant to type): Instead of stating that it was your husband and you on the ferry you may use 'family'. When the girls were added it seemed strange that they weren't mentioned before.
Incredible story, lovely message, SO true!
Linda Watson Owen03/17/06
Great story, Jan! I came away with the scent and cool spray of the lake water in my mind as well as the sensation of ruffling duck feathers...your story drew me in that much! And yes, definitely a great ending statement!
Suzanne R03/19/06
I love your title and your conclusion especially, but the whole lot was great! If you don't mind one piece of constructive criticism, I'd change 'anxiousness' to 'anxiety' ... but that's just a miniscule picky thing. It had a great message and had me on the edge of my seat.
Beth Muehlhausen04/14/06
Awesome application!!! This is just too cool...and fits my current situation/circumstances to a T!! Thanks for reminding ME I can fly...soar w/ wings like eagles, in fact. :-)