Archive for December, 2013

Last night I was sitting quietly in my living room staring at the dancing flames of my fireplace almost hypnotized by them but far from being lost in my thoughts; after having read several chapters from the book “Traditions in Wood” edited by Patricia Fleming. My mind was thinking about carving, waterfowling but most of all about family and history. Its pages are about the history of wildfowl decoys in Canada and it focuses on a specific time period, it touches on each province, the artists and also the hunters life stories. There is one page in particular, number 121; actually it is one image which struck me deep into my core where my passion for art and waterfowling is found.

It is a photo of Thomas Southam at the end of a day on Ashbridge’s Bay in Toronto after a successful harvest standing by a boat holding ducks in his hands with his shotgun resting on the edge of the gun-whale, I think it is a Winchester Model 1897, 12 gauge shotgun. It is a beautiful piece of history in its own right and it fires incredibly well, I have harvested several rock doves and ducks with the same gun. In this photograph, he was wearing a very simple sweater and trousers but his stature is that of a distinguished and content man, even though he lived during a period of tough economic times.

He shared the same era as my grandfather and his father, and in the photo I even see physical similarities; Thomas Southam was a great artist, racer, waterfowler and conservationists. The photo of him along with Patrica’s book (Thomas Carpenter & Ernie Sparks) make me want to disappear into my wood working shop and carve more duck decoys all through the night or until my hands become so sore I can no longer hold my chisels. This week I have collected some wood from a construction site and I can not wait to begin working on those pieces and make more decoys.

The book is a great read and I can not wait to finish it.

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The eagles tail feathers and wings were spread wide open and pointing downward as the bird danced in the wind high above the dark blue waters of the Ottawa river. We had decided to take a late afternoon drive in the country to enjoy the sights and sounds then finish near the water’s edge to enjoy the sunset; little did we know it was going to be an evening to remember for a long time.

At first we could not make out what the eagle was after as it dove several times down to the choppy waters, dipping only its powerful claws into the frozen depths then with a splash, it would spring up back into the air several meters and swerve around to regain control and almost hover above the exact spot where it dove moments earlier. We pulled over on the right hand shoulder of the road or south and quickly turned on the four-way flashers.

There was an incredible hunt unfolding right in front of us and we were not about to pass on this amazing experience, it wasn’t until we moved up a little closer that we realized the eagle was after an American black duck which was rolling in and out of the waves on the river’s surface with one broken feather on its wing bent straight up; the eagle had managed to grab its prey but the duck dove below the surface just long enough to break away from the deadly talons.

The eagle dove down four more times with incredible speed and precision but the duck hen dove instantly below the surface and disappeared momentarily into the darkness sending the eagle back into the sky. The musculature of the bald eagle was so impressive even without the help of binoculars, its legs were stretched right out and its claws were clearly visible. After several more attempts the eagle, which was now showing signs of fatigue from fighting the strong winds, gracefully glided to a nearby willow tree and set itself down on one of its highest branches then looked around.

Then without any warning the bald eagle leaped into flight and faded toward the horizon heading south-east to Ontario.

Lucky duck indeed!

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