Life at the Lake

a diary of living at a small lowland lake


Early moonrise over Lake Ketchum

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The President, "Under God"


No disrespect to God, or anybody else who may be listening, but the phrase, "under God," doesn't belong in the Pledge of Allegiance—to the United States or the United Arab Republic, or whatever. No disrespect intended.

I mean, matters of state are exactly those, or else one's political status or affiliation may be determined by religious beliefs, and that is exactly what the Founding Fathers were dead set against.

I am old enough to remember when the Pledge (why in God's name do I capitalize the word?) was nicely said, ". . . one nation, indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all."

Metrically it had a nice ring to it, though many of us thought the word following "nation" was "invisible," which meant to all of us that nobody could see it—the nation, or whatever else might be being referred to. And it was true—how can you ever see a "nation"? It is an idea, an abstract noun. Now the word "country," you can just about picture it, rolling lands, mountains, rivers, all that juicy stuff. Not invisible, or divisible, either. A fact. Beautiful.

You go and add "under God" to it and the rhythm gets all thrown off. It is as though a caret were being inserted (or a carrot, for all you vegetarians) with those extra words that don't scan so well, if at all. Especially if "indivisible" still remains. A jumbles that does not roll sweetly or trippingly off the tongue.

Had I a blackboard I could parse this sentence for you to show its grammatical and poetic clumsiness. Be thankful I don't have.

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Where the action is


Water temperature, 52 degrees; air about sixty, with a light breeze and mottled sky. A day like many others lately.

So why did the trout suddenly start to hit? Why today and not on all the similar days before and probably after it?

Beats me, but the answer is what lies at the heart of all fishing--fresh water and salt, lakes and rivers.

Three trout off my dock, all within an hour and a half. Fat, bright, and scrappy. Each about sixteen inches. These are holdover, unspawned rainbow trout.

All were carefully captured and gently released back into the lake.
Next month we will have a hatchery plant of about 1000 fall-spawning rainbows from broodstock obtained in Eastern Washington. That's not many, as trout plants go; many nearby lakes get tens of thousands One about the size of Ketchum gets 45,000 annually and is deservedly crowded with fishers all spring.

We are lucky and the fishing pressure remains low to medium. And we have holdover trout in fall and the following spring. Much of this can be attributed to the fact that more and more fishers are releasing their catch.

Thus the same trout can be caught over and over. (Some never wise up, thankfully.) And each time the trout is a little bigger. They grow an inch or two a month through the summer. Last spring's ten-incher is now about sixteen. And that is the size of a fish to catch even one of, many fishers will travel hundreds of miles and spend lots of money.

We here are blessed. And it is one, but only one, reason why I choose to live on a small, lowland lake.

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Female woodied scurries toward the food trough


Shyest of the shy, the female wood duck strides quickly across my porch rail, headed for the food trough. The male is not far away. Often she feeds ravenously, while he remains on the outlook for danger and does not feed himself.

When she is on the nest, she feeds only early in the morning and just before dark. He is always in attendance, never far away. And when the ducklings are born, she will not leave them. So, for now, she is storing up nourishment for when she will feed little or not at all.

I said they are shy, and jokingly called out to my wife, when they first showed up a month late, "Look, they remember me," because they did not fly off when I walked down to my dock, I only meant that they did not recognize me and my slowed movements as any kind of genuine threat. The ducks only moved off on the top of the water, squawking protest but not going far. Only a hundred yards or so.

They are still shy at the feeder and when we move towards the kitchen, they will fly off to the beach area. And they do not like to be photographed, I've gathered, even with a long lens. (Well, neither do I, long or short, and neither do many people.)

Now, the green-winged teal is truly a shy bird; Paul Schmookler has correctly identified them as"secretive." They don't want anybody around them, and will maintain an interval of maybe three hundred yards between themselves and what has aptly been called "the nearness of you."

Not so the woodies. My woodies. Still, they don't like to be observed. And this fits my guideline of the relationship between supposed danger and their size. The larger the bird, the greater the distance it requires before it being spooked or flushed. Thus the eagle, heron, and osprey will always remain the farthest away from you. And tiny birds, such as the kinglet (beautiful, most streamlined and graceful) will sometimes flutter around your feet, unfrightened, unshy.

So I am delighted by the returned of my favorite summertime resident, the wood duck, but do not imagine it has any memory or affection for me. And that is how it should be. Any lowering of the protective characteristic to take ready flight would be a big mistake. Sure, you can trust me, but what about the rest of the world? And all those pretty feathers coveted by flytyers (such as Schmookler)?

We would have fewer breeding pairs of wood ducks if they were any less shy, and some years it seems we already have greatly diminished numbers of them. Or else they are mysteriously, unexplainably late in arriving in spring.

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