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Swimming with the Ducks
By Marshall Jack

When I was a young boy, we were taught by elders many ways to help us understand Mother Earth. This is a story that evolves from the lessons of how we were taught to catch fish. The elders teach us to honor all things that we take for our food. We were taught to sit with the food and understand its life and honor its gift to us through its death. Fishing was a lesson well earned because in order to catch fish, you need to go into the waters where the fish live. I remember a grandpa of mine taught us to go to the river and talk with the fish underwater. It took me several times to do that without scaring the fish when I gasped for air. But, I learned the knack of talking to the fish under water. While talking with them, I learned to rub their heads and their bellies without scaring the fish. On one occasion, Grandpa gave us instructions to swim long lengths of time underwater while breathing with a straw Mother Earth gave us. This was a hollowed out reed. It took several days of attempts to understand how to breathe through this reed without choking. Once this technique was learned, it was a lot of fun to swim upside down with the long reed and watch the fish.

One time during one of these practice sessions, I was swimming under water upside down when a flock of ducks landed in the pond in which we were swimming. I thought not scaring the ducks would be a good lesson to teach myself about the winged ones. I wanted to learn how they swim in water. As the ducks swam around the pond, I was able to swim underneath them and saw their webbed feet. I decided to follow one duck. As I did this, the duck pushed forward with his webbed feet exactly four strokes before drifting along the surface. He would stroke exactly four times each time before he drifted. After the duck ended his fourth stroke, I thought it would be fun to grab his feet while they were still idle and pull the duck underneath the surface. The first time I did this, the duck was so scared that it was flapping its wings under water trying to escape. I laughed so hard that I let go of my reed and nearly drowned.

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