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Good Neighbors

by Donald Mehl  
5/15/2008 / Short Stories

Our home is located on a semi-secluded, wooded lakeshore property. It's a small 265 acre lake with minimal boating activity. As a result, our "neighbors" include many birds and four legged critters that also call this area their home.

A number of years ago I built a nice wood duck house that I mounted on a framework structure. Each spring I move the house and framework a short distance out into the lake to discourage or prevent squirrels, etc. from entering to enjoy a lunch of fresh duck eggs.

Each fall the framework is removed from the lake and placed on the shore. Then, I detach the house and store it in our back porch for the winter. When I first built the duck house, we only counted one or two pairs of ducks. Now after about 15 years, there are dozens of them - probably all related as brothers, sisters, cousins, parents, or perhaps just some friends. The babies hatch, they mature, they leave for the winter, and then return in the spring.

It's really neat to watch them. Usually only one pair will claim the house for the season, although they all fight over it. Once the hen has finished laying her eggs, we can mark the calendar for the hatching day. When that big day arrives, we will be nearby in ringside seats to watch the show. "Mama" will sit out on the water and call for her "kids" to come out. They obediently and quickly all bail out of the house one at a time, one right after another, and splash down onto the water - looking like little fur covered floating golf balls. We've seen them do that many times. Usually there are about 6-7 babies, but one year we counted 13 of them.

Spring is a little late this year, but the ice is now finally starting to recede away from the shoreline providing 10-15 feet of open water. I looked out there this morning and noticed the wood ducks had come back during the night. I counted 15-20 of them...gathered all around my framework, some even sitting on top of the structure.

It's almost as if they were saying to me, "Well...we're back! Hurry up! It's late! Get this thing in the water and put the house on it so we can get to work!"

So begins another cycle. It's just so cool!

One week later...

I'm pleased to announce that a pair of wood ducks just signed a two-month lease on the duck house I put in the lake for them. Several pairs of ducks had applied for the short-term occupancy, but after loudly discussing it among themselves, they apparently came to an agreement.

The lucky couple took possession yesterday. After hanging their family pictures on the empty walls, after re-arranging the cedar chip bed, and after chasing the spiders out, the serious egg laying will soon begin. The hen will lay approximately one egg each day for the next 8-14 days - then she'll sit on them for the next four weeks. "Dad" will play an important role throughout that entire time as well. As a watchman, he will swim nearby with an eye peeled for danger - ready to warn of any threat to his family.

The "kids" will only stay in the nursery for a day before "mama" calls for them to follow her. Then, the proud new parents will nurture and protect their babies - so they might return to their "home" again next year.

This story reminds me of the words of Jesus as recorded in John 10:27-29 NKJV, "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father's hand."

Isn't that a wonderful promise? He calls us and we obediently follow Him because we know His voice. Jesus will hold us safely in the palm of His hand - protecting us, loving us, and keeping us with Him forever and ever.

Wood ducks are a beautiful example of our Heavenly Father's glorious creation. And...they make good neighbors too!

During retirement, my prayer is that I might serve the Lord by sharing the Gospel through my writing. As the Lord leads, my work will inform, challenge and encourage. I also enjoy Biblical theme woodcarving, Bible studies and Christian music. Watch, pray and keep looking up!

Donald Mehl

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