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The 2011 Fox Report 

"Rubber Ducky youíre the one! You make bath time lots of fun! Rubber Ducky Iím awfully fond of youÖ.."

Antidaeophobia: the fear that somehow, somewhere a duck is watching you.

Antidaeophobia struck the prairies in 2011. Record-high water table in the fall, cold temperatures, which drove the frost line deep, heavy snowfalls, a quick spring melt and nowhere for the water to go. Alberta drained into Saskatchewan. Lakes and reservoirs filled to maximum allowable levels and water had to be released to ease the pressure on dams. The southern third of Saskatchewan and Manitoba, the flatlands, became an inland sea with what Environment Canada called a "1 in 2000 years" weather event. The transcanada highway collapsed and hundreds of grid roads washed away. The ducks were very happy.

We live farther north, so we did not experience the same devastation. No water on our doorstep, but access to our house was cut off when our grid road collapsed. Don and I went out scouting the Saturday the melt started and we got very concerned at the river running down the ditch to our corner. The culvert was running flat out but there was still way too much water coming. It was over the road in a few hours. We decided to park my car on the other side of the trouble spot just in case the worst should prevail. By Monday there was 20 feet of nothing where the road once was, with a 10 foot drop down to a new river feeding a lake which used to be a field. Don found a path that could be traversed in rubber boots around the lake to get my car, so I could go to work. Driving was really freaky because all the fields on both sides of the highway were lakes, with waves and whitecaps! And ducks Ė watching all the time.

We took a little spring vacation to the Jasper, in the Rocky Mountains, where Don gained overnight celebrity status in our cabin-community by saving a Dutchman from a potential grizzly bear attack. Don is a real hunter. Heís so quiet! After 25 years he still sneaks up on me and sends me jumping. He doesnít mean to scare me; itís just that he moves so silently. And he has this blessing, or curse, to be invisible, even when heís sitting in plain sight. When I try to sneak into a room, everyone sees me. I canít hide in a crowd. Don on the other hand, can often go anywhere unnoticed. He would have made a great ninja. Anyway, Don was sitting on the porch of our rented cabin having a cigarette when he saw a this grizzly bear eyeing and slinking-up on a tourist, who was sitting with his back to the bear, also having a smoke. Don was between the bear and the Dutchman but the bear didnít see him because heís got the invisible-man thing happening and heís downwind. He watched it for a minute then decided this bear was being too sneaky. When it was about 25 feet away, Don stepped out to get the bearís attention. The grizzly took a double take Ė a "Where the !??!! did you come from?" reaction Ė and took off. Don went to warn the Dutchman, because grizzlies are not easily deterred, especially if they have their mind set on something. Instead of realizing the danger he was in, the guy grabbed his camera and took off after the bear! He was followed by a gaggle of other tourists with cameras. What a drag it must be (for the bear) to be chased by your lunch.

The event was witnessed by a Newfoundlander who proceeded to take his bottle of rye around to all the cabins to toast the "bushman who saved the Dutchman". When we got up the next day, everyone seemed to know who we were. Try as he might, Don just couldnít get that invisible man thing to work on the tourists who, unable to get a bear picture, decided to get Donís picture to at least go along with what Iím sure the Newfoundlander turned into a very fine bear story.

The yard still has lots of critters. Regulars include whisky jacks, blue jays, chickadees, deer, a weasel and a marten. The marten is now living in one of our outbuildings and is proving to be first class entertainment as it runs around popping its head up when we least expect it. Weíve regularly seen a snowshoe hare in the yard year for 5 or 6 years now, but we have no idea if itís the same rabbit. It leaves my garden alone, which may say something about the quality of my lettuce or the scariness of my face. More occasional visitors include moose, bear, wolves, coyotes and lynx. We had a skunk live under one of our outbuildings most of the summer (the same building that the marten now occupies). We have a "live and let live" philosophy in our yard, so long as everyone minds their own business. The skunk kept to itself and didnít bother with us going in and out of the building, so we left it alone. Eventually it left. We put up red metal siding this summer which seemed to disturb our swallow friends. They moved out from under the eaves to our tent garage, preferring a plastic tarp to metal as shelter. Maybe the metal is just too loud in the rain. That darn woodpecker still manages to find the few bits of wood that are not covered by metal Ė at first light! It was like living in a Woody Woodpecker cartoon!

In the heat of the summer that cartoon changed to the one where ants invaded a picnic. When we put up styrofoam insulation and house wrap down below the footing last fall, we must have trapped an ant hill under the house. I think they got stressed and decided to send out pairs of flying ants to find a place to start a new colony. Unfortunately, they all appeared inside the house! We were vacuuming up hundreds of flying ants. We put out borax and icing sugar hoping the non-flying ants would take it back and kill the rest of the colony. It all settled down after a few days. Nature isnít always fun.

The other summer project involved taking over the double garage as living space. We put in a nice floor and divided off a studio and a workshop. We really like the studio because we can keep the recording gear permanently set up for when the mood hits us. Weíve been less enthusiastic about recording lately. The CD is only 7 years old and already copies are screwing up and no longer playing. We have cassette tapes that are 35 yrs old and vinyl LPs much older that all still play fine. I thought digital was supposed to be forever. The master is still ok so I set up a pay-per-song download account with GoProTunes.com, run by the musiciansí union. The For the Birds CD is there, but I hope to get some newer songs up there this summer. The project doesnít seem as daunting knowing we can go one song at a time and we donít have to stress over making the levels from song to song consistent.

I again enjoyed my year-end holiday ritual of perusing the Darwinian Awards website. This is an annual global contest with awards given out post-humously to people who improve the human gene pool by killing themselves off doing something really stupid. "Entries" must be verified with documented new reports. With the high price of copper, most candidates for 2011 were thieves getting electrocuted while trying to steal live-wire. A leading candidate for top honours is a Chicago man who attempted to remove his own pacemaker. My personal favourite is the bungee jumper who didnít have a cord long enough for the jump so he taped two together. Thereís also a jumper who had too long a cord for his scheduled jump. The combination of basic math and gravity seem to make me laugh the most, maybe because Iíve been teaching a lot of math these past few years. My all time favourite, several years back, was a guy who went ice fishing and decided to make his hole with dynamite instead of an ice auger. His dog thought he wanted to play "fetch". I felt sorry for the dog.

If this newsletter doesnít read quite as well as some from the past, it is because my creative energies are stretched pretty thin right now. Iíve become obsessed with writing a story called The Inn at Haunted Hollow. Itís not really scary but suspenseful and a bit strange here and there (no ducks though). Iím on page 7, single spaced, and itís all done in rhyme. I really like making an idea work while also rhyming, even though I know thatís not a best-seller formula. Iím having a blast with it! Don finds the process quite humourous because I am such a chicken when it comes to scary movies. I make him prescreen them, warn me before the scary parts, tell me if the guyís going to die, and still I watch most of it from under the covers. So, here I am bouncing ideas for my story off him and he says things like "Thatís so creepy! I canít believe you thought of that!" Guaranteed insomnia night if I start reading my story at bedtime!

I like hearing stories too, especially when they involve animals. We know a young couple trying to live as self-sufficiently as possible as they build their own house, so money is very tight. One day their cat came home with a ruffed grouse and dropped it at their feet, contributing to the family dinner table. They ate (and very much enjoyed) the grouse, and thanked the cat. Then the cat came home with a squirrel and again dropped it at their feet. Well, they felt a little obligated to eat this squirrel Ė not quite as enjoyable as the grouse (they taste pretty much like pine cones). Still, pretty cool having your pets keep you!

Did you hear about the woman who was trying to teach her pet parrot to talk but it kept swearing? She put it in the freezer for a few minutes as a punishment. When she opened the lid the parrot said "Ok, you win, no more swearing, but tell me one thing. What did the turkey do?"

Hope you all have a joyous 2012.

Take care,

Dawn and Don