So, Steve the Duck died a few days ago. He had been undergoing old age. It was too hard for him to stay outside anymore.

He lived in the house in an ice fishing sled for almost a month. His legs weren’t working for him, but he was fine with hanging out, taking a long swim in the bathtub, drinking water out of his bowl, sitting on laps, and having the occasional snack of peas.

He finally passed one evening while he was on my lap, wrapped in towels, next to the wood burning stove.

I have had so many animals who really have had no inclination to die, and so finally slip away while I am with them.

Ever since I was a boy I have had very old animals — dogs, cattle, parrots, pigs, ducks, chickens. Who am I leaving out?

Buddy Beagle was into his 20s.

Going into my seventh decade on this Earth, it’s kind of sad thinking of all the friends, humans included, I have lost.

Steve’s best friend was Mr. Rooster Head, the rooster who was mauled three different times by Mr. Fox. Mr. Rooster Head is a pretty old bird himself.

Steve did not prefer the company of the other ducks or any other creature, except perhaps me. He would jealously guard Mr. Rooster Head, driving off anyone who spent a little too much time with him. It's just too bad he didn't live until spring.

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Since we are still in the depths of winter here — and if you don’t live on this side of the mountain you would hardly believe it — all I can really do is try to keep the goats in the yard.

The ground is covered with two feet of refrigerator ice. The goats only stay in their yard if they feel like it, despite my efforts, which include new fences, digging through snow and ice, and pounding in metal fence posts.

I’ve taken to walking around with my broom, the symbol of human superiority, and herding the wayward goats, ducks and chickens.

In between times, I watch in pieces, videos of my childhood home.

My friend, the world famous photographer Ed Burke, let me know about Tim Harrell’s YouTube Trail Camera and Swamp Camera Pick Up.

Harrell sets his trail cameras up in fairly remote areas of south Florida's state and national parks, especially the Fakahatchee Strand, for weeks at a time. Then takes the viewer with him as he bikes and hikes out to his trail cams and shares the results.

Bear, deer, panther, lynx, turkeys, wading birds, owls, raccoons, gators and more. I didn’t even mention the flora, but you get my point.

Really the point is: I want this snow to go away so I can get on with my life. And so that I can move these goats to summer pasture.

In the meantime, I’ll look after my rascally goats and watch what’s happening on the Fakahatchee Strand.

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Forrest Hartley is waiting for spring in Hadley. You can leave him a message at new_americangothic@yahoo.com.


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