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Francis Drake – Home Sweet Home

Things had changed in the sleepy valley I first saw many years ago. There was all kinds of civilization – towns, roads, even traffic lights. I hardly recognised the place. The river estuary was a farm with sheep and fresh produce, and there was a saw mill making all kinds of noise as it turned logs into lumber.
They’d had some pretty exciting times in the area – the coal deposits made Cumberland (called Union for a time) famous and a man called Dunsmuir very rich, and later the lumber made a guy named Filberg a bit of cash. Dunsmuir had a street named after him. Filberg had a park and a Foundation named after him. Many of the streets in both Courtenay and Comox are named after the families that settled the area. There was an earthquake that knocked the chimney off the school. It was a good thing it happened on Sunday! And there were lots of hotels – but three of them (The Riverside, The Elk, and The Lorne) eventually burned down. Seems like owning a hotel was a risky business!
So when I re-united with my family, I discovered that it had grown a bit. The cute little ducklings that I left behind many years ago had all expanded their families and it seemed that there were now thousands of us. In fact there were so many of us that we had a hard time getting the family together. One day as I was swimming on the river I noticed a man sitting eating lunch. He seemed mostly harmless so I swam over hoping for a free handout. While he was tossing pieces of sandwich he was talking to himself about wanting to raise money so his Rotary Club could build projects in the community. A few more of the family joined me and we started diving for the sandwich pieces and then racing after them as they floated away on the river. I could see the light go on above his head! Suddenly he was dancing around and shouting – “A duck race! A duck race!”
One thing lead to another and before we knew it, we had a deal! I would supply the ducks (my entire family) and he and his friends would sell tickets. The winners would get prizes and the money would support the community. That was 27 years ago! The family has grown and this year there will be 6000 of us swimming down the river. I don’t swim in it any more (we want to let the young ones have all the fun!) so as sponsors, we sit in the back-eddy and watch as they all swim past! SO it has become a tradition for my family and the community. Every July 1 at 1pm we swim down the river, much to the delight of thousands of people who line the banks and the bridge. It has become our annual family reunion and Comox Rotary’s major fund raising event for the community. I guess we are both big time winners.
Francis Drake duck

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