Review: The Wild Duck Chase

The Wild Duck Chase. Inside the Strange and Wonderful World of the Federal Duck Stamp Contest. Martin  J. Smith. Walker and Company, New York. 262 pp. $25. 

Despite a resemblance to the subtitle of Hunter S. Thompson’s Hell’s Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga, this is an uplifting and positive book about a program aimed at preserving and “ensuring the future of wetlands habitat conservation in America …” And the way to do it is buy a duck stamp for a mere $15. According to www.duckstamp.com, 98 cents of every dollar goes toward the purchase of wetlands. 

What the author, Marty Smith, has done is provided not just background on the program, but given us some nitty gritty as he follows several artists in their quest to win the annual contest. For example, you will learn about the Hautman brothers, who combined have won the competition at least 10 times since 1989. I know that because even though the story is based on the 2011 competition, Smith was able to include a list of winners through 2012. And even if he hadn’t, you would have Googled “duck stamp contest” to find out.

Smith has written a good book at about the right length. He was one of my students when I was a beginning journalism instructor. It’s nice to see that I did no harm.


My Mother's Life in 364 Words

Ethel Williams' graduation photo

Ethel W. Berner died Saturday, October 6, in the Rehabilitation Center of Albuquerque, where she resided since January of 1998.

Born November 14, 1914, in Tamaqua Pennsylvania, she was the fifth child—and fourth daughter—of the late Tom Fred and Tillie Mae (Malick) Williams. A 1932 graduate of Tamaqua High School, she worked  at Brobst  Bakery, Seligman’s Hardware, and Meredith’s Stationery stores before being hired by the Tamaqua School District as secretary to the high school principal, a position she held for 26 years before retiring at age 68.

Ethel had four children, seven grandchildren, 13 great-grandchildren, and one great-great-grandson.
A member of Bethany Evangelical Congregational Church, Tamaqua, since 1929, she sang alto in the senior choir and directed Children’s Day activities and plays in the ‘50s and ‘60s.  Many other church activities occupied her time before she relocated to Albuquerque in 1997. Blessed with an inquiring mind, she was a voracious reader and a wordsmith. Her favorite book was To Kill a Mockingbird.  She also enjoyed Rosamund Pilcher books and movies, crossword puzzles, and creating garments and gifts with her “million dollar” sewing machine.

Predeceased by her eldest daughter, Sally Jo (Berner) Skeath, and her former husband, Ralph E. Berner, both in 1998, and her siblings, Mildred Klein, Lanah Penzi, William A. “Buddy” Williams, and Myfanwy Swoyer, she is survived by daughters Judith Berner Jackson and Ethlyn M. Berner, both of Albuquerque, and her son, R. Thomas Berner, and his wife, Paulette L. (Vetter) Berner, of Bellefonte, Pennsylvania. In addition, she is survived by her grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and a great-great-grandson in Florida, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, California, and Pennsylvania.

A memorial service will be scheduled in the Rehabilitation Center of Albuquerque. Her cremains will be returned to Tamaqua at the convenience of the family for a service in Bethany Church and burial with her parents.

In memory of Ethel, contributions can be made to Bethany Evangelical Congregational Church, 223 E. Broad Street, Tamaqua, PA 18252; the activities department of Rehabilitation Center of Albuquerque, 5900 Forest Hills Drive NE, Albuquerque NM 87109; or Ambercare Hospice, 2129 Osuna Road NE, Albuquerque, NM 87113.

Local arrangements have been entrusted to Daniels Family Funeral Services.