It was a ducky afternoon – don’t know where that term came from — but I thought it a fitting description of our adventure! it was a beautiful day so rather than clean house, wash laundry or even read the newspaper – we decided to take the grandchildren to a place we used to take the kids when they were young. We liked this place because it was a nice afternoon ride and it was really cheap! At the time, I think it was free — which means it was our kind of place. Now it costs $1 per adult and free for children under 6 years old — so it is still my kind of place!
By now you are wondering where the heck could she have possibly gone that had butterflies, ducks and those darn fish she is always talking about? No place fancy and unless you are a local, you probably don’t even know it exists — we went to the Ak-Sar-Ben (which is Nebraska spelled backwards — I know weird, but Nebraskans think it’s really fun to name things this) State Aquarium and Schramm Park Fish Hatchery. I know — some of you are saying that you would rather have cleaned the house, washed the laundry, read the newspaper and probably even mowed the lawn! However, until you’ve taken children to a place like this you don’t get to see it for what it really is — a great place to open the eyes of children to things that are in their very own back yard (just like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz!).
First we went through the aquarium where we did some birdwatching — saw a cardinal, a red-winged blackbird and a woodpecker – real ones, not stuffed or pictures! That came later. We then saw snapping turtles, koi and a HUGE frog!
We moved to the education room where the kids could touch the pelts of beaver, fox, badger and even skunk. Lizzie thought that was really gross but Liam thought the stuff deer was really cool – even if it was only half a deer — he gave it a big hug! There were lots of stuffed birds in this room so you could identify the native birds and animals of Nebraska. Lizzie didn’t mind these because she didn’t have to touch them — Liam ignored them because he was in love with the deer!
We then moved on to the aquarium (you knew we would get to the fish somehow – but there are more to come!). We walked thro
ugh the aquarium which had all of the Nebraska species. The different tanks go around in a circle and Liam was so enamored with all of the fish that we had to go around again!
It was now time to take a walk to the fish hatchery (I told you there were more fish!). We walked along on a beautiful summer day and Lizzie had a great time chasing butterflies and there were lots of them. There were yellow, blue and purple ones — even orange ones. Lizzie ran after them until she got so tired her grandfather had to carry her for a while. Liam’s favorite part of the walk was a stick — yes, a stick. He had found one and he just wanted to throw it ahead of him and then pick it up and throw it again – kind of like watching a puppy play catch with itself!
When we arrived at the fish hatchery ponds, some young boys gave us a bag of old bread so we could feed the geese, ducks and yes, the fish! Yes, fish eat bread – especially big, fat carp! They were gigantic – some as big as 10-15 pounds! You throw bread out on the water and they swarm to get it. The pond becomes a swirling, flipping mess of fish – mouths gaping open to get the bread first – it was great fun! Lizzie and Liam loved this part – and didn’t want to give any to the geese and ducks because they didn’t cause even close to the commotion that the fish caused! We went through the entire loaf of bread in no time at all – while holding on Liam’s pants so he didn’t dive in after the bread! Lizzie was very disappointed and went looking for bread that people had left behind.
After we had thrown our last piece of bread and didn’t have the strength to chase another butterfly or stick, it was time to go home. Lizzie and Liam were too tired to argue that they didn’t want to go – but we promised that we would return with more treats for the fish. After all, watching them feed the fish, chase sticks and butterflies and look at the ducks was much better than any other thing we could have possibly done on a Sunday afternoon!