It’s late October at Oak Hammock Marsh in Manitoba. The daytime high is about 5°C, and the temps dip just below zero at night. A storm expected to hit in a couple of days will chase out the few remaining geese. Yet, Patrick Lang is pitching a tent nearby. He’s camping out.
The retired DUC employee was helping a friend clean and repair the 100 nest boxes installed in and around the marsh for tree swallows; it was simply easier to overnight close by. Lang’s no stranger to the outdoors – an avid canoeist, he’s done some epic canoe trips in the past and is well equipped to deal with cool prairie weather.
But for a little while, he’s decided to visit the warm surroundings of the Oak Hammock Marsh Conservation Centre, site of DUC’s national offices and where Lang spent part of his 24-year DUC career as a communications specialist before retiring in 2002.
Lang’s making a special delivery to DUC. It’s a gift—a re-gift, really. A book called Prairie Wings.
Written by Edgar M. Queeny with sketches by Richard E. Bishop, Prairie Wings was published by Ducks Unlimited, Inc., in 1946. Lang’s book originally belonged to Bert Cartwright, DUC’s first chief naturalist. At some point, it ended up in the library of longtime employee Angus Shortt. Shortt served as DUC’s wildlife artist and writer from 1939 until he retired in 1973.
Not only was Shortt a talented artist, but “he was gentle and kind and had a sparkling sense of humour,” recalls Lang. “He was light-hearted and a joy to be around.” Lang befriended Shortt and his wife Betsy and often visited their home in Winnipeg. In December 2001, Angus gave the book to Lang as a token of their friendship.
On the flyleaf, Shortt wrote: “To me a gift from the library of Bert Cartwright – now I pass it on to Patrick Lang of Ducks Unlimited who is our special friend, thoughtful and sincere.”
“The book was such an unexpected gift,” says Lang. “It seemed only natural to give it back to DU Canada – from where it came.”
In near-perfect condition, the hefty, two-kilogram, 254-page, hardcover book with gold foil insignia on its cover, is a series of pen and camera flight studies. These images are paired with technical, yet eloquent essays that evoke Queeny’s passion for waterfowl.
Accepting the book from Lang, DUC CEO Karla Guyn says his donation is “perfectly timed with DUC’s 80th anniversary coming up next year.”
The two spent time admiring the book’s photos and a full-colour plate featuring mallards in flight, by Richard Bishop, aptly called: “Prairie Wings.”
The book will remain in safekeeping at DUC’s research library along with several other precious books with ties to DUC’s past.
Prairie Wings is likely home to roost for a long time, and Lang couldn’t be happier to contribute a piece of its history.
“It’s quite remarkable when any organization achieves an 80th birthday, yet alone continues to survive and thrive and make a contribution to the health of this planet,” says Lang. “DUC’s conservation decisions are based on science, not ideology. An organization like DUC gives me hope.”
“We’re still here.”