A growing flock of colorful ducks captivates motorists along Highway 65 near McGregor, Minnesota
WRITTEN BY JODIE TWEED | PHOTO COURTESY OF JULIA UDELL
IT ALL BEGAN WITH A PAINTED YELLOW DUCK. Joanne Ledin and Jeff Sutton head to their family cabin near McGregor nearly every weekend each summer. When they would pass by the familiar stretch of Highway 65, between mile markers 101 and 102 about twenty miles from McGregor that signals they were close, Joanne would always point out a stick poking out from the water-filled ditch that resembled a turtle.
As a prank, Jeff threw a painted yellow duck decoy into the boggy ditch to give Joanne something else to look for on their trip north. Suddenly, other colorful duck decoys began to appear floating in the ditch. This was over three years ago. The couple created a Facebook page, Ditch Ducks (Highway 65), to connect with the many travelers who keep leaving ducks in the ditches. Many of their stories are touching; several families have left ducks in memory of lost loved ones or to celebrate the good health of those battling cancer or other illnesses.
The Facebook group exploded with nearly 3,000 followers after a Twin Cities television station broadcast the story of the ditch ducks.
“I love it,” Joanne says, of the colorful flock. “It’s so simple and just perfect. It makes everyone smile. And it’s literally in the middle of nowhere.”
Each fall during duck hunting season, Jeff paddles out into the ditch in a canoe and captures all the ducks. The couple cleans them up and stores them in decoy bags in their garage over the winter, releasing them back to the ditch just after fishing opener. The first year they collected 23 ducks, and 87 ducks were stored last summer. So many new ducks have been added to the ditch this past summer that Jeff may be out there awhile in his canoe.
“It might take a couple of truckloads,” Joanne says with a laugh.
Joanne says each time they return to their cabin, she can’t wait to see the new ducks added to the flock.
“I still get that giddy schoolgirl feeling,” says Joanne. “Who’s going to be there this time?”