Ober lived for more than 50 years on tiny Mallard Island and turned it into a place of magic, charm, and brilliance. Mallard was Ober's University, filled with things worth studying, knowing, and loving. He was also a great student of the Indians and collected thousands of books and memorabilia to serve as a foundation for is knowledge.
A great disappointment to Ober was his failure to write: Though a skilled writer who published a number of stories and articles, Ober never wrote a book about his 1912 canoe trip to Hudson Bay with Billy Magee nor one about Native American culture. To write these books was a life-long ambition.
In Keeper of the Wild: The Life of Ernest Oberholtzer, Joe Paddock describes Ober's commitment to writing:
“According to all who knew him, he was a truly exceptional communicator, and throughout his life he would write and write well. There would be an endless flow of letters, often delightful; a number of adventure stories written for boys' magazines in hope of earning badly needed income; and finally many articles in support of wilderness preservation. But, when it came to writing that might distinguish him as a literary figure or to the writing of that book which would have placed him on the shelf that holds so many of American's other prominent environment figures, something rose in Ober and blocked him, despite the fact that his journals bristle with self-recrimination for not writing such a book.”
In reference to Ober's desire to write about his 1912 canoe trip, Paddock writes:
“Until nearly the end of his life Ober dreamed of writing a book about the experience, but he seemed never able to find the time and the focused will to do so. In many ways it had turned out to be a spiritual journey, not something to exploit economically. It was a story in which he had played a heroic role, and it seemed that something deep in him blocked his efforts to so celebrate himself. Still, his desire to write of the journey persisted, and in the oral history interviews he often mentioned this subject: . . . ‘I couldn't just sit down and go into this story. Thoughts of it just shook me. Whenever I though of it, it was just a landslide, you see.’”