Monday, August 10, 2009

Duck Tales

Not the old cartoon that so many of us grew up watching, this is a true duck tale.

Yesterday the dogs and I were walking across the pond levee that connects my parents’ yard to ours when all of a sudden out of the tall grass fly two ducks about 5 yards ahead of me. They apparently had nested in the grass but sensed the presence of the dogs and knew that their best bet for safety was to be on the water. This, in itself, is not unusual at our place. We have many ducks and geese on the pond at various times throughout the year. However, as I neared the spot where they took flight from I still heard rustling in the grass. I quickly scanned for the dogs and realized that they were up ahead of me so they weren’t the reason for the scurrying sounds coming from the tall grass, but I couldn’t spot anything. After a few seconds I kept on moving. After all, anyone who’s lived in the country even a few days knows better than to go wading through tall grass beside a pond in the middle of the summer with flip flops on. It’s the perfect environment for no-shoulders (you might call them snakes) and I just assumed that what I heard was probably a snake or some small rodent.

As I started walking, the dogs circled back to investigate the situation and headed into the grass to roam. I paid them no mind. They spend most of their days roaming the countryside sniffing and finding all kinds of lovely prizes to bring back into the yard (usually decaying cow bones…yum). This time, however, I made one last call to them as I reached our yard and Fenway, the golden retriever, came bounding out of the grass with a a very dead looking baby duckling in his mouth. Apparently the scurrying in the grass hadn’t been a no-shoulders after all.

I took off running toward Fenway scolding him and telling him to drop it. Poor guy was totally confused, I’m sure. He’s a retriever after all…born for hunting water fowl. I’m sure he thought I would be proud of him for his catch. Despite the confusion, he dropped the duckling and I reach down to see if there was any life left in the little guy when all of a sudden it jumped up and took off running toward the pond. Then Tango, the rat terrier, got in on the game. She had no wish to eat the little one but ran along with it nudging it with her nose and knocking it off its feet each time. All the while I had Fenway by the scruff of the neck trying to keep him from chasing. When the duckling finally reached the edge of the water I lost my grip and Fenway bounded to the pond and leap into the water. Then the oddest thing happened. The water settled and there was no duckling. Fenway turned around in a complete circle looking at least 3 or 4 times. By this time I was convinced that the poor duckling was so weak from the prior events that he simply drowned when Fenway landed on him.

Dejected that I wasn’t able to save the little one I called for Fenway and started to turn toward the house when out of the corner of my eye I see the little duckling pop up out of the water about half way across the pond. What a fighter! This little one had swam completely under water at least 30 yards to get to safety! I swear I almost cheered aloud standing on the pond bank! Within moments he was back with the two larger ducks swimming around like he was none the worse for wear. I think I’ll name him Rocky.

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