Cold duck times

The car lurched to a stop. In the oncoming lane, another car occupied by an elderly couple did the same.

“Get that duck!” I shouted.

At 16, I was driving my mother’s big brown Ford LTD. Cathy, my 13-year-old sister, and Connie, our friend and neighbor who was still 12, were in the big bench front seat with me, but not for long — out they bailed to chase the tiny brown and yellow baby duck, who’d somehow gotten very lost in the intersection of North Hills and Country Club in Sherwood. It took a while, but after zigging and zagging all over the intersection, one of them managed to nab the scared little thing. They hopped back in the car, we waved bye to the kind older couple and headed home with a new pet. 

My boyfriend and I promptly named him Ed. It seemed appropriate, and there was never any doubt he’d be adopted. By me. We took him to the drive-in movie the first night, and he sat on Jimmy’s shoulder for most of the double feature. Later that night, when he wouldn’t stop hopping up and down in his large and deep cardboard box, I put him in the bed with me. After running around a bit, he snuggled in and slept. And, no, he didn’t poop in the bed.

That became his sleeping spot, but there were places you can’t take a duck, so a couple of nights later, I had to leave him at home while I went somewhere important. Mother and Daddy were having a party, as they often did, and Cathy agreed to be in charge of Ed. He was a stubborn duck. After Cathy put him in his box, he started his usual hopping up and down, demanding to get out. He hopped so long he passed out and fell on his back in his water dish.

Yes, Ed the duck drowned. But wait, don’t despair! Cathy came in my room to check on him, grabbed him out of the bowl and began mouth-to-beak resuscitation. She somehow ran downstairs to the party den to get Mother, who grabbed a towel and hair dryer, and once Ed miraculously started breathing again, they dried  and fluffed him back up. My little sister was a heroine.

I wish I could say poor little Ed had a happy ending, but alas, one night when he wouldn’t settle down to sleep and I was very tired, I put him in his box. At some point, he must’ve started his jumping, because when I woke up, he was on his back in his water dish again — but this time it was too late. We were crushed, but Ed the duck had a short and happy life in a household that also included a dog and cat, neither of whom paid him any mind.

It was the end of Ed, but not the end of the duck tales in my life. Years later, when the kids were in elementary school and we lived a few blocks from Lake No. 1 in Lakewood, but up a very steep driveway, I heard quite a commotion in the carport as we were preparing to go to a Travelers game. I opened the door, and there was another little brown and yellow duck, hopping up and down and making quite a racket. My then-husband, my kids’ dad, said we’d drop him off at the lake on our way out — and since we had Trigger the wonder dog and Trudy the bird-catching dog, I agreed. But when we put him in the lake and he swam out to join a group of ducks, the adults started attacking him! It was horrible. Liz and I started crying and screaming, but a calm young teenage girl, who lived across the street from the lake, came to the rescue. She waded out to get him and said she’d raise him until he was bigger. Her family was used to such things.

If I knew her name, I’d thank her again, by name.

That’s still not the end of my duck tales. When the kids were older, 12 and 13, we moved to Indian Hills, across the street from the lake. We weren’t there long before a train of ducks started waddling across the street (big honking ducks, not babies), into our garage and up to the back door, where they’d quack up a storm demanding food.  Of course I obliged — until the then-hub came home with astroturf to cover the garage floor. These ducks did poop where they ate, and the father-figure was not happy about it. So the backdoor feedings had to stop.

That didn’t prevent a mama duck from laying 22 eggs in the flower bed off our front porch. She’d hiss at me every morning when I got the newspaper and anytime anyone went in or out the front door, she loudly complained. Then the babies hatched, and every day she’d take them across the  super-busy street (we had a duck crossing sign, at least) to the lake. Every day she’d come home with one or two fewer babies than she’d left with. We were baffled, until our neighbor across the street told us snapping turtles were hijacking her babies.

I sat on the porch and had a serious talk with the mama about how she had to stop taking them over there — we’d get her a pool — but she’d only hiss and threaten. It was a tragic thing to watch. The bigger tragedy came, though, when an elderly man came speeding down the street and hit the mom and one of the two babies following her back to our house. Liz and I witnessed it all. Another horrifying duck incident. I ran and grabbed the remaining baby, whom Liz promptly named Tippy, for the way he walked.

We put up a baby gate to keep him in the kitchen and he’d have his nightly swim in the bathtub. He’d even sit in the recliner with the husband and watch TV. We kept Tippy until we had to leave for vacation (Trudy never bothered him — she’d mellowed by then, and darling Trigger was gone). We found a woman who rescued ducks out in Maumelle — had a pond for them and everything.  We were sad to give him up for adoption, but at least he was spared the treacherous  road.

There’s no moral to this tale — it’s just a duck story. But at least for Tippy, it turned out ducky.

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