Sunday, July 19, 2009
Part of the Plan
“Come out here and see Joe’s ducks,” my wife said with that teacher kind of authority. I sat up from my evening stupor, knowing that Joe Fly had no ducks. This wouldn’t take long. As I strolled out on the lawn begrudgingly, I was soon to be mesmerized. Sure enough the Fly’s did have ducks, dozens of them. Hunkered down in the flower beds were a proud young duck couple with their baby ducks, bedding down for a night’s roost in the Fly’s amaryllis bed. They had found safe harbor for their offspring. That’s Nature’s way. Part of the plan.
We carefully crept up, making sure we did not disturb them. They were not your garden variety ducks either. They were wild ducks. Tree ducks. Black bellied whistling tree ducks. How they had hatched all these brand new ducklings and led them into the Fly’s yard was a mystery. Sue Fly went to call a game warden. But what would happen to them was no mystery, as all the neighborhood cats began to take position and lick their chops and plan their massacre strategies. That too is Nature’s way.
The sun was going down. My couch was calling. Yet I could already hear the wild confusion in the night, as the ducks met their inevitable fate. Joe had just had surgery, and could not imagine what he might do to protect them, but stated with that captain's voice that he would just sit in his lawn chair all night if necessary and keep the cats at bay. It’s amazing how silly we get over baby ducks. I tried to shake off my mental wanderings… I had a friend that would know what to do. He would call me a silly city-slicker and tell me to let nature take its course. The ducks nestled down and looked so happy and innocent… The cats acted non-challant, it was just a matter of time. I called Buck Striker.
“Buck, I’ve got a family of ducks that need to be relocated… need nets, cages, probably won’t work, humane thing to do…” My friend did not laugh at me, but he was out of town, fishing of course, and told me what to do. “Go to my barn… chicken cage… nets, need chick mash, preferably medicated, water dispensers… the boys left them floating in a plastic kiddie pool… call me…” In minutes I was back with all the stuff.
When I returned, we had recruited all the neighbors, Former Police Chief Donnie Lawson, former Mayor Tim Hammer, myself a former City Councilman and a certified animal control officer… this was the best equipped, most qualified group of duck-nappers ever assembled. We got out the nets and cages. The ducks seemed to enjoy the show. Mama and daddy hunkered down as we approached. A professional hunter, Chief Lawson deftly threw his casting net over the bush they were under. The parents quickly evacuated.
Poor Donnie was trying to hold down the sides of the net close to the ground. Wherever he did not hold it down though, little ducks popped out. Tim and I began to scoop them up, as the parent ducks cursed our grandchildren. One two, three, in the cage…My wife quickly announced the cage would not hold them… the wire mesh was too large, the little ducks just walked right out. Apparently, baby ducks are half the size of baby chickens. I got a better cage, a have-a-heart trap with smaller mesh, handed that to Linda, my wife, who sounded doubtful, the way teachers do.
Ten, eleven… Six, five ,four, The trap was too large too. My wife is always right. Sue Fly finally found the answer, a large plastic bin. No holes. We were such idiots. Soon twenty-one baby ducks were huddled inside. Mama and daddy were furious, and to add to the mayhem, I tried to catch mama with a crab net. She was so close… That was really stupid. Ridiculous. She stood on the garage roof mocking me and tried to sell us some Aflack Insurance or something. I fled to the Striker chicken farm, several miles away.
I put the ducks just as instructed, in the barn, safe, in a chick hatching cage. I made sure that they could not escape. Gave them water. Poor little guys, I had no food for them yet. Peep peep peep. It would break your heart. “I’m sorry guys, I had to do this, or you would have been cat bait…”
When I got home, Linda had another one, found hiding under the daddy duck. Twenty two. Took him to be with his siblings. By now everything was done in the dark of night with a flashlight. I’m starting to realize what I have done. Suddenly I have 22 wild baby ducks depending on me to take care of them. So much can happen in thirty minutes, that can change your life forever. I’m thinking, I sure hope Buck will help feed these guys for me…
Next morning, I go get that chick mash, medicated, and head to my babies, first thing. When I get there, two very irate adult tree ducks are waiting for me, ready to file kidnapping charges. Perched on the roof of the barn, they are not leaving those baby ducks. Somehow, during the night, they, the parents, found these baby ducks. How, I do not know. Can you imagine tracking down your children that way? As I fed the ducks, they prowled around on the outside, watching me, calling the babies. I wondered… could they actually be the mama and daddy? I had to find out. I put all twenty-two of the baby ducks in a bucket and let the two irate adult tree ducks see and smell them.
As I walked along the Strikers’s pond, these two adult tree ducks stayed right on me. I stepped back to see what they would do. They waddled this way and that. It was very touching. I tipped over the bucket. Those little ducks ran right to the mama who ran right to the pond and daddy followed up the rear. They were swimming in the pond happily in just seconds, as if nothing had ever happened. I was history. Other tree ducks came over and welcomed the new babies to the community. I felt like a… grandpa or something. Took a few pictures. The ducks had a big time, the babies circling around mama, daddy duck riding shotgun. I stomped back to the barn with an empty bucket. Half disappointed. Baby ducks are really cute. Twenty two of them… that’s just cuteness beyond the imagination.
Nella Hammer said it. Anybody that might witness this whole crazy little duck happening, those young duck parents somehow finding their ducklings during the night, and not see God… they never will. And even some bumbling humans actually did a good thing, saved them from the nasty Navasota cats and perhaps made their duck childhoods possible. And somehow, even if it was not Nature’s way, that too was all part of the plan.