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Another Day in the Country

A sitting duck

© Another Day in the Country

Friends Bennie and Marie introduced me years ago to the idea of having ducks. They had ducks and just loved them, but they do live on a real farm.

I met Bennie and Marie 20 years ago while teaching an extension art class for Butler Community College.

It was my first time teaching art to adults. I think I learned as much from them as they learned from me, and it wasn’t all about art.

As the group chatted while painting, I often would hear Marie make comments about her enjoyment of their ducks and her sorrow when one of the ducks was eaten by some critter.

They loved duck eggs and extolled their virtue for being bigger, richer, healthier, and easier to digest than chicken eggs.

An idea was planted. “You should try getting ducks sometime” lay dormant for quite a few years, and then I got ducks.

Holy moly, this has been quite the ride.

How many months has it been? It seems like half a year has gone by since this odyssey began, but it’s been only two months —eight weeks, 68 days as I write.

That’s really not long; however, time galloped along from one crisis to another with the last couple of weeks being the only ones that I’d call calm.

By now, we sort of know each other — the ducks and I. They know who I am. I know their proclivities, more or less.

But I have to admit, about the time I think they have learned something — like coming into the chicken house pen at night — I discover it was just a fortunate accident.

I’ve been trying to train them to come when I call, reinforcing that notion by getting them feed and filling their dish.

At first, it worked — twice in a row, in fact — and I was crowing to Jess about my success. But it’s not foolproof.

One nice thing about ducks — yes, I am saying nice things instead of throwing my hands in the air and muttering derogatory phrases — is that they walk in a row.

Once the lead duck gets going in the right direction, you are home free.

On the other hand, woe be it if one of the group gets locked in, locked out, or waylaid away from the flock: Mayhem.

Distraction is still a big issue with ducks. They may concentrate on predators as they train an eye to the sky, but doing what their human wants is up for grabs.

An idea, fear, or digression comes into the little duck brain of the one out in front, and they veer off in another direction. Like trains that need no track, they’ve changed course.

My sister and I seem to do quite a lot of duck-sitting these days. Though I generally hate eating while balancing my plate on my knees, we even find ourselves taking our meals outside while we watch the ducks.

There is an advantage to eating while watching ducks. You fill your plate and go outside. Second helpings are not readily available. The ducks may look interested in what we are eating, so I say, “Do you like broccoli?” and toss them a bit. “What about potato skins from this baked potato?” I’m not eating as much. Maybe it’s a diet plan.

We also are calmer, which is a good thing when eating or not. Watching the ducks swimming is calming. They look so pretty on the water.

Sometimes, the ducks get frisky in the pond, obviously playing. They zoom around, above water, under water, splashing, flapping their wings.

We laugh at the antics.

There’s another plus: Laughter is good for the soul as well as the digestion.

“Isn’t it amazing,” I say to my sister or whoever is duck-watching with me. “At first I thought that getting ducks was the dumbest thing I’d ever done; but now, I really enjoy them.”

I’m still always counting them, 1-2-3-4-5, and always relieved to make it to five!

When they are free-ranging around the yard, I check on them every once in a while if I’m not out in the yard working.

I’m still learning their habits. I wonder if they are learning mine.

When I let them out of the pen, they are so excited.

They have learned the difference between an open and a closed gate. (That’s two things they know for sure.)

When I open the gate, they head out, across the lawn, straight toward the little pond. (Three pieces of knowledge: They know where the pond is.)

Often, they stop before they go in, having a little discussion amongst themselves.

I love hearing them talk to one another. It sounds almost like murmuring or water dripping. And then there’s Dandy’s voice, so deep and gravely, very different than the others.

“Murmur, murmur, what do you think?”

Then Dandy says, “QUaaaack,” and the decision is made. They all jump in.

Being a sitting duck is not all that bad — a bit vulnerable, but we are all in this puddle together, going through life.

“QUAaaack,” jump in there, make the most of it, on another day in the country.

Last modified June 15, 2023

 

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