There was a small gaggle of ducks to begin with. The girls laid tasty eggs, usually dropped at a run without looking back. They were non-flyers, but fun to watch in their pool. I didn’t take them very seriously at first. One of the ducks had a deformed beak that curved to one side. I named him Duck Cheney. See what I mean?
Years passed and there was slow attrition. Eventually only two ducks were left.
Fred and Ethel had lived so long that their pithy political names had fallen by the wayside-they remained devoted to each other. Ethel was clearly the brains in the pair, but Fred loudly defended and protected her. They were never apart. If Fred got too far ahead, he would march in place until Ethel caught up with him, both of them quacking with relief that they were together again. Such romance.
One day there was a break out. Fred and Ethel escaped the safety of the llama pen and found the pond. Oh, joy!
Coyotes drop by the pond regularly for a duck snacks- and Fred and Ethel were elderly, so I herded them back to the barn. It ends up that you can get attached to these sweet birds.
But bright and early the next day, Fred and Ethel escaped again. They wadled as fast as they could toward the pond, quacking hysterically at their cleverness. I think Ethel was limping a bit, but it’s hard to tell with ducks.
They launched onto the pond looking like decoys. They were larger and they swam too low in the water- they couldnt hoist their bottoms up like the wild ducks. So they kept apart- happy with each other and a few pond bugs.
Around evening feeding time, Fred and Ethel would come back to the barn and share supper with my old gelding. I would try to duck-proof the pen, but every day they found a way out-sometimes heading out the driveway only to double back through the pasture. That’s a big plan for a duck. I gave up containing them, in favor of a quicker return if they got chased. For the next year- Mertz duck life on the pond was very good.
But one day Fred was frantically scurrying from pen to pond and back again- muttering in a deep, worried way. It was unimaginable that Ethel was gone. Fred mourned long and deep. I am not prone to anthropomorphize; I think animals are better off with their own feelings. But undeniably- Fred’s heart was broken.
I’m no good at being noble, but it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of two little ducks don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.
Fred survived. I reluctantly allowed pond visits again, worried until he came back for supper. We all watch out for him- even the goats.
A few weeks back something caught my eye. Instead of the usual cliques on the pond, Fred’s distinctive, low outline was in the middle of a flotilla of wild ducks. It isn’t perfect, he still can’t lift his backside in the air. But he’s made friends with the wild ducks and they seem to like him, too. He’s back to his old bossy self around the barn, lovable as ever.
Seeing Fred alone on the pond tonight, I am so grateful for second chances. Lots of us have to start our lives over when we don’t expect it- dogs, horses, and people too. It takes courage to launch again-and a cheer from friends on the shore can make all the difference.
Anna, Infinity Farm.