We have ducks. The ducks were not my idea. Actively not my idea. In fact, it would be more than safe to say I felt I had made my abundant disinterest in all things poultry quite clear to the Husbandly One. We had a variety of avian life around when I was a kid, and I remember virtually none of it fondly. (More on that later. Be warned.) Yet, one day when I was visiting family for a few days, he called. "I have a surprise for you!" He was clearly excited. "I'm not sure if I can wait to tell you." (He's like that, for better or worse, and most of the time it's better; there's little mistaking an emotion he's having and secrets don't come easily to the man. Which is terrific. I highly recommend this quality in a person.)
"A surprise? For me?!" Oh, I wondered to myself. What could it be? Had he built me something? (The H.O. is a fabulous woodworker and contractor.) A gift? Perhaps a new bauble from our favorite jewelry store? I don't get boxes from there often, but every now and then, a delightful surprise shows up as a super-special treat. Or, oooh! Maybe that outdoor area that needs to be leveled for us to have anything like a lawn area - maybe he is planning to delight me with a veritable delta of flatness upon which to socialize in future without asking all of our guests to risk broken ankles? Could it BE?!
Well, if t'were to be, t'weren't then. "I got ducks!" he announced.
Now might be a good time to mention that my loved ones in that room still remember the look on my face. It would also be safe to say that they positively delight in describing my look and reaction, with some bit of hilarity. In fact, were I a betting woman, I would wager a good bit this one went instantly into the 'forever retold' family story annals.
"Ducks." I echoed. Just to show I'd heard. And, I will not lie. To give him a chance to say, "Ducks? Did I say DUCKS? I meant smoothness of turf. I meant a necklace, dripping in opals. I meant a beautiful start on those bathroom shelves we've pictured since we moved in. Not ducks! Why would I say ducks? After all, I know how you feel about ducks!"
"Yes! Ducks!" He was so excited; I barely remember the rest of it. My family does, though. Oh, m'stars.
We had ducks when I was a kid, and I remember them being unpleasant, there briefly, then gone, followed by the Odyssey of the Chickens, which later blog entries will likely feature. (Chickens and mynah birds. Did I mention a wealth of avian stories? I believe I did. One would be hard pressed to get through my childhood without a bird story or three. And I speak the truth, but I also digress.) At any rate, it turns out we got rid of the ducks because they cleaned out my mother's cucumber patch with dispatch, so to speak, and were messy. (Which part remained true across the decades, but they are a lot less messy with more room for them. The slug diminishment is worth every bit of mess, but I didn't know that at Announcement Time.) So now apparently I was going to have ducks again. I was underwhelmed, but one compromises, don'tcha know. One caves to the inevitable. Of course, one might plot revenge for years, too, but that would be another story, far, far into the future. Hee!
When you have ducks, or other poultry, and you live out in the country, you rapidly discover that it is much easier to establish an Eagle Feeding Station than it is to keep ducks alive. Yeppers. Sad but true. So we've been through some times. Steep learning curve. Hard on us, far harder on the ducks.
I shall regale you perchance at later times about our near-aviary. Trial and error and a good bit of landed-gentry sized tragedy, as well as some more amusing events, have resulted in quite the structure. Here it is after an amusing event. Oh, how we laughed. Hardy-har-har. Actually, how I laughed. The H.O. was working hard in another city, so this was mine to deal with in the short term. Good times, good times.
But every now and then, a duck is lost to another animal's lunch or dinner, regardless of how often you rebuild, and that happened again this spring. I have, over time, changed my stance on ducks enough to have been hoping for an additional one or two to come live at Le Marais whenever the flock gets lean because they seem happiest with three or more ducks. Safety in numbers, don'tcha know.
Sunday, the H.O. came home with another surprise! Finally a Third Duck to join Stubby and Nene Dos after Flapper's demise. She arrived on Sunday, and we've been having the Ceremony of the Pecking Order Establishment around here. My, oh, my. If only humans could take care of things with such dispatch. But first, meet New Third Duck!
She's a pretty little chocolate confection, don't you think? Or, she is for those of us with chocolate confections on our minds. But I digress. Back to the aviary:
First, there's the arrival and announcement, accompanied always with great kerfuffle, some running about, perchance some pecking, and a fine kettle of noise. Stubby, who has been alpha since Captain Jack, our most magnificent drake, died, is vociferous about her dismay whenever another duck is added. (She later seems to take great delight in ordering them about, but this never strikes her little lentil-sized brain at introduction. Sheesh. Where are her social graces?!)
Fully occupied in keeping any interloper from her water, for one. Or her favorite places. Or her other duck(s). Or her best nesting spot. Whatever. Keep the New One Away For She Is Suspect. It's always Stage One: When in doubt, ostracize.
Stage One is difficult to watch. Or to be in. Remember your first day at a new school? Or job? Yikes. For some of us it's hard, for some of us it's torture. For some, it's like a firing squad. I get squeamish just thinking about it. Of course for that rare few, it's a fun challenge that frequently ends up with them running the place. That's how it was for Stubby, that is not how it's going to be with Third Duck. She's younger, and just doesn't have the moxie.
But we never know how time will tell either; sometimes those born to lead are just too young when they join the group, but there's an inevitabilty about where they will end up, if not how gracious they will be upon ascension. Stubby's not so gracious there either. Stubby wants it all, and she wants it all her way, thank you very much. Nene Dos is none too pleased at first, though once she gets it through her thick skull that this can mean she's no longer lowest in the pecking order, she will warm right up to things, I suspect. But for now, they register their disapproval vociferously:
But after extensive discussion, a few feathers flying, and some sad and wistful trailing behind by New Third Duck, by this morning they seemed to have it all settled. By tomorrow, they will likely not remember there was every anything different and that they haven't always been a happy group that gathers for support and safety. I wish we humans could more often do the same. So I thank you, for being part of my flock.