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Archive for May, 2017

Duck Woman

Small children are fascinated by ducks, you know?

We were out at the Bird Refuge, seeking the den of a vixen who had been hit by a car the day before. Our vet told us she’d recently given birth, and the babies would die without her.

I had two children with me – aged 7 and 5. For the first while, they were quiet as I could hope for, poking into various likely den sites and pretending to be baby foxes.

Then, the ducks woke. A huge quacking flock of ducks, mostly mallards, splashed about on our end of the lake. Noisy as the ducks were, the children decided they no longer had to be quiet. They ran up and down the shoreline, tossing leaves at the ducks and laughing hysterically when the ducks pecked those leaves, thinking they were food.

I located the fox den, and had retrieved 3 of the babies while the children were so happily engaged. These I placed carefully in the box prepared for them. Then I went back with a shovel to dig the last one out of its deep hiding place.

The vixen must have been rather dim. The den was located too close to the shore, and the entrance of it was mushy from lake seepage. Or, perhaps, she was far cleverer than I expected, for who would seek baby foxes in such a mess?

The back of the den was finally wide enough to reach the last baby. Not too far away, I heard the ducks squawking and flapping their wings in irritation. As soon as the baby fox was boxed, I’d have to rescue the ducks from my enthusiastic offspring.

I must have been a frightening sight to those poor, harassed ducks, because as soon as I stepped onto the shore, they made a concerted rush for me.

This being a bird refuge, these ducks were not all there. Some were missing a wing, or a part of a foot. They expected people to bring them food: yummy bread crumbs and cracked corn and other duckie delights. Dead leaves and cackling children were not their idea of a good breakfast.

A better, more clever, woman might have fled, and made her escape. Me, I stepped onto a patch of muddy grass, and slipped right into the midst of a flock of aggrieved ducks who only wanted those taunting leaves turned into their rightful breadcrumbs.

At the very moment I slipped, my demented children spotted me and decided to race the ducks to see who would get to me first.

As luck would have it, the lead duck, a male mallard, had a beak problem. It was broken off to a dazzlingly sharp point.

The speed of my slip, and the startled rush of ducks when the children raced up behind them combined to send that sharp beak right into my thigh.

After a stunned moment, I thought surely the duck would disengage, and I’d be off to the ER for a few stitches. The vet could meet me there to get the baby foxes.

Flap and squawk as he might, that mallard was firmly attached to my thigh.

It was early morning. There was no one else out at the refuge. The children were too small to drive the car. This was in those ancient pre-cell phone days. It was up to me to drive us all, stuck duck, stunned children and baby foxes to the ER. With a five-on-the-floor stick shift car.

Let me tell you, driving a manual transmission car with a duck stuck in your thigh isn’t as easy as it sounds. My daughter found some heavy twine, and I managed to tie the duck’s wings so they wouldn’t interfere, but his feet were free. Duck feet are much more versatile than I’d realized. We fought over control of the stick and the steering wheel all the way to the ER.

As soon as we arrived at the ER, the children jumped out and ran inside to get help. I have no clue what they said, but I think the entire hospital turned out to watch as I struggled out of the car.

The doctor finally calmed enough to offer the duck a sedative. My vet arrived to get the baby foxes, and stayed to extract the poor duck.

He got stuck in my thigh because his beak wasn’t just sharp and pointy, it was hooked.

The duck was removed, his beak repaired, and he was returned to the refuge in better shape than he left it.

The baby foxes were reunited with their mother, and all five were released back to the wild after the vixen’s leg healed.

The ER has the story of the Duck Woman.

For the children, the memory of this day has blended into all their mother’s other bizarre escapades. They’ve since grown up to have their own charming little stories.

Me, I have a duck bill shaped scar and my experiences are used to make people who visit the ER feel better about their own silly accidents.

I think the biggest memory the children have from this event are the little rhymes we made up while walking back to the car and driving to the ER. Here’s one that evolved into a family joke, and I plan on teaching it to the great grandchildren:

Kitty quack, kitty quack,
flap your wing
Kitty quack, kitty quack
Mama’s going to sing
First the little foxes
Packed in their boxes
Then the mallard’s beak
The old doc will tweak
Kitty quack, kitty quack
To the ER and back.

And – this was a typical family outing. The Addams Family is normal, normal, I tell you, when compared to my own household.

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