“Can you take the ducks in?”
“Well, what are neighbors for if they can’t take the ducks in?”
The Hatcher’s ducks were raised in a Prairie field, with an occasional dip in the swimming pool. The ducks had to be picked up and put in the pool, but if the ducks swam in the pool then nobody else wanted to. The ducks needed a new home with their own swimming pool; a Prairie pond would be perfect.
There were two problems in transitioning the ducks. The Hatcher children had raised them from the time the ducks where knee-high to a grasshopper, and when the time came to talk about transitioning, everyone except Papa Hatcher started reminiscing about things like how the ducks followed Isaac around in the field. Even Lenora would talk about how pretty the three white ducks with yellow feet and bills looked when passing by the kitchen window. And Emma, sweet Emma, affectionately fed them and was careful to put them in their pen each night.
The second problem was Sam.
“The ducks won’t survive here,” he said. “Coyotes will get them. There are too many predators. We can’t guarantee they’ll be safe.” He would get almost frantic.
Seems Sam remembers all too well when the girls were little and had baby ducklings. Sam built a cage about four feet off the ground. Then one day he found what was left of the ducklings. Something had snatched the poor little ducks right through the wire cage. Sam still has nightmares just thinking about it.
“Sam, they are adult ducks,” I’d say. “I don’t think that will happen. They can swim out in the middle of the pond. I understand your fears but the ducks really need a pond. The Hatchers will understand that we can’t guarantee their safety any more than anyone can. They either live free in the pond or they live in the cage.”
“OK,” he said, “As long as they understand.”
So it was decided the ducks would come. The Hatchers came and released the ducks. They took to the pond like, you know, a duck takes to water.
A few days later, I got a message from Emma: “If you call them like ‘chick, chick, chick,’ they’ll come to you and you can feed them bread. I left you some bags of bread in the pickup.”
With bread in hand and calling “chick … ” I found the ducks that had previously ignored me came waddling and quacking toward me. After their feeding I turned to leave and saw Jack, the cat. He reared up, his neck crooked at an odd angle. His eyes were wide and his white hair stood on end. I glanced at the ducks and then back, but Jack had vanished.
With my wadded up bread bag stuffed in my pocket, I started back to the house, where I found Jack half-way up a pecan tree.
“Jack,” I hollered. “Get down here; they are just big birds!”
Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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