A Duck Tale

by Evelyn Beeson

Winona Lake is a small lake in northern Indiana. I live on the east side of the lake and my back yard runs down to the water. We are on a fly-way and are visited in season by ducks, geese, gulls, and even herons and cranes.

My granddaughter and her family were paying a short visit. Mark and his little son were in the back yard blowing bubbles. Then Mark came in and said, "Grandma, there is a little lost baby duck out here."

I went out and, sure enough, there was a baby duck sitting on the grass. Mark and I searched along the lake front and beside the creek that runs near my house, but could find no mother duck.

The little duck was a mallard, and mallards are migratory fowl, protected by the U.S. government. It is against the law to disturb a nest, pen one up, or kill one except in duck hunting season. I knew all this, but I also knew that this particular duck would not survive the night if left outside. There are two large dogs and two cats next door, and also wild predators along the creek.

I couldn't call the Fish and Wildlife Service until Monday (this was late Saturday afternoon), so I took the duck inside and put it into a small box with a small dish of water. I pushed its bill into the water and got it to drinking, and then put some bread crumbs in the bottom of the box. The duck paid no attention to the crumbs.

We were having a family gathering at my son's house, so we all went there and left the duck at home. I told the family about the little duck, but no one was interested in taking care of it. I was disappointed. I have had considerable experience with wildlife, but I'm eighty-six years old and this baby duck seemed just one too many.

When I got home the duck had not eaten the crumbs, but I could tell that it had splashed in the water. When I put some crumbs in my hand, the duck ate them greedily. Before I went to bed I placed a folded, well-worn wash cloth in the corner of the box so he could crawl under it if it got chilly in the night. I fed him more crumbs at four and at eight in the morning. He ate a hearty breakfast.

When I started to wash dishes, I looked out the window and saw a mother duck with seven very small babies down by the lake. I picked up baby duck and took him outside. He nestled quietly in my hands until he saw his mother. Then he went wild, squawking and struggling. And then his mother saw him! She lowered her head and came at me as though she would tear me apart. I put him down and he ran to her, somewhat wobbly, but he got there. They joined the other ducklings and Mother led them triumphantly into the water.

That evening I told Mark what had happened to the baby duck. He said, "Well, that duck will have quite a story to tell to his grandchildren."

Yes, quite a story: how he was lost, then captured, placed in a tiny cell, fed only bread and water, and had to sleep on the floor with only a ragged blanket. Then, most tragic of all, taken from the cell -- no doubt expecting a firing squad. But then he saw his mother, called to her, and she rescued him!

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