Saturday, January 31, 2004


Today I bring you three duck tales. Unfortunately, they aren't the happiest of stories, so if you are particularly sensitive towards ducks, you might need to keep a hanky nearby.

TunaU is located on the banks of the Red Cedar as the fight song goes, which means we have lots and lots of ducks. Big ducks. Little ducks. Ducks who climb on rocks. Everywhere, ducks. The only animal on par with the ducks around here are the squirrels who are equally numerous and pushy.

I cross the Red Cedar river on the foot-bridge to walk from my car to work and back again. As you stand on the bridge looking up and down the river, it's a very pretty sight. To the east are some small rapids as the water moves downhill and downriver. To the west the river is calm and quiet. With tall trees on both sides, the river is a picture-postcard kind of place in all four seasons.

Walking to my car yesterday after work, I scanned up and down the river as I usually do, just to see what's going on. To the east there were dozens of ducks sitting atop of rocks and tree stumps. To the west, there were four ducks. Four former ducks to be more precise. It looked as though they had frozen in mid-bob. The bodies were on top of the surface, but as you followed their necks, it just stopped.

I've never seen anything like it, and several of us looked in horror, realizing there wasn't a darn thing we could do about it. How sad. I will have to confer with PhotoTuna, as he is the resident nature specialist to find out if this is a common occurrence. Speaking from a purely selfish point of view, it's going to be pretty ewww to have to look at four headless frozen duck bodies all winter. At the same time, I have to wonder how freaky it is for the fish to see a bunch of duck faces underwater. Ewwwww times two.

This entire scenario of deceased ducks reminded me of a TinyTuna story. Back when she was about three years old, I came to pick her up from preschool one day after work. I was quickly whisked aside by the director who told me that the school's pet duck had died, and the class had buried it. She wanted me to know this ahead of time, in case TinyTuna was sad or upset or had any questions.

Oh boy. We didn't have pets, and this was her first experience with death. I took a deep breath, found TinyTuna and headed for the car.

"I heard you had something sad happen today," I said gently.

"What?" TinyTuna asked.

"The duck...from your class..." I said slowly, waiting for her to clue-in and lead the conversation.

"Oh yeah," said TinyTuna, matter-of-factly.

"What happened?" I asked.

She stopped walking and looked at me. "The duck stopped moving it's wing," she said. "So we threw sand on his face." And with that, she shrugged and continued towards the car.

"Uhhhh..Well...Ok then," I said, realizing with that one sentence, the conversation was over and my skills as a grief management counselor were no longer required.

Luckily, not all my duck tales involve former ducks. One narrowly escaped becoming a dead duck hat trick. Back at TunaU, where the ducks roam the campus as if they were buffalo in search of deer and antelope playmates, I was driving home on a rainy afternoon. As I left the ivy covered halls of academia at rush-hour, I was on East Circle Drive: a two-lane one-way road. A duck picked this inopportune time to cross the street. I couldn't move over -- that lane was blocked. I couldn't stop -- the roads were wet and slippery, and traffic was moving too quickly. I started sending leaned-over emergency messages to the duck: Don't. No, don't. Don't cross. No. Stay there. No. No. Oh no....

As the old joke goes, my Karma ran over the duckma. I heard an awful *thump*thump*thump* and looked, horrified, in my rear-view mirror. I cringed when I saw the cloud of feathers behind my car. As I moaned at the duck's apparent demise, I was stunned to see out of the corner of my eye, the dazed duck walking on the other side of the road. His butt may have been a bit balder than before, but at least he'd live to quack another day.

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