Once upon a time, my husband and I and our two sons lived on ten acres overlooking Stillhouse Hollow Lake in Central Texas, near Salado. Our little plot of land bordered the Army Corps Of Engineers land that surrounded the lake.
Our house was high on a hill and the land dropped away behind it in shelf-like layers. On the second layer was the barn and workshop. On the third layer was a small field and a pond, which is Texas is often called a “tank”. The final layer was the lake itself.
We had some mallard ducks, but they were slowly ravaged and eaten by the many critters that lived in the land. A few hardy, crafty hens and a drake survived. One hen layed a large clutch of eggs near the tank. But that didn’t last. Eaten by a fox or a raccoon or a opossum or one of any number of varmints that shared the land with us. So she layed another clutch of eggs on the next higher level of land, near the barn. Same ending.
The poor duck would not give up and finally she deposited her eggs in a nest she created right next to the chimney of our house, which was right outside our picture window. (Remember those?) Each day we could look out and see her sitting there, patient and confident that she was taking care of her eggs. It worked.
A few weeks later she hatched about 9 or 10 little ducklings! The cutest things you ever saw. Hours later she took them down to the pond. Can you even imagine how many tiny steps those little webbed feet took to get down there??
They swam in that pond for a very short time. The catfish we had stocked in the pond opened their wide mouths and swallowed them like bugs! I was horrified for a while, but this is MOTHER NATURE, folks. She’s never seen a Walt Disney movie. Only the strong or the very lucky survive.
Back at the house, the boys were looking at an egg that didn’t hatch. It was still in the nest, but had a little hole in it and you could see a tiny little beak moving and weakly chipping away at the egg shell. MOM, we have to help it! Wow. My husband was a Game Warden and had always told me there is a reason some eggs don’t hatch. The bird inside is weak or mal-formed and just won’t make it anyway. But two little boys didn’t want to hear that, so we gently helped that little duckling fight his way out of the egg, slowly, a little at a time, as natural as we could make it. Put him in a box and sat him on the dryer with a light above him to keep him warm. Fed him, got him to drink. Over the next days, he spent a lot of time in one little-boy-hand or the other, watching cartoons on tv, lol.
We named him, of course. Donald, of course. He grew up fine and healthy, except he walked with a little limp and one of his wings was so crooked it stuck out like an artificial limb not quite correctly attached, so he couldn't fly.
The only thing we forgot to do was put him in water and let him swim. So, he never did want to swim. Wouldn’t go near the water. I often took him out and turned over rocks so he could find crickets and other bugs to eat, lol. He was a very plucky ducky, lol.
In the summer, the boys took him down to swim in the tank with them. He wouldn’t have it. We made a boat from the lid of a styrofoam ice chest, and the boys put a rope handle on it and pulled Donald around the tank on that lid when they swam. He would settle down on that lid and seemed to enjoy the ride! He certainy NEVER jumped off, lol.
He lived a long and happy life, was a real pet, just a little funny looking and certainly the only duck we knew that couldn’t swim, lol.
(Inspired by JUSTJO66's blog, A Lesson from a Duck.