My children—Lisa, Chris, and Tim—raced into the house, excited about what they’d found: a baby duck in our front yard. I went to look, and sure enough, it was a yellow, fluffy baby bird nestled in the grass.
“What should we do with it?” Lisa said.
“Can we keep it?” Tim asked.
I told them its mother must not be far away, that there must be other baby ducks nearby. Chris said he’d search the big field across from our house. “They’ve gotta be in there somewhere.”
The children searched for fifteen minutes but couldn’t find any ducklings or a duckling mother, either.
“We can’t leave it next to the road,” Lisa said. “A car will run over it.”
And she was right. But what could we do?
Tim ran to the garage and soon came back with the answer—a small cardboard box that he began stuffing with grass. “I’ll take care of it,” he said.
Having no good ideas, I said, “Okay, you can take care of it for now. Maybe it’s thirsty. Get a little water in a small, shallow dish. But keep looking around for its mother or other baby ducks. Tim, why don’t you get in your rowboat and check the back channel? Maybe its mother’s back there in the water. And Lisa, read everything you can about care of a baby duck.”
We never did find others that might be related to this foundling. But the duckling thrived in the care of my children. Showing little creativity, they named him Ducky. At the time, they didn’t know how creative that would be. Ducky followed them around as if he now had three mothers. And they adored their newfound pet.
We had a Golden Retriever that outweighed that duckling by sixty pounds or more. But you’d never know it by the way Ducky chased the dog around the yard. As Ducky grew to nearly full size for a mature duck, he terrified our dog. He’d quack loudly, flap his wings, and chase after that fleeing dog like a hawk after a gopher.
Ducky grew bigger as summer approached, so big that we began to get suspicious. He had grown too big to be a duck that inhabited our local rivers and lakes. Maybe this wasn’t a duck after all. And we were right. This little gosling that we’d thought was a duckling grew into a beautiful full-size goose.
By then, our Golden Retriever hid in the house whenever Ducky was out. Ducky loved to play in our channel and race along behind Tim in his rowboat. Tim maneuvered his rowboat up and down the channel while searching for colorful turtles. Tim would net the turtles and bring them back to our dock’s waters, and then go in search of those same turtles the next day. Ducky accompanied him on those forays, happily quacking away as he swam along behind. Ducky became a full-fledged family member.
But winter was around the corner, and we knew that posed a problem for Ducky. What could we do with him in winter? How could he survive the fierce cold days and nights that would soon descend upon us? His channel playground behind the house would soon be frozen solid. He’d taken refuge in our garage up to now, but soon, it would be full of cars. And our garage wasn’t heated; it would turn as frigid as the temperatures outside, a most unfriendly environment for our friend, Ducky.
My wife, Lynn, came up with a solution.
She knew there was a gaggle of geese that spent its summer in a local pond until the weather turned cold enough to send them scurrying southward. Lynn took Ducky to the pond, but the rest of us couldn’t bear to go along. The children were heartbroken, losing their unexpected summer friend. We said our goodbyes as Lynn and Ducky got into the car. I was afraid our Ducky wouldn’t be welcomed by those strangers. But when Lynn returned, she said they seemed to accept him.
We never saw Ducky again, but for several springs, whenever I’d see a flight of geese, I’d wave, wondering if Ducky or his offspring were up there among them.