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Ducks

Do you know why Donald Duck is the most annoying of all the Disney characters? 

Because he’s a duck. 

I don’t ask for a lot out of life. When I was eighteen, I looked in a mirror and realized I was probably going to be bald by the time I was thirty. That was when I started dialing down my expectations. I spent the next twenty years working 50 and 100 hours every week as an on-call servant to a few thousand hogs and I never heard a word of thanks, even on the days when I hauled feed between farms on an open tractor, during a blizzard.  

I learned then that a life of glamour might be in short supply – gratitude, too. 

But these ducks, man, these ducks are getting me down. 

First, there is zero gratitude. I keep them in feed and water, and regularly bring them treats such as moldy strawberries and stale popcorn. In return, I get nothing. No bill bumps or wings up - they don’t even throw a nod of thanks my way. There’s no acknowledgement of the number of times I’ve saved their lives. Every night I lock them in so no prowling raccoon or coyote can get in and not only do I get no thanks, but I also have to chase them around the coop three or four times before they go up the ramp.   

They should be grateful, because they lack any hint of defense skills. These ducks are not in peak physical shape. Many years ago, we visited Montpelier, Vermont. Downtown there was a used bookstore right next to a Ben and Jerry’s ice cream distributor. If I’d stayed there a month, which I was willing to consider, and had grown some feathers, which would be unlikely, from behind I would have waddled just like those ducks.  

Not only are they out of shape, but they also lack tools. Chickens have beaks and pointy, scratchy feet.  Geese have ferociously strong wings for thumping.  Ducks have nothing except smart mouths and bad attitudes. 

So, the ducks are completely dependent on me for their lives and safety and how do they repay me? By being slobs.    

If I fill their five-gallon waterer, they empty it in less than a day. They drink about a gallon; the rest is just slopped out into the bedding. 

The bedding that I have to change because it’s soaked. 

Here’s the worst part. While I’m pitching out the soaked hay, the ducks sit in a corner of the coop and make fun of me. Have you ever seen a gaggle of teenage boys hanging out in a parking lot, laughing at things that aren’t funny? I’m half expecting a vape cloud hovering above the one in the back. 

We don’t have a tradition of high-value animals on the farm. At the moment, there’s Frances, the Newfoundland, who is scared of water, Sophie, the tiny dog whose biggest achievement is adoring my wife, and Templeton, the house cat who does nothing except look for doorways to sleep in with hopes of tripping me in the middle of the night. Before that we had Gloria the Two-Legged Cat, who was famous for just being alive. Predating Gloria were Calvin and Hobbes, the miniature goats whose biggest claim to fame was the day they climbed on top of the UPS truck and wouldn’t come down. Even by those relaxed standards, the ducks are digging a hole in order to lower the bar even further. 

The wind chill is forty below zero this morning and I’m off to make sure the ducks are safe and warm. 

I’m not sure they deserve it. 

Copyright 2024 Brent Olson 

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