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Shannon Bardwell: Lost not found, ducks


Shannon Bardwell



An odd friendship is often born of necessity. Jack, the white cat, lost Jane, his companion, when Jane stowed away in the bottom of the fishing boat. While in route to the river, Jane chose to bolt from the boat, never to be found. 


Last spring we were given three domestic ducks that were raised in a Prairie field. The ducks had never seen more water than that of a kiddie pool. For weeks the ducks waddled beside the lake, rarely venturing in. I questioned " ... like a duck takes to water." 


Sam protested getting the ducks for fear they would not be safe from predators. But I reasoned they were adult ducks. "They will swim," I said. 


We witnessed all the familiar duck sayings. They waddled, they lined up like "ducks in a row," they played, splashed at the edge of the pond, and they "ducked."  


Across the field the ducks ran (or rather, waddled) to where I fed them cracked corn (the Co-op calls "chop"), wheat seed, bread crumbs and occasionally lettuce. The ducks were a joy. 


Then one morning one of the ducks was gone, plucked into thin air. There was no sign of a struggle. There were no signs at all except that the remaining two ducks clung closer and ventured farther out into the water.  


The missing duck had been the most reluctant of the three to venture into the water. I suspected her reluctance might have been her waterloo. 


Eventually the ducks and Jack took interest in one another; Jack -- a cat -- and the ducks -- birds, albeit big birds -- became friends.  


Sometimes the ducks got close enough to allow a quick touch. Then they'd waddle back to the water. They really should have arms, the way they sway side to side. 


Walking buddy Shirley photographed the duck duo on a lake as still as glass while they glided by the dock. They looked as identical as twins, doubled by the water's reflection.  


For more than a month all was well, then Jack and I walked to lake one day as I sang out "duck, duck." The familiar call calmed the ducks and let them know it was just me and Jack. They always came waddling for "chop."  


Around the corner came a solitary duck. It was the one Sam named Leah, for her weak eye. Leah stretched her neck high and quacked nervously. She swung her head this way and that searching for what was not to be found. Like "sitting ducks," they were. 


Sam was right. The ducks had not been safe, and now I was sad. I had not anticipated becoming attached to their beauty, their sweetness, even their vulnerability.  


And now Jack and I sit on the dock with the lone duck. The duck swims close and eyes Jack. Jack watches the duck. We all huddle closer as we wonder and watch.


Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie.


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