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Possumhaw: Wilds in the Prairie


Shannon Bardwell



The heartbreak of psoriasis doesn't come close to the heartbreak of losing a peep you've nurtured for seven weeks. Neighbors said they'd given up on raising ducklings in the Prairie. Eventually the vulnerable ducks succumb to the wilds, they said. 


Joe Cook described apparatuses that he had constructed to protect his ducks. All to no avail. So he gave up. 


Bryant Wiygul's white duck disappeared months ago. He told me about it and I assured him I had not taken his duck, although I had thought about it many times.  


Leah, my sole surviving Pekin, needed companions desperately. As I walked the lake and the fields with her trailing beside me like a faithful dog, I knew I needed to do something. So I bought the three peeps on Good Friday. 


The peeps were a lot of work, first in the bathroom, by cleaning their "digs" constantly. They never got the idea food and water are not for stepping in, or not to relieve themselves in their bed. It was as constant as feeding and changing newborns. They slept with a nightlight. 


Then the peeps went to the peep pen that Jacky Triplett loaned me. It was somewhat easier, especially after I quit providing towels for soft bedding. As they quickly grew bigger I put the old dog-washing tub inside the pen with the peeps.  


I filled the tub brimming with water. I was determined the peeps would swim before they went to the lake, and that they did. Within weeks the three ducks were so large they filled the tub and would swim tip to tail in a circle like a carnival game. Shirley, my walking partner, thought I should take a video and put it on YouTube, but I don't know how to do that. Raising peeps was a joy.  


By Mother's Day the peeps were the size of Leah, the grown duck, only with pristine white feathers. Their eyes were clear and sparkly. Their feet had grown large, though not quite as orange or sure as Leah's. In my dreams Leah would teach them everything they needed to know to survive the wilds.  


That Sunday afternoon we gathered around the pen, my brother Skip ready with the camera while Sam and I eased the ducks into the lake. They settled in rather nicely, though I was soaking wet. The most aggressive of the three peeps immediately tried to run Leah off, and I spent the rest of the day refereeing, shaking my finger and saying, "No, bad duck. Be nice to Leah." 


Sadly, the next morning one peep had gone to the wilds. The two remaining peeps and Leah were a bit friendlier with one another.  


Jacky Triplett said the co-op still had three peeps that had not been adopted. I told him he could bring them to me. You can't give in to the wilds.


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


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