February 18, 2013 10:11:20 AM
Shannon Bardwell - [email protected]
It all started about three days before. The rains were torrential and the lake was so full that most of the center stumps were submerged.
"Sam, I think the spillway is dammed up. The water is high."
After work Sam took the gator to the spillway and sure enough a beaver had dammed the flow again. In drizzling rain Sam shoveled out the dam and checked the beaver trap. No beaver.
"Did you see Leah?" I asked.
Leah is our domestic Pekin duck, the lone survivor of three ducks.
"Yes, she was out in the center of the lake."
It was about 5:30 and getting dark. I was becoming more confident about Leah. She had learned from the geese to treat humans with suspect, to avoid the bank while alone, and to swim to the middle of the lake for safety.
Pekin ducks are large white flightless birds. They are social animals and easy to care for. I've spent hours watching her. She stretches tall and flaps her wings while skimming the top of the water. More than once she has toppled head over heels and bobbed up again. I clap my hands and cheer at her efforts.
When she lost her two companions I sat on the dock and sang, "How much is that ducky in the window, the one with the cur-r--ly tail? How much is that ducky in the window, I do hope that she is for sale." That seemed to calm one of us.
The morning after breaking the beaver dam, I went to the lake and called for Leah. No Leah. I scanned the horizon. No Leah. I walked the perimeter of the lake. No Leah. I went to the dock and lay belly-down. I peered upside down under the cabin but she was not there.
I sat on the dock and grieved silently. The only words that came were, "The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Bless be the name of the Lord." I soothed myself all day long with the words. I told no one.
I've learned it is not beneficial to tell your husband bad news while he is at work or when he walks through the door at the end of the day. I greet Sam with fresh brewed coffee, a snack and hear about his day. Then I tell him something like, "The washing machine broke today."
That day I told him that Leah was gone and together we grieved. Sam said Leah and her friends were somewhere swimming on that great crystal sea.
Two days later I saw a white bundle at the place where I leave Leah her "chop." I tore across the field. Whatever her condition I wanted her.
Leah's head popped up and she let me get close. She ate two cups of chop. I clapped my hands and cheered for her.
The large white duck, the size of a goose, had appeared out of nowhere.
Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie.