September 30, 2013 9:39:52 AM
Shannon Bardwell - [email protected]
"You bring darkness, it becomes night, and all the beasts of the forest prowl."
Leah stuck her bill into the broken egg and hoisted it up high. She shoved off into the water and paddled as fast as her webbed feet would take her. On the bank she carried the egg into the grass where she ate the egg, shell and all.
It's not every day you see a duck carrying an egg the size of two golf balls on its bill. It seemed bizarre behavior until I learned that if the egg is not fertilized or if it cracks the duck will get rid of it. They often eat egg and the shell for nutrition. It takes a lot of nutrition to churn out eggs.
Leah, the Pekin duck, has a nest on the floating platform Sam built for her. I pad her nest with hay from the fields. At times I kayak to her and other times I trudge into the lake with a bag full of hay and a small rake. When the weather is warm the water feels good. There are creepy things all around and fuzzy moss that sticks to your legs but ignoring that I forge through to Leah's nest. Sometimes I picture other Prairie women inside swiffing their floors while I'm standing in the middle of a lake enjoying the sun and raking duck droppings.
Neighbors have said that the duck eggs are quite nutritious and that they make wonderful cakes. The yolks are a rich yellow but somehow I can't bring myself to eat Leah's eggs.
Last fall Leah was my sole surviving Pekin; predators took away her two companions. It was a lonely fall and winter. We bonded and I promised to get her friends when spring came. Pekins are social birds, they don't need a lot of friends but they need some. I clapped for her and fed her from my hand. I told her she was beautiful. Though time and sorrow are wearing, to me, she is beautiful.
The migratory Canada geese arrived and she tried to blend. Then a lonely old coot came and they swam around together. I watched her as she hilariously tried to imitate the habits of each. Like any teenager she gave in to peer pressure. Then they left her.
Spring came and true to my word I raised her two Pekin companions. I believe them to be male and female but I can't be sure. So I watch the eggs and wonder if one day I might have ducklings. I worry about them before they are even hatched. I think about predators. It's a wonder anything can survive out here in the wild. I think Sam's lake platform helped a lot. At sunset the three ducks gather to the platform each facing a different direction and they roost there.
Each morning I count: one, two, three; the ducks have been held safe through another night where beasts prowl.
Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie.