Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Just Ducky

Photo credit: Left Hand

We were on our way home from school. As we drove down the hill, approaching a busy intersection, suddenly Jake was pressed against the window.

"Mom! It's a duck! And ducklings! Crossing the road! Mom, they'll get hit by a car! Stop! STOOOOPPPPP!"

Before I knew it, I had parked and we were out of the car, stopping traffic as Momma duck waddled her thirteen little ducklings into the path of oncoming traffic-ironically enough, through a cross walk.

Of ALL times not to have a camera with me.

Can I just say now that I always said that I didn't need a fancy phone, but of all times I really wished with everything in me that I had some type of picture taking phone that I could have just whipped out and snapped pictures with, because this? This would have been priceless.

Traffic came to a stand still. Jake and I followed the ducks, trying to make sure that nobody decided to make a break for it and soon realized that there was a new dilemma; the curb of the sidewalk. Mom hopped up onto the sidewalk and continued walking, but the babies couldn't make it that high.

Cheep cheep cheep cheep thirteen little voices chirped frantically, while they threw their soft, fuzzy bodies at the cement curb, trying to reach Mom. Not one could make it.

Do I...? No. You're not supposed to touch birds. But then again, this guy did, and there's no other place for them to get up on the curb and we're standing on the edge of a busy road and something will come and squish them flat...oh what the hell.

I put out my hands and amazingly, the ducklings began to hop onto my palms and let me give them a boost up onto the sidewalk, as if my fingers were now a ducky elevator. Little webbed feet scrambled into my hands and then bounded after Momma. Behind us, a truck honked and the passengers waved, grinning and giving us the thumbs up signal as if to say, "Way to go! crisis averted!"

For about 30 seconds Jake and I watched them wander away, pleased with our role in saving their lives, until realized with growing horror where the ducks were actually going.

Mother ducks take their babies to a pond, because the ponds have food. There was no pond nearby. In fact, the mother had just taken them into a death trap.

A gynormous parking lot for the town's only mall.

"Wait! Stop! Oh my God, what can we do? Okay. Let me think." Scrambling down the slope, we followed the cheeping brood, herding them onto a grassy area away from the cars and road and cornering them in a flower garden beside the public pool. "Jake, go inside and tell the women at the front desk what's going on," I ordered. "Maybe they'll help us call someone."

He came out minutes later, looking irritated.

"She told me to leave the duck alone and that the Mom would figure it out."

Okay, my turn. I went into the building and explained the situation to the women at the front desk of the pool.

"Well, call the conservation officer," they suggested. "Or the animal rescue place. Maybe the SPCA?" The first call went to a conservation officer.

"The best thing you can do is turn around and walk away," the voice droned on the other end. "This happens all the time. Just leave them. "

"You don't understand. They are in a parking lot full of cars. The nearest pond is about 2 miles away. Are you telling me to just leave and let them get squished?" Maybe he thought I was being dramatic. Maybe I was. I really do get that if they came out to rescue every duck, that it would take up a lot of time and it's not really their job. It is just a duck, after all.

"Just walk away, ma'am."

But it's a duck with babies. Thirteen of them. Little soft, yellow, cheeping babies. Babies that we've already rescued once, only to allow them to...what? Die?

"Look, I have a 13 year old with me and what sort of example is that? What kind of person just walks away and leaves ducklings in a parking lot ready to be road kill? I don't care if I have to box up those critters myself and take them to the pond in my brand new freaking car, buddy, I am NOT LEAVING THEM."

"Well conservation isn't coming."

"Fine. I'll find someone who will." I'm sorry I was rude, conservation dude. But you really pissed me off.

The pool ladies, having been reluctant to help at first, now placed a call to a wild life rescue society. ETA, 15 minutes. Our job was to keep the ducks in the flower bed.

I found Jake sitting on the grass, watching the ducks hiding among the flowers and bushes.

"Mom, you'll never believe it. While you were gone I had a pool employee accuse me of vandalizing the garden, a cop tell me to stop bugging the ducks, and another woman tell me to go away. Why are people so mean to teenagers? I'm just keeping the ducks from being flattened."

Look, I know that teens can be jerks, but it hadn't been for Jake, those ducks would have been dead. HE insisted I stop the car. HE stopped the traffic to save them. HE tried to get people to listen and call someone to rescue the ducks. The sad thing is that not one adult would listen to him, and so it became my job to be the voice. (albeit a nagging, demanding one that refused to take no for an answer) But would adults please stop painting all the kids with the same nasty brush and realize that there are GOOD teens out there and give a few the benefit of a doubt?

Sheesh.

So we sat. And sat. Three smaller kids joined us, and we waited for the Wildlife rescue person in the blazing sun. Momma duck wandered back and forth with her brood, not willing to try to make a break for it.

"There she IS!" a voice went up and we all turned to see a woman with a dog carrier, a net, a towel. Duck rescue person! Whoo hoo!

How are we going to catch the ducks? Is there a procedure? Method? What do we do? A game plan was discussed, we positioned ourselves in strategic locations, and went to work.

Have you ever tried to catch a duck? Especially a Momma duck? It's not easy. Three tries, chases, lost feathers later, we finally had Momma in the carrier.

Of course that's when all hell broke loose.

Baby ducks without Momma? They scatter. They run like hamsters, and they hide in bushes. Oh, and they are really DAMN FAST.

Suddenly it was like a bomb of ducklings went off as all thirteen scattered in every direction.

"Wait! No! Get that one!"

"Over there!"

"Where'd it go?"

"Here, ducky ducky!"

"I need HELPPPP!"

"Slow down before you step on one!"

We were diving for ducklings that were going in every direction; the kids that had been watching, a life guard that had joined us, the wild life rescue woman, Jake, and I. Laughing and squealing, scooping their tiny bodies into our hands, trying not to step on them, we caught every single one and deposited them one by one into the carrier with Mom.

It was over. They were safe.

"Mom?" We were on our way back to the car now and I was mentally going through a to do list. Dinner was going to be late, but that was okay. We needed to go home. I had to pee.

"Mom, she said she was taking them to the duck pond by the arena, can we go see? Please?"

"Aw Jake, do you really need to..?" I turned and saw his face, and I knew. After all that work, he wanted to see them in a pond, safe, with his own eyes.

I drove to the pond.

There was Momma duck and her brood; paddling lazily in a secluded part of the pond, hiding safely among the bull rushes with the frogs and other ducks.

It was ducky heaven.

"We did it, Mom," Jake sighed.

"YOU did it, Jake. If you hadn't insisted I stop the car, those ducks wouldn't be alive."

"I wouldn't have been able to do it without you," wildlife lady commented. "They're safe now. There's another Momma duck and babies, which is a good sign. This is a good spot away from the owls and other predators."

"And cars," Jake offered. "But Mom? I want to come back. Tomorrow."

Tomorrow it is. Maybe this time I'll get pictures.

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