In the early spring of 2019, two ducks stopped by The Inn* for a visit.
I was over the moon with excitement.
Having long dreamt of having chickens…
Side note: This dream, initially, was unrealizable due to, 1. A certain Marshal Dillon Dingle, the very silly (and very prey driven) German ShepHerd
maniac dog, and 2, Free range chicken poop.
In the early spring of 2019, two ducks showed up and I was over the moon with excitement.
I went to straight to work.
First, cracked corn.
Then then, oh yeah, blueberries.
After a couple of weeks, they were – literally and figuratively – eating out of my hand.
I was elated.
Cockadoodle Drake (a.k.a., ‘C. Drake’ and then, when we knew each other better, just ‘Drake’ ) and ChickHen were very welcome, and became much-beloved, members of the household (gardenhold?). When anyone visited, they were absolutely delighted at the ducks’/chickens’ visits. My Practice Grandkids were especially smitten.
After a while, they would come one at a time. First, Drake would call me to the steps and, about ten minutes after he flew away, ChickHen would show up for her meal. I researched a bit, and learned that the male Mallard leaves the female once she’s laid her eggs. So these two were still coming, but – since the break up – they thought it might be better if they visited alone (less drama).
Then, one day, neither one showed up.
I assumed that, while some Mallard ducks don’t migrate south in winter, Drake and ChickHen did. I quietly hoped I’d done enough, in my hospitality-oriented roll as ‘Inn Keeper and Dining Room Manager’, to ensure their return the following spring.
When spring knocked on 2020’s door, along with so much else, things had changed. The ducks didn’t come.
Over the days and weeks, I looked for them, and called to them… down by the cove and up by the pond.
I pushed any thoughts of nature’s or man’s interference in their lives – cruel or otherwise – to the back of my mind. They were not pets, not mine to protect. These were wild things.
Though I was not expecting them the following spring, in 2021, I would have been overjoyed if they’d suddenly showed up. But no.
I soothed myself with imagery of them happily beaking up corn and oats at someone else’s house. They weren’t getting blueberries though, because that person didn’t really know them as well as I did. In my imagination, the ducks certainly knew they were missing something… and longed for whatever it was. Their little duck brains just couldn’t retrieve the memory, that was all. When they did remember, they’d be back.
And then, in this third, nearly-springtime from their first visit…
The other day, JoHn started making concerning noises from the kitchen and rushed back to my potting room-slash-office. He was out of breath with excitement
“The ducks! Your ducks!” he could barely make a sentence.
“There are two ducks by the steps!”
I leapt to the small barrels that sit a few feet away from my desk and threw off the top, scooping up a healthy helping of corn. I then scrambled toward the kitchen door and onto the screen porch. There, at the foot of the granite steps, were ‘my’ ducks.
How did I know?
As soon as I stepped out onto the screen porch, they quickly waddled away. But then, at the sound of my voice, “Hi guysssss!” and “Chick chick chickens”, they came right back and moved in as I made my way outside and toward them.
Drake took the lead, the first to show it was safe (he was always very brave, and impressively gallant), and then ChickHen 2.0 approached.
Mallards don’t mate for life. So, since Drake was the one calling for attention, and approaching confidently, I’m assuming he is the one ‘returning’ (and that his new mate is following his lead). Hence, she is ChickHen 2.0.
My face almost broke from smiling, watching the two enjoying their snack… him totally comfortable, but also looking to her as if to check in and encourage.
“Hello you two…”
“Ohhhh, you silly chickens…”
“Where have you been?”
“Great adventures, I hope…”
“Here you go, easy there…”
“I’m so glad you came…”
And, of course, closing the deal with… in a conspiratorial whisper so any other ducks wouldn’t hear…
“Next time I’ll have blueberries.”
Thanks for readin’.
*The Inn is the name of our house, because it was an operating inn in the late 1800s and early 1900s. It has not been operated as an inn since then, so – if you show up asking for a room today – we’ll look at you kind of funny (unless you are ducks, of course).
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