Heehaw, heehaw, heehaw. Do you really think that you can get that mama duck to follow you for a half mile? Honestly? Give it a try, but don't hold too much hope.
AWOL here. I know it, but I've had lots and lots of work to do and am just beginning to breathe easier. I sent in my entire manuscript, glossary, bibliography, author's note, dedication, epigraph, and acknowledgements. Anyhow, about 300 pages of work. A load off my mind.
I know that a picture is worth a thousand words, but sometimes you just can't get to the camera and take photos. So this time words must suffice.
I'd been working all day, and Jeff said, "Let's go for a walk and go out to dinner." He did not have to twist my arm. We got into the car and backed out of our driveway. Not easy. We live on a busy street near the freeway offramp.
Just as we were leaving, Jeff said, "LOOK!" Walking right in front of our garage was a mama mallard with a flock of little ducklings.
"Quack, quack, quack, quack." "Peep, peep, peep peep."
Oh no. They'd be creamed, crushed, run over by a car, eaten by a dog or a cat. We had to do something.
Jeff pulled over. I took off my sweater to use as a sling. He took off his jacket. We followed mama down the road and smack into a sheltered front porch where she promptly knelt down and called all her ducklings to her side. Great, but still, right along the road and at the home of a big dog and some fat cats. We tried to corner mama and catch the babies, but mama ran away, quacking like crazy. The ducklings took off in every direction.
I managed to net 11 of the ducklings and had to chase the 12th. Meanwhile, Jeff quietly stalked mama in the hopes of catching her so we could take her and her youngsters the half mile back to Cuesta Park and San Luis Creek. Impossible!
Our route. From the orange "A" marker on the left to Cuesta Park and San Luis Creek, the red arrow on the right.
What a zoo. Mama wouldn't let us close to her. Traffic stopped. Some college students helped. Ducklings peeped and fought to escape the net. Jeff grabbed a big box, and we put the babies inside, but I had to keep stirring them up to keep them peeping, which kept mama mallard following us (but not too closely).
We were getting desperate and knew we had to get them back to the park before nightfall or mama would fly away and the babies would have to go to Pacific Wildlife Care. We didn't want that, but we did want to get them off the road.
Light bulb. I asked Jeff to put up the trunk lid on the Saab and herd mama mallard my way. By this time, we were the laughinstocks of the neighborhood. So, there I sat, illegally dangling my legs over the rear of the car with a flock of ducklings screaming for their mama.
"Mama will follow us," I yelled to Jeff. Just drive slowly, and I'll keep the ducklings awake.
He drove slowly. Traffic backed up. College students directed people, bicyclists, and cars past us. We had to make it a half mile alongside one of the most heavily traveled roads in the state.
Mama ran along, then took to the air, veered over the offramp of the freeway, YIKES, and flew back behind us, quacking wildly.
I looked up, and there she was, about 10 feet off the ground and flying directly at the back of the car and traveling about 25 miles per hour. I wish I could've caught her in a video.
I was rehearsing what to tell the police when they nabbed me.
Then things got scary. The ducklings settled into the corner of the box and tried to go to sleep. I kept having to stir them around so that they would keep peeping to attract mama.
Mama flew along behind the car, quacking, quacking, babies peeping, peeping. Then, mama veered off and took to the hills. The sun was setting, and as I told Jeff, "Wild animals just accept things. She is probably going off to sleep."
Then mama duck flew over us again, made another wide circle, and disappeared. I felt sick. We had one last chance before it got too dark for her to fly.
We had traveled the half mile from home to the edge of the park and the creek. Jeff dumped me at the top of the bank, and I slid down with the box.
A bunny watched our progress.
The babies were peeping wildly, and from somewhere above we could hear mama's answering quacks. I had to trust my instincts. We set the box down on the ground by the creek, and the little ducklings tumbled out, peeping to a faretheewell.
We turned and crawled up the bluff. We sat. We watched. The babies cried. Mama quacked. The sun set.
The babies peeped pitifully. Mama quacked like crazy. Mama looped high above us, dipped, and flew low over the sycamores and creek, quacking loudly the entire time. When the ducklings heard her, they answered. Mama landed somewhere by the creekside and called to her family. The babies quieted and lined up behind her.
Four more ducklings are in the brush beside the creek. They quickly joined the parade behind mama.
Don't you love happy endings?
Sending love across the miles,
P.S. The winner of the random drawing for the fabulous Botanical Interests Sunflower seed collection is Dee Nash of Red Dirt Ramblings. Dee is a Grimy Hands Girls' Club member and will receive a bonus gift of Waterwise Plants for Sustainable Gardens: 200 Drought-Tolerant Choices for All Climates (Timber Press) by Lauren Springer Ogden and Scott Ogden.