We welcomed the peeps into a heated cage at the far end of our farm kitchen. They out grew/splatted/ spread/kicked and squeeked their way into a horse trough in the garage within hours. It was an early and particularly cold spring with temps dipping to single digits. We snugged them with fresh hay, hooked the heat lamp in closer and hoped for the best.
The weather turned just as the ducks outgrew their bin. Unfortunately, there was still no pond. We built an elaborate duck enclosure out of chicken wire and an old hen house with a generous baby pool for swimming lessons. I think my attachment began at this very point. The ducks quickly came to own that make shift pen. They had no inclination to fly, waddle or even run in fear. They trusted us and that would prove to be fatal.
Finally the pond was duck ready and we gently hearded them to the water's edge, bringing their nighttime pen and food bowls along for comfort. It was days before they ventured into the water and weeks before they discovered the anchored floating duck house in the center of the pond. All seemed well.
Within a month, four of the ducks were lost to predators. The two that remained, male and female returned to their domesticated beginnings. They would climb the long steep hill to the house and wait anxiously for a handful of cracked corn. Often, I would come home late from work and find the male pacing at the top of the driveway as if to say, "Where have you been??
Sadly, months later, the male duck also succumbed leaving one remaining female. And that leads me to my actual story. Let me interject, that we've tried a brood of peeps for her company to no avail. She is a lone survivor.
She's been a widow for nearly a year now. Mrs. Duck is very dependent on our family...she slowly climbs the hill to eat and drink at least twice a day...pooping on our front porch and quacking at the oddest of times. She now allows us, no, she insists we pet her, rubbing her beak and long soft neck against our lets like a beckoning cat. We love her but we also despair of her sad, unrequited life.
Every couple of months...the hardest of times, she lays eggs in her duck island house. With no husband duck to fertilize and fetch her food, she cares for these unfertilized offspring without regard to her own health. She fails just a little bit more each time.
And we love her, despair for and sometimes hope nature will take it's course and she will meet her duck maker.
Last week, she disappeared for days and we figured God had mercifully taken her home, relieving her of an unproductive, unfruitful and lonely life. Did I mention she cannot fly?
Our hearty old sole customarily joined me in the early morning hours on the front porch for coffee, cracked corn, and Bible time.
I thought about the many things, many solutions I had for her...none of which helped. Actually, in my ignorance, I had done more harm than good. My fault, not hers.
Sadly, I thought about the hopelessness of her life. She cannot do much of what she was created for.
During the short remaining term of her life, the best thing I can do for her is to sit and spend a few minutes of company. In exchange, she might be giving me an important life lesson.