The Great Duck Rescue: A True Story
by Adrienne Potter
Copyright@ June 2001 by Adrienne Foster Potter. All rights reserved. Teachers may copy for classroom use.
Note to Reader: We live very near a large quarry filled with water and wildlife. Every year in the spring several families of ducks end up in our neighborhood and usually need to be rescued:
Lucy and Hector were out pushing their two baby boys in their stroller when Lucy stopped suddenly. "Hush!" They all listened. "Do you hear it?" Hector nodded. The boys listened too. Many tiny peeps were coming from the storm drain below them. Hector bent and peered into the grating. He could make out the dim outlines of fluffy little figures four feet down, huddled together in the corner and crying for their mama. Luckily there was very little water in it because it hadn't rained for days.
If there had been water the ducklings could have been washed away. Overhead a mother duck was flying in loops and quacking to her babies. Hector tried to lift the grate but it wouldn't budge. The ducks were frightened and wanted their mother. The mother couldn't get into the storm drain because she was too big to fit, and now she was afraid of the people she saw next to it.
Quickly Lucy ran to my house, rang the bell, and told me of the problem. My daughter Grace and I set off behind Lucy to the trapped ducklings where Hector and Grace lifted the grate together. Grace lowered herself carefully into the storm drain, making sure not to step on the ducklings who were running every which way by now and very frightened of the two big legs descending on them. Grace bent down and scooped up the ducklings in her hands. One by one she handed them to Hector, who gently put them in bushes. There were eight of them. Grace climbed out of the drain and the whole group backed away to watch.
The mother swooped down to the road and landed, quacking at her babies, and herded them away from us. They went down the street another 100 yards and what do you know? The first one fell down into the next storm drain and four others followed after it single-file as the mother watched helplessly. Grace ran down the street to help them and three of the ducklings managed to jump over the curb and scurry under the fence to escape her. The mother rose into the air, flapping her wings wildly. Hector, Lucy and I soon arrived. This time Grace ran back to the house to get our dog carrier so we would have a place to put the ducks. We were going to have to carry them back to the field on the other side of the fence where they belonged, near the lake.
Hector and Grace removed the storm drain and once again Grace lowered herself downward. This one was deeper so it was harder. She checked for spiders but there were none. In the bottom she found the remaining five baby ducks huddled together, but not injured. She scooped them up again and handed them up to the group above. We carefully placed them inside the dog cage and shut the door. One tried to squeeze his head through the wire door and we gently pushed it back in. Such a peeping and crying they made! "Help! Murder! Kidnap!" they might be saying.
Carefully we carried the cage full of ducklings back to my house and set it down in the back yard, where our poodle Gypsy sniffed and examined it all around, causing the ducklings to peep even louder. They hurried to the other side of the cage, certain that Gypsy would eat them. The well-fed Gypsy had no such plans even if she could open the cage. She lay down and watched them through the slots of the cage, fascinated. I noticed that when Gypsy was nearby none of the ducks tried to escape so she made a good babysitter.
My husband John came out and he and Hector set up ladders on both sides of the fence so they could climb up one side and down the other. There was a 12-foot drop on the other side so we had to use an extension ladder (a ladder that can be stretched). Uh oh! It got stuck. Hector pulled it back and he and John unstuck it. It was dark by now so I found flashlights for the group.
Grace and John climbed over first and Hector handed the cage full of ducks over to them. He climbed over after them and soon we could see three flashlights bobbing on the hill in the field. They carried the cage back to where the other three ducks had escaped under the fence so they would all be together. We could still hear the mother quacking up above somewhere but we couldn't see her. They let the ducks loose and made their way back to our back yard, climbing over the ladders once again.
Soon the quacking and peeping noises ended, so we were certain the mother had found the babies and was leading them to shelter, this time on the safe side of the fence away from streets and houses. The ladders and flashlights were put away and we all went home to our warm, cozy houses, glad the duck family would soon be in their warm, cozy nest.
Part II: The Duck's Side Of The Story
Mama taught us never to trust hairy ducks with four legs and a tail and never, never trust the tall ducks with no feathers who sometimes carry booming sticks that send ducks away forever. So we were walking along and suddenly my brother Don sees a lizard next to the fence, so he walks over to check it out. My sister Dina went with him and since she went, well, we all had to go, Duncan, Donna, Dexter, Daryl, Dolly, and me, Duane. Mama stood nearby quacking and scolding us because we got out of line, but she knew lizards were not a threat so she didn't make us come back for a moment.
The lizard was amazing. He was doing pushups but when he saw us he stopped and stared at us without moving his head. He could roll his eyes around backwards almost. Dexter wanted to touch him but the lizard voted against that and disappeared so fast we had no idea where he went, but later I saw him on top of the fence staring down at us. At that moment Don saw a big, hairy cat and began yelling at us to run and hide.
Okay, I confess that we panicked, because we were a week old and hadn't even had our first swim yet. We were running all directions and mother was screaming at us to come back to her. Duncan scrambled under the fence and we followed him into some bushes and out the other side. Plop! Duncan fell down a little cliff made by the tall, featherless ducks and I tried to stop but my brothers bumped into me and I fell off too, and soon we were all on the black smooth dirt that the big, fast, noisy boxes with wheels use. Mama flew over the fence and circled over us, quacking fearfully. She could still see the cat but it could see her too and it didn't really want to deal with her. I don't blame the cat because when my mother is upset no one, I mean no one, should be too close to her.
Mama was afraid a noisy rolling box would run over us, or that a dog might find us. We scurried along next to the cliff, following Don, trying to jump back up to the bushes, but we were too little. The next thing we knew we were all falling down an even bigger cliff and into a deep, dark place! Luckily our downy fuzz and our smallness kept us from getting hurt but I have never been so terrified in my whole short life. I was peeping and crying and so was everyone else. Mama squawked louder than thunder when she saw us fall, one after another, but when she heard us peeping again she felt a little better. Then she saw the featherless ducks: two big ones and two little ones in a small quiet box with wheels. She flew up into the sky because she didn't trust them.
She quacked at them loudly but they don't speak our language and they ignored her. They peered down at us with their big round eyes and we huddled together. I can tell you I have never been so scared in my life. Mama had warned us about them, how they caught ducks and put them in cages or even ate them for dinner. They were worse than ogres.
We heard noises overhead and saw the big metal sky moving, which made us peep even louder. Soon we saw two big feet coming down towards us and Dolly and Donna fainted for a second. Now the feet were right next to us! We scurried away from them but they were so big we couldn't get too far. Next we saw featherless wings like snakes with little pink snakes at the end of them moving towards us. We begged and pleaded for mercy but it was useless. Don and Duncan were captured by the snakes and carried upward.
What could we do? There was no place to run, no place to hide. We were trapped, and all the while we could hear Mama circling overhead, crying and screaming at the featherless ducks to let her babies go. The pink snakes came back and caught us all, two by two, and soon we were all together again in the bushes. The big ducks had set us free! We hooped and hollered and did a dance. They had understood Mama! Or maybe these were good ogres! Next Mama was beside us telling us to climb back under the fence to where our home was.
You'll never guess what happened next. Dolly bumped into Duncan and knocked him back over the cliff and so we all ran back to see if he was alright and wouldn't you know it. We fell down the cliff too. Except my sisters. They had managed to get back under the fence. Oh brother! We were in trouble now. Mama was very angry. She scolded and quacked like the day the coyote was near. She flew down and herded us up the street, away from the two-legged ducks. Before we knew it we were all falling down into a dark hole again. How could we have known? When you are three inches tall you can't see very far ahead of you, you know.
Mama was beside herself, and the featherless, good-ogre ducks were coming back with a big box. Soon we saw the metal sky moving and the large feet coming down to us again, and soon we were caught by the soft snakes again. This time they put us in the big box. We felt ourselves being carried away and Mama followed overhead, screaming at the good ogres to let her babies go. We tried to poke our heads out through the wires and escape but we couldn't squeeze through and the pink snakes pushed us back in again.
It seemed that we were carried in the box for a long time and when it was put down on the soft dirt we looked out through the wires and Dexter screamed. He saw a big, wet, shiny black ball with steam coming out of it, making snorting and sniffing noises like the coyotes did. There was hair all around the ball and two big black eyes that were peering at us through the wires. A hairy wing pawed at the wires and we all yelled and ran to the other side.
This was one of those dogs that mama had told us about. It was wagging its tail as it lay down next to the cage, watching our every move. We froze, certain it was going to eat us, but in our second miracle that day, it didn't. The next thing we knew we were being lifted into the air as high as Mama flies it seemed. Then we were moving again. We saw bright lights and stayed very quiet. Maybe they would forget about us.
The cage bumped and jiggled for what seemed like forever and finally it was put down on the ground again and the door was opened. We didn't dare move. The tall ducks tipped the box and we started sliding out, so we hurried out the door and into the bushes. We could hear Mama calling overhead, "Run, run, run!"
The featherless ducks were moving away from us with their lights and soon Mama was next to us and our sisters had joined us too. A third miracle. The ogres did not eat us and we were safe together again. Soon we were back home in our warm nest and we all fell asleep under our mother's wings. Poor Mama was exhausted and slept too. It had been a very trying day.
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