One day while cruising Lake Whitehurst in my “Molly B” kit-built canvas canoe, I discovered an errant duck egg sitting in an abandoned nest on a weedy shoreline. There were perhaps six or seven broken and hatched eggshells scattered about. Later, library research revealed that a ninety-six degree incubation temperature was a great start for wannabe ducking hatchlings. Eventually a tiny duckbill poked out from the carefully manipulated and temperature-regulated heating-pad-environment egg. Two hours later a fuzzy “Duck-Duck” emerged — a bizarre chromosomal mixture of wild Mallard and white domestic genetics, no doubt the end product of confused parents. Duck-Duck immediately “imprinted” on my physical characteristics and in no time at all I was a — Mom!
Duck-Duck’s education included long swimming sessions paddling within Molly B’s wake. But no matter how hard I tried to ditch the duck in the months to come, no matter how fast I paddled, Duck-Duck managed to keep up.
Mom became quite fond of Duck-Duck; even our dog, Yankee, accepted this innocuous, feathered sibling as an equal at the dinner bowl. For nearly a year Duck-Duck protected our back yard from whatever encroachments and obtrusions Yankee — in her old age — neglected. Then one day I waddled Duck-Duck over to the Norfolk Botanical Gardens Petting Zoo (less than 1/2 mile away), where he was an immediate hit with the clamoring kiddies. Cleverly, and unnoticed by the petting zoo’s curators, I gently placed the too-overweight-to-fly Duck-Duck inside the duck pen and walked home. As his panicked quack attacks succumbed to distance, I knew I had moved through another important part of childhood: it was time to leave the duck behind.
That night Yankee waited patiently beside her dog bowl for her friend, but after a while she made the dog food disappear.
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Update: Five decades later when eyeballing multitudes of ducks as they swim past my dock, I often catch myself wondering about Duck-Duck. Could it be that one over there with the weird mixed coloring is a descendent of a Norfolk Botanical Gardens Petting Zoo escapee?