I’ve never really liked the landscaping in front of our house. The flower bed under our living room window is one giant mess of overgrown hostas, daylilies and weeds. So when MidAmerican Energy Co. made plans to dig up the bed to move a valve on our meter, I considered it the motivation I needed to remove the plants and start over.

But as I split and removed the plants, I uncovered a duck’s nest. Apparently, everything I hated about the landscaping made it perfect cover for a mallard and her eggs. I stopped digging immediately and called MidAmerican to request that they postpone their plans. That was no problem, but figuring out how to keep the duck and her eggs safe and secure was another matter.

After doing some research, my husband and I decided against putting a chicken wire fence around the bed. That probably would give the duck a false sense of security and encourage it to return to a potentially unsafe location year after year. Also, we’d have to keep an eye on the nest so we could remove the fence as soon as the ducklings hatched and allow them to make their way to the nearest water supply.

We did decide to put the plants I split and removed back in place for the time being. That way the mother duck would still have plenty of cover. That was a little bit like fitting a jigsaw puzzle together as I figured out which quarter of the hosta belonged in which part of the hole left behind by the root ball. Let’s just say my landscaping looks even more ridiculous than before, but at least the duck is hidden from sight.

But a new predator has entered the neighborhood: the 5-year-old who lives in the house behind us. She loves to help me “play with the flowers,” which is her term for helping me water and garden. It’s just that when she waters, she mostly hits the house, grill and patio instead of the plants, and gardening usually means pouring dirt on the dogs. She wanted to come over and “help” water the night my husband and I were quickly putting the plants back in place while the mother duck was away from the nest. We told her no, but before we knew it, she had hopped over the fence, run around to the front of the house and was eagerly looking at the eggs.

I told her she couldn’t get too close to the nest so she wouldn’t step on the eggs and that she couldn’t come to look at the duck again because she might scare it. But I think that’s like setting an ice cream sundae in front of someone on a strict diet and saying, “Don’t eat that, not even one spoonful.”

So, I’m going to lie and tell her the ducklings hatched and went to a new home. I never envisioned myself as the kind of person who would lie to children, but I think a little bit of untruthfulness might be necessary in this situation.

(7) comments


I don't know how to describe the chaos that ensued out back during the killing of the rabbit. The little woman was the one who'd let the dogs out and she was on the scene of the killling and was yelling at the dog, and then when I petted the dog subsequent to the killing of the rabbit I got yelled at for 'condoning.' It was a scene, so to speak. The neighbors out back are normally the source of neighborhood noise. and one of them called over in a tone characteristic of explanation, "We're all drunk over here." Hilarious. Not for me to be able to laugh at but to appreciate for the humor. Back is killing me for having dug a considerable grave, Hit a cinder block about a foot down and had to dig the blankety blank up. It serves now for a tombstone. I tried rubbing the palm to produce a particle of earth and it doesn't work. Maybe for a gardener or construction worker or perhaps would have worked years ago when I was fabricating gray iron? It worked for Saul Bellow's mother in the twilight of a winter day in Chicago in the 1930s. (Herzog: a Novel) Please let us know about the duck.


I have to weigh in one more time. The dog killed a rabbit tonight. Dang. The animal tried to get under the fence but the little dog is lethal. She doesn't hesitate, and whereas the big dog would have watched the rabbit scramble to safety, the little one grabbed its hind legs and dragged it screaming back. The legs were in bad shape and the rabbit died trying to run while flat on the ground, or that's what it looked like, the animal might have been convulsing. You cannot make Nature behave. The bird goes free, the rabbit's beginning the process whereby all living things return to the Earth. I've read that if you rub your finger really vigorously in your palm, something like a particle of earth will appear. All from the earth. Not so cheerful here now.


"For only a penny you can buy two sparrows, yet not one sparrow falls to the ground without your Father's consent." (Matthew 10:29)
Well, today the dogs and I earned a ha'penny. We rescued a sparrow from a storm sewer. The little bird apparently dropped in between slots in the cast iron lid or entered where most of the water does in the open back that conforms to the curb, but he couldn't find his way out. I thought at first the situation for him was equivalent to human confinement in the monkey bars at the playground given the ease with which he could have hopped out if flight hadn't been required. Unfortunately the 'bars' were overhead and the dogs spotted him in his fluttering against the roof of his concrete cell. I took the dogs home: they earned their share of the money through discovery. I returned with an old steel pry bar that I inherited from my Dad, who was a set-up man in the old Uchtorff Company down in the West End. He used it to position fixtures on machine tables and it worked beautifully with a block of 4x4 as fulcrum to lift the lid on the sewer. Bill Wundram will remember the Uchtorffs: the family also tried a hand at brewing a local beer. The bird wasn't convinced I had his best interests at heart and concealed himself in a nook at the top and back of the square of concrete that gathers the rain water for eventual delivery to the river. So I dropped in and talked 'pretty bird' to him for a bit but shoot, thousands of years of experience with man has encoded a negative opinion of mankind in the DNA of most infra-humans, and this little guy wouldn't respond to cajolery. I took his picture with my cell phone then, and that got him agitated enough for some reason to leave his hideout and fly across the street to a bush. Safe and sound I hope. Think about the little eye that looked up at me. A tiny bead of an eye. Yet capable of transferring all the visual information to the little bird brain that we get from our eyes. Well, I hope the kid is leaving the duck alone and that you will post something about the ducklings. (I mis-remembered and only when I recalled having taken the bird's picture did I remember the failure of the coat hanger. I didn't want to poke him, possibly damage his wings. Got a photo of his eye. Don't know how or where to post it.)


Another rescue story? A baby bird of the sparrow family trapped or believing he was trapped beneath a storm-sewer cover. The dogs located him fluttering against the cover as we returned wet from a walk in the cool and wet weather this morning. The bird's entrapment is analogous to a human being unable to escape from enclosure in the monkey bars at the playground. He could have fit through any of the openings. However, he had to fly upward to get out and in flight he wouldn't fit out. I called the SCHS and an officer came out. By that time I'd pried the lid up using a bar that came to me from my Dad who was a set-up man at the Uchtorff machine shop years ago and I placed a 4x4x4 underneath a corner to hold the lid up and allow the bird to escape. It chose to sit in a pile of its own doo-doo in a corner of the storm draIn, I reached in with a fabric appliance that came with the car and it hopped aboard but flew not out but out of sight and into a niche in the concrete near the top beneath the cast iron lid. I raised the lid on its edge and braced it with a 2x2, climbed in and used the rounded edge of a coat hanger to encourage the little bird to take flight and it did, out and into a bush across the street. I don't know if it is old enough to take care of itself, and i'm hoping the parent birds are nearby to help it along. Made my day!


Another animal story for you. Out weeding today, half done, I see a bird swoop through my peripheral vision with a cry I'd not heard before. The cry was like the scream of a hawk. I called my wife's attention to the bird, and we stood watching it for a full minute and when it didn't fly away advanced slowly toward it. It was a cockatiel, a beautiful bird, that leapt on my lap when I knelt by it and climbed my arm, walking sideways, all the while tweaking my arm, little pinches with its beak. We dropped the little bird off at the Humane Society on W. Central Park. The bird is missing a foot. The bird loves human beings.


What? My animal story for the summer, not so pretty. I was tooling along on a Memorial Day errand and noted what looked like a road-kill rabbit in the entrance to one of the courts north of us. When I came back that way, the 'dead' rabbit lifted its head on a stretched neck at my approach. I went home and prepared myself for the mercy mission, the galvanized steel tub i bought for dunking for apples, heavy rubber gloves and clean terry-cloth rags. I found what was basically half a rabbit, mangled and raw hind legs but an alert and normal front half. I genly lifted the animal into the tub and took it to the vet E.R. for euthanizing.


A great story. I've missed out on a lot of good stuff from you. I haven't looked at either of the newspapers I get in the print editions in months, the subscriptions my donations to the Truth, I hope. Often the incredible brutality that pops up daily in the news prompts me to turn over to the weather channel. The sound of the TV is just company with a human voice, the dogs are my 'real' friends. I hope you will be recounting the successful hatching of the eggs and the march of the ducklings Indian-file behind a nervous mother. The dogs and I watched some at VanderVeer lagoon earlier, sharp contrast on the water, though, the ducklings in a loose group behind the muttering mother, to the goslings, single file between the parents.

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