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Ducked Out?

April 11th, 2005

Ducked Out?

OK, so after not blogging in any real way in who the hell knows how long, here I come with what might well be the most inane post in the history of inane blog posts (which is actually saying something). Still, I’ve gotta write something somewhere, because this is driving me nuts and I’ve gotta get it out of my head.

Let’s start with some background. In the town where I live (Northampton, Mass.) there is a terrific park called Look Park. It’s privately held and managed, but open for public use. I buy a season pass every year, and spend lots and lots of time there, mostly strolling and picnicking. It’s pretty. And it’s big. There’s an outdoor amphitheater there where a company I used to work for presents some pretty impressive concerts every summer. There’s a little zoo. There’s all variety of playgrounds and playing fields. There’s a little pond where people go for paddleboat rides. There’s a little shed near the pond where people get married. There’s a little choo-choo for kids to ride. So, you know, like that.

And there has always been, for as long as I’ve been going to the park, a pretty sizable sord of mallards that just kinda hangs out there and gets fed like crazy. The ducks don’t leave during the winter, probably because there are still plenty of folks who go to the park and feed them (plus I’ve seen park staff showering them with little duck corns scooped out of a giant bucket, so even if no one were showing up, they’d be doing pretty well).

So, OK, those ducks are there all the time. You go to the spot where the ducks hang out and there they are, hanging out. You put a quarter in the little gumball type vending machine, get a handful of corn and delight your toddler by getting the duckies to come right up to his feet in pursuit of a free meal. It’s just ducks, but it’s big happy shit when you’re a little guy.

But here’s the thing. The ducks are gone. Gone where? I don’t know. Just gone. Three, maybe four weeks ago, they disappeared. And they haven’t come back. So now, you go to the spot where the ducks used to hang out and there they aren’t. Not a duck. Not a drake. Not a nothing. So what I’m wondering is, as a particular little fellow I know puts it, “Where duckies go?”

I’ve got a pretty good idea where they didn’t go. They didn’t go off to breed. Mallards breed in August. And, sure, summer does seem to be coming on a lot more quickly than usual here in New England. But no one’s likely been fooled into thinking it’s August, especially not ducks. So there’s that.

I’m not the only one thinking about this. I’ve overheard a good number of conversations about it while at the park. No one seems to know the answer. No one even seems to have a decent guess. But everyone seems to think something weird is afoot.

On my way out of the park yesterday, I decided to ask about it. I stopped and asked the kid “park ranger” at the gate if he knew what was up. He might have, but if he did he wasn’t saying. He looked startled by the question, but not in a “there’s a weird question I would never have seen coming” kind of way. He looked started in a “oh, shit, they’re asking about it now” kind of way. Or that was my read, anyhow. And, not to pat myself on the back too much, but I’ve always been pretty good at reading that kind of thing. “I don’t know,” he shrugged after taking a few seconds to recover. “They all just sort of left.”

I don’t believe it. I don’t believe that after however long it’s been, this great group of ducks just decided en masse to leave a nice little spot filled to overflowing with easy eats just as the lean season was winding down and the buffet was set to open. That said, I can’t imagine what else could have happened. Would the park have had them removed? I can’t imagine it. Why? What would be the point? And there’s no way duck rustling can be in any way profitable. (Or at least not enough so to make it worth the risk of hanging. Duck rustling is a hanging offense, right?) So tell me, what gives? Where duckies go?

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