My dad loved competition and he loved old timey country fairs. Back when I was a kid, before PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) carried its heavy hammer, you could go to these shindigs and with the right toss of a coin or a ball or a chip..depending on what game you're playing, win a little animal. So off we went to the fair to have a good ole family bonding time.
We weren't there very long when we came to some sort of game..I don't remember exactly what, when dad pulled out a pocket of change and began to 'compete.' He won (Of course he did. He was MY DAD.) The prize? Four little yellow ducklings.
So there I was, maybe five years old, sitting in the back seat of our car, a big box with holes punched in the top, on my lap.
I was amazed. Never in my life did I think I would come home that day with four little adorable baby ducks. Again, my memory fails me as to what we did with them the very first night, but early the next morning, dad got up and went to the hardware store to purchase what was needed to make a cage.
All the while our dog, Blackie, watched. She had given birth to a litter of puppies a few months earlier and we had just given the last of them away earlier that week. I think she thought we had brought them back to her because no sooner had we put the ducklings into that cage, when she went over, did her sniffing thing, and lay down beside them, a contented gleam in her big brown eyes.
We had a fenced in yard, erected a couple years before to keep me from 'escaping,' so later that day, dad decided it was okay to let the ducklings out of the cage and wander around our backyard. Blackie was all excited, wagging her tail and sniffing the little backsides of the yellow babies. Now, ducks do not have humongous brains. Soon one little yellow birdie began to follow Blackie around the yard. Soon all four formed a line behind her, following their new 'mama' wherever she went.
Blackie never left here new 'litter.' For days she stuck by them, watching their every move, protective, loving, focused, as only a mother can be. Eventually, we let them all out of the fence and the entire neighborhood would laugh and laugh, to see this medium sized black dog strut down the sidewalk with four ducklings in a straight line following her. She was theirs and they were hers and that was that.
The ducklings did what nature intended for them to do..they grew. Their yellow feathers began to be replaced with tufts of white and my mom and dad soon broke it to me that the ducks needed too go to a new home.
I remember crying and crying, sobbing my heart out, for myself, my ducklings, for Blackie. But my folks had friends who owned a small farm in the country and they convinced me the ducks would be happier with more space.
Soon, the duck cage was loaded in the back of their friends truck, the babies locked inside, and we followed them to the farm.
"Don't worry, honey," mom comforted me, "We'll bring you to see them."
So, I began to feel good about giving them a bigger area to play in.
At first, we went quite often to visit mom and dad's friends and my duckies but it didn't take long for life to take over and so we didn't get to the farm for a couple of months. Then when we did, I bolted out of our car and ran into the farmhouse.
"Where are they?" I asked the kind farmers wife.
"Out back, sweetie." she told me.
I took off like a cannonball. I was going to see my beautiful yellow babies! I rounded the corner of a rough wood shed and heard them. Their sweet little voices had changed and instead of a high pitched peep, i heard a deep gravelly, 'quack.' I stopped dead in my tracks. My babies were no longer itty bitty yellow balls. Now they were white and BIG! In fact, they were almost as big as I was! Suddenly, they all stood still and stared at me with these frightening beady eyes. I stare back. I was horrified but not as much as I was a few seconds later when these huge white, loud birds began to run straight at me.
I took off. I ran, they chased. I did not even want to think what would happen if they caught me. They batted their wings in a display of toughness. The woman of the house must have seen this because she came out with a broom and chased them away from me.
"Those aren't my ducklings! " I sniffled.
"Honey, they grew up is all."
It was a while before I asked to go see them again, but eventually I decided to 'man-up,' as much as a little five-year-old-gal CAN 'man-up,' and went again to the farm.
I timidly walked outside and peeked nervously around the corner of that rough-wood shed. Nothing. Nada. Nosirree, no ducks, big or small. I glanced around me. Still no ducks in sight. I meandered back to the house. all the grownups were sitting in the kitchen drinking coffee and eating pie.
"Um, I can't find my ducks."
They all just stared at me.
"Where are my ducks?"
Someone, I do not remember who, began to tell me about the purpose of a farm and how things are 'different' than they are for 'city folks.' I listened, my little girl brain not fully understanding, but understanding enough to get the drift of what was being said to me
"You ate my ducks???"
No answer, but I knew that was exactly what they did.
It was a long, long time before I forgave the lot of them. They ate my ducks, for God's sake! How could they eat some kid's pets? How could they do that??
Eventually, I forgave them, tho. But it took many years.