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The Voices of Spencer Creek Valley

Spencer Creek Journal

A friendly ghost story in memory of Godzilla, a rare bird who gave us joy.
As the Wild Ones fly south overhead, I remember . . .

A Duck's Life

By M. G. Hudson

Godzilla the Duck

I came into this world as an egg. I remember warmth and soft reds.
One day I had the energy to peck and break through. I saw a big bill moving towards me. A big bright eye. Golden.I learned this was my mother. There were others with me, little wet creatures, just like me. I learned they were my brothers and sisters. Mother said we were ducks and would learn to hunt bugs and slugs and to swim.

She rubbed her bill over her oil glands and carefully applied her oil to our immature feathers to keep us warm. Soon we followed Mother to the water, a wild place running to the sea. Shade from trees, flashing fins, little larvae, clouds under me, I paddled after her feathers.
"Now, dearest duckkins, remember to swim right here, under the vine maple and willows. Never swim far with the current or you will soon be very far away."
Yes, Mother, we quacked, noticing our special place.

A giant webless foot with a featherless face feed us grains. Big black boots and a strange voice came, too. But it was kindly. Mother said, "Be not afraid. It is the grainfeeder."
Mother showed us how to hunt and to find tiny fresh shoots just like the Wild Ones, our migrating cousins. Little sweet slugs were my favorite. We dove under waters, in puddles and around leaves looking, always looking.
When the golden sun flew to its nest, Mother led us to the duck house where we were safe from the raccoons and owls. Overhead Wild Ones flew west to the sea. "Wait for me! Wait for me!" I honked.

Mother laugh-quacked, " Dear duckkins, they are the Wild Ones . It is their instinct to fly and ours to stay."

We were happy. At night we rested under Mother's wings. She told us stories, clucking gently. Stories about the Great Duck and the biggest water -- the sea, high land called mountains, and "the duckkins who honked coyote". My favorite one was about my father. He was a handsome drake who came every first-flower time from the south. He always brought Mother a bit of wild rice in his bill from far beyond the mountains.Then he followed his flock while she stayed here, this place of meadows and forests. My dreams followed him. Someday I would fly like my wild father and cousins. Someday I would fly through the clouds instead of only swimming through their reflection on the water.

One day, a strange featherless face cooed at us. Mother knew what this meant. She said,"My darling duckkins, it is now time for us to part. You must go to other duck houses. Now, now... be brave, my ducklings. Remember, hunt well, swim well, hide from bad ones who would eat you. Girls, someday you will lay eggs. Share some with your grainfeeders. Raise some to be your duckkins. Teach them as I have taught you. Be a credit to your feathers. And never forget, you are a Campbell and a Wild Wood duck. The best of both duck worlds... Good bye,goodbye!" she clucked us.
I was sad to leave but also eager for adventures. I was whisked away into a box with holes. Then Sister was there so I didn't feel so bad. A lid came over us. As we were carried, I heard Mother call, "Be brave. I will always love you. Take care of your feathers!" I answered , "Goodbye, goodbye!" A horrible noise, loud slamming and we were off to a new life.

We found ourselves in a small cozy duck house. Lots of fresh cut hay, no ramp. Sister and I made a nest by ourselves.We quacked ourselves to sleep. After a long while, the grainfeeders lifted us us out. We explored the garden. What a delight! Amidst the growing plants, there was a feast of slugs and bugs. After a little while, we ventured farther afield. There was a big long meadow with tall grass pocked by thousands of tiny rain ponds. I saw clouds reflected in the grass. Thousands of frogs sang. I tried to eat a tiny green frog but he yelled and hopped out of my bill.
Far to the south east beyond a dangerous, feather tearing fence were cows and horses. (The big heron told us what they were.) They called friendly greetings but kept to themselves most of the time. At the bottom of the long broad meadow grew shady green trees over the running water, running to the sea. Beyond, the meadow rose up to the hills, feathered thickly with forests where the raccoons, owls and coyotes lived.
Sister had sprained her foot and we were returning slowly to the duck house. The sun glided low over the hills and a honking such as I never heard before filled the air. The sky slowly filled with wild wood ducks. Their calls and replies thrilled me. They landed to feed and visit. Sister introduced us. We learned some were on the great route and some lived in the forests above. Soon Sister and I had new friends. They came often then. I asked about my father but no one knew him. We listened to their tales and I dreamed of flying with them someday. Maybe I would meet my father, visit Mother or see the sea.

There was a day when the first flowers were unfolding and very good little slugs were hatching. At dusk, the wild ducks came to feed and visit as they often did. This evening a migrating male was with them. Sister quacked and giggled and wiggled. I went on feeding, searching for tender shoots and tasty bugs and slugs. This young male was handsome and well-mannered, letting Sister sieve and search a tiny pond with her bill before he did. His name was High Lake. He came back day after day. Soon a moon had come and gone and our grain-feeders began to coax High Lake to grain with us. One night we asked him to stay with us in the duck house. He accepted.

Life had new interest for us. I paid more attention to my feathers, egg-laying, the kinds of rain, the winds and scents from the sea, and the far away stars slowly flying between the racing clouds. Coyotes called . Frogs sang. We were not afraid. We all had each other.
We nestled in the duck house and made extra eggs. Sister and I hide four eggs and tended them to maturity. On a cool day with a warm wind, the miracle happened. The eggs moved, a tapping within. The shells broke open and there were our duckkins! Soon we had four scrawny quackers! In a few days they followed us to the wild water.We taught them to swim and to find food. And to hide from those who would eat us. I tried to remember all my mother taught us and so teach our little ones.

The Wild Ones came to say hello to our duckkins and compare their duckkins to ours. Some drakes teased High Lake about being "domesticated". He ignored them and was a good mate and father. But late at night when the hunting owls winged through the meadow and far above, the clouds raced in from the sea, he heard the Wild Ones flying and honking. He honked in return, "I haven't forgotten the ways of the flock. I can still fly. Remember me!"
I quacked nothing. I kept these things in my heart and our duckkins under my wing.

When the air was full of cherry blossom petals and the rains became soft and warm, a strange furless face came and cooed over our little ones.
"How odd these grain-feeding egg stealers are," remarked High Lake. "They don't even have a proper bill. How do they ever eat?"
But Sister and I knew what was about to happen. We quacked with concern and gave the duckkins their last lesson." ...And remember, you're a Campbell and a Wild Wood duck, the best of both duck worlds. Good bye, goodbye!"
My littlest one, Dink, cried out, "Mommy!" as he was scooped up and put in a box.
"Be brave. I will always love you. Take care of your feathers!" I quacked backed, just as my Mother quacked to me.

About the grainfeeders, we know very little about them although they are an important part of our lives. We learned some of their quacks but as a family flock, we never quite trusted them. I guess the egg-taking during the longer, warmer days was something I tolerated. Maybe because I was grateful for a safe duck house or maybe warm mash on freezing days. Or maybe I liked the kind praise in our main grainfeeder's odd quacks.

One day when the sun was long in the lake of the sky, I hurt my leg. It began to swell and feel very hot. I hopped along. Soon I became very ill. My grainfeeder took me from my house and brought me into her house. It was very strange. She forced some vile potion down my bill and wrapped me in warm thick cloth. I was too weak to argue much.

Many days came and went. Slowly I began to heal. She and I became friendly and she told me many things I didn't understand. But I realized she was a creature like myself in some ways and I began to appreciate her attentions.

A terrible thing happened during the cold dormant time when the grain feeders strung lights outside and made strange wailing quacks together. Monstrous machines with grainfeeders came and ate the forest beyond the meadow. What terrible noises, smells and sights.It went on for days and days.
I saw the rabbits and deer, coyotes, raccoons and mice flee. (I didn't miss the owl but I knew he was treeless.) Most of the Feathered Ones left, small flocks of wrens, quail, woodpeckers and goshawks. Most of the wood ducks left."Wait! Wait! Take me with you!" I flap my wings uselessly.
Why did the machines do this? Why? Now if they are hungry again, they will find nothing to eat here.
Soon the rains began again. We go to the water. It is very muddy. Later I wait for the little finned ones to come but they never do. The hills are featherless and bare. When the moon rose, I did not know my home.

Grainfeeders live with a lot of noises. But the worst ones were the ones they made at each other. My grainfeeder sometimes dropped salty water from her eyes on me. I felt her sorrow and tried to comfort her, poor featherless thing... Sometimes I gave her a cheer of hearty quackes to make her feel better. She would laugh her odd quack and put her webless front foot on my head.
When she brought me back to the duck house, I missed her although I was so glad to be with Sister and High Lake. I learned grainfeeder called us names: I was Godzilla, Sister was Brown Beauty and High Lake was Wild Thing. I was Godzilla because I was such a mighty slug hunter and protected her garden. I never learned her name.

We awoke one morning to a lot of grainfeeder noise. Usually we woke the grainfeeders, gently singing the dawn song and the coming joys of breakfast grain.. . "For pity worm's sake! Where are those egg- stealers?" High Lake grumped. "If they aren't going to feed us, they should let us out."
Soon several machines fouled the air. Many things were carried out from the grainfeeders house to the machines. All day their fellow creatures went back and forth. Finally it was quiet again. The rain fell softly. It was dusk.We were trapped in the duck house! They left and forgot all about us! Egg-stealers!

A strange egg-stealer came. She cooed us. She tried to catch us and put us in a wire cage. No!No! Leave us alone! She grabbed Sister who honked and squawked. She got High Lake who seemed resigned. But I struggled for a long time before this stranger captured me. We were in the open back of her machine in the cage. Soon the home and meadows and water we knew became a swirl of sounds and smells. The winds broke harsh on us: I protected my eyes and remembered what my Mother had said: "Be brave. I will always love you."

The Creek

The bad dream came to an end. We were at another grainfeeder's place. This was different. The forest was much closer. We could hear the running wild water. Owls called all through the night, a fearful lullaby. A big nervy raccoon came and rattled our cage. My heart almost stopped for fear. A black rabbit lived in a large cage on stilts. She would not speak but cried sometimes in the night. We were kept there for many days, fed well and received kindly sounds. There were three grainfeeders. A mother, a father and a very large "duckkins". One day we had our freedom. We explored our new world. It was wonderful! So many bugs and slugs.So many moist places to hunt, tiny tadpoles and crunchy snails everywhere.
The next day High Lake said," Let's find the wild water! " and we did. The banks to the water was very steep. The water cool and deep. We dove and swam and played like duckkins.

I heard the grainfeeder calling, "Duckies, O, Duckies!" I quacked back, beginning to feel friendly. I saw her far above us. She called and coaxed but we ignored her. High Lake was as happy as I ever saw him. He swam under me, coming up with a morsel he shared.
"Wives," he quacked. "let's be free - Forget the grainfeeding egg-stealers. Fly with me. We will find the Wild Ones."
"Husband, "said Sister, quacking in fear, "we can't fly like you."
"Try", he quacked, "try! The Great Duck made you to fly!"
We tried. We flapped and skittered down the canyon of trees and water but we were poor fliers.
Soon the two male grainfeeders were above us. They climbed down the banks and waded into the deep water. My domestic instincts betrayed me. After an obliging flutter of my near useless wings, I waited to be grabbed. So did Sister. High Lake honked a warning and flapped his strong wings. His wild instincts betrayed us. He lifted off. The grainfeeders could not catch him. He flew down the green corridor calling, "Farewell, my sweets!"

For many days we mourned the flight of our mate. Life seemed dull and distressing. But life goes on and we found comfort in each other, the daily jobs of hunting bugs and slugs, and watching the stars at night. High Lake once said the stars were ponds of the ancestors, reflections of the Great Duck's eye.
The grainfeeders made us a new house, higher off the ground. They put in lots of fragrant hay. Its door let down to make a ramp. Then they dug a new little pond for us right in the little yard. It got muddy soon after we had our first bath of the day. The better pond was the one close to their often noisy house. The water was clean and cool running down stones, Many beautiful fishes swam there and flavored the water just right. We cheered ourselves up by sneaking into it as often as possible.
When we were bored we quacked to the little feathered ones who shared our grain ( be kind to your fair feathered friends as Mother used to say...) and chased the five cats to remind them who was in charge. Us!
We began to take our patrolling and warning duties seriously. We became the official greeters and quacked well for our grainfeeders. I became especially fond of the youngest one, poor dear, featherless duckkins! He brought us all sorts of good grain and always remembered to change our water. Well, almost always. I always quacked hello when I heard him coming.

A day to remember was when the grass in the meadow was as high as a horse and the air as hot as the Great Duck's breath. Our grainfeeder and her large featherless duckkins drove down the shady driveway in their nasty machine. We quacked our usual greetings, feeling more trusting these days. But horrors! A huge furry monster came bounding out, barking like a mad coyote. My ears ached. It was a dog! The kind of typical monster Mother warned us about. I learned his name was Laddie. He watched us carefully. We quacked back fiercely. He seemed to respect us and soon we lost our fear of this legendary monster. He seemed friendly but we always kept an eye out for him.
He kept an eye open for us, too. He chased away that dangerous raccoon that came that very night. After that, we told the cats to be decent to him and we would be decent to them

The leaf falling time and the frozen time came and then the first flower time, again. The rabbit never said much. Once in a while Rabbit wanted to run around the enclosed yard and charge us. My sister, Brown Beauty and I let her do this. It makes her feel good. The little feathered ones come when they are hungry and we share our grains. Sometimes the young yellow cat comes. He means no harm. And safe at night, I dream of flying. I dream of finding High Lake and Mother. And Father, sunning himself in the far North. "Duckie Girls, Duckie Girls", my grainfeeder calls and I follow grateful for grain and safety. Sorry, High Lake. My wings are weak. My eggs are strong.

One day a nasty little dog monster came. He stayed in the grainfeeders house with Laddie. They locked us up in our yard all day and half the next. Our pond was warm, muddy, boring. Bye and bye our "Duckie Girl" grainfeeder let us out. Joy and relief! I was busy getting a slug from under a stone when that fast furry little dog bolted out of the house and came straight for me. Great Duck, I was a goner! I ran. His mouth was almost on my neck when he was knocked over by a blur of golden fur. Laddie! Saved, I squawked and dashed for the duck house. Nasty dog was leashed. My gate was closed. Laddie sat down outside. I went to him and said through the gate, "Thank you Laddie. You are a true friend." I knew it costed him to run so fast. He was very old and sore. Sister rubbed my neck. We went to nest early.

It was only yesterday, I heard a wild duck cry. I heard frogs singing.
I thought I heard High Lake calling, "Come, my dears! Come fly!"
I began to run, building speed. I lifted my wings. Yes, a little... try, try! Suddenly I was on the road; a big machine came down upon me and lifted me into the air. I was flying!

Then I looked down and saw my body, feathers fluttering, neck bent. How curious. I was flying so well. I circled back to see what happened. A little female grainfeeder got out of the machine and lifted my broken body from the road and placed me at another house close by. She thought I lived there.
After a while. the grainfeeder who lived there put my cold feathers in a bag.

I followed her as she carried my body to my grainfeeder who dropped water from her eyes. Sister honked and called and couldn't hear my answer. I flew to her and rubbed her neck. I know she felt me. I said goodbye to Laddie.He understood. And then I flew and am flying still from star to star, ponds of the ancestor, reflections of the eye of the Great Duck.

©Copyright 2000 by M.G. Hudson

Also see A Dog's Life

M.G. lives and works in the Spencer Creek Valley, Oregon.

© Spencer Creek Press, West By Northwest 2000-2002 All Rights Reserved unless otherwise noted.

The opinions expressed by the authors are not necessarily the opinions of the publisher and/or sponsors.



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