and I have always had an international investment or two,
but for 20 years never had a pet. We never had time for animals
or had enough time for ourselves in one place in the world.
Looking for the perfect international investment pretty well
Since we moved
to the farm we have added our Pumpkin Patch hound dog Ma,
a operatic Canary, Neil, 13 chickens, geese, guinas, turkeys
and a batch of baby Mallard ducklings all the way from
McMurray Hatchery here to the farm.
They arrived on
a Sunday (we were pleased to find that our Government does
something for the poor farmer by keeping the post office
open on Sundays just to deliver baby chickens and ducks).
Precious and consisting of 15 little bundles of yellow
and black fluff, they were running around in a box of wood
straw, perfect ducks, but so tiny just a few days old.
This was a new kind of investing for sure! A long stretch
from a international investment.
After being babied
and hand fed on corn meal (we grew them in our precious
old, cast-iron and porcelain bath tub, keeping a propane
heater cranked up so the room stayed at 95 degrees) we
ended up with 14 wild mallards, (four drakes and ten hens).
We only lost one
baby (which I now know in the wild duck world is pretty
amazing stuff). Through the year the flock dwindled a bit,
two drakes flew off one night, and we see them occasionally
on Horse Creek down behind by the old hardware store. Only
God knows why they left but I suspect that in the wild
duck world lots of drakes in one mallard flock don't get
along too well. Then a hen or two disappeared and the remaining
mallard showed up one morning pretty mangled, his wing
broken and quite a few feathers missing. That's when we
got serious about duck security housing them this last
winter in our greenhouse, where they grew very comfortable,
waddling off each morning to play in the creek, but returning
before dark when the foxes, weasels, bobcats and such might
decide on them for an evening meal.
And in this way
the flock remained healthy, very healthy because this spring
all the hens decided to lay and sit. This is when I began
to discover a bit more about wild ducks. In their natural
surroundings wild duckling mortality rates are pretty well
up there. You see mother ducks when they are sitting lay
very low. They are well camouflaged and if you come near,
they huff, puff, rattle their feathers so they look like
a poisonous snake. But it's all pretty much bluff.
This reminded me
an awful lot about many of the advisors who promote and
international investment now and then,. Lots of bluff and
The reality is
a mother duck is pretty darn poor protection when it comes
to fending off a raccoon, looking for duck egg omelets
or a weasel, fox, opossum, bobcat or one of the neighbors
precious dogs, who has decided to enjoy ducklet cutlets
for their morning snack. (As are many advisors of the international
investment poor protection for your wealth)
This is not to
mention the glorious hawks that love to float in the thermals
rising along the hills that line our creek. Their talons
are designed perfectly to fit a #2 duckling. This sad fact
we quickly discovered when our first proud mother brought
her brood out of the greenhouse.
After that, with
a new fox-hawk proof pen raised behind the greenhouse,
our remaining mothers began turning our tiny flock of mallards
into a fleet. And turn it they have.
hens have had almost forty ducklings and three are still
Why do they have
so many babies I asked? Then over the days I learned why.
Duckling mortality is high. Some just poop out. One mama
went berserk and started killing all the other mothers'
babies! (She now belongs to a neighbor and fortunately
the remaining mamas have happily taken over her brood.)
A few get crushed when the whole herd moves and at times
I have observed a mother turn on one of her own babies
and whack them and throw them out. Something about survival
of the fittest I think. Those mamas understand something
we do not.
Anyway, we still
had about twenty five ducklings this morning and I had
been keeping my eye on one in particular. He looked very
different every since arriving three days ago, almost pure
yellow, whilst all his brothers and sisters are much more
mottled tending toward brown and black. He never looked
really good, but I thought he was getting better.
was so distinctive that I named him. Being a pretty imaginative
guy I called
this bright, yellow fluff ball "Yellow". I don't
think I have to explain.
Let me take a step
back here and say right now that this being the fourth
year on the farm I have learned not to name my farm animals
(most of them at least). This lesson was drummed in when
our first flock of chickens, called Sgt. Pepper's Lonely
Hearts Club Band met up with our neighbor's precious dog
Sgt. Pepper was
one heck of a rooster, a big salt and pepper colored guy,
and from the way the feathers were strewn everywhere I'd
say he made Fang pay for his meal. But Glenda (one of his
hens) was just a few feathers and half a leg and Queeny
was strewn all across the farm yard.
Fang by the way
also got our neighbor daughter's baby kitten that day right
in front of the neighbor's tea party. When we arrived as
an upset delegation, Fang was banned back to an ex-husband
But it hurt. These
weren't just dead chickens. That was Sgt. Pepper, Glenda
and Queeny strewn all over the place out there.
that in addition to Fang we have wild dogs, cats, bobcats,
hawks, raccoons and other creatures that do not see the
scenic value of our flock. No amount of chicken wire can
always stop them. This is why we learned not to give them
names. It's so different saying "Darn the Bobcat got
another one of the chickens," than "Gosh look
at that fox running of with Glenda in its mouth!"
I am a slow learner, so when I checked in this afternoon
to see "Yellow" laying
at the entrance of the pen looking crushed, my heart dropped.
That was Yellow,
flattened out in the dust, not just one of twenty or thirty
This was a glory
of a day...the brightest sunny Spring day you could ever
imagine, but even so, my spirits dropped. Looked as if
he was trampled by the crowd, or maybe he did have a problem
and his mother thumped and abandoned him. We'll never know.
I picked him up though, "Yellow" opened his
eyes. Now this sounds pretty stupid that a man and a
three day old duckling
can bond in one second but, what more can I say? There
was some kind of instant understanding between Yellow and
me, some asking. I think we both had the same question.
have been around ducklings enough to know that Yellow
was not long for this
world, so I carried him out into the sunlight. He lay there
in my hand so weak he could not move except to open his
eyes, just to let me know he was still there. I sat down
on a stump in the sun and cupped my hands to warm him (or
her-I haven't been on the farm that long) and started stroking
the little fluff's head and darn if Yellow didn't look
back up in a way to say, "Thanks, that feels good".
But we had an international
investment seminar going up here and delegates would be
coming back from lunch pretty soon. But I decided the heck
with it. They'd all be late on a nice day like this anyway,
so I leaned back against the greenhouse and as I rubbed
yellow's head and started to sing a little lullaby. Perhaps
this is irrational, or sentimental, but I swear that Yellow
told me through his eyes that this soothed him. He had
only been alive for three days, didn't feel very good and
probably knew that he was finished and was being a bit
puzzled by it all (if baby ducks can be puzzled).
Yet at least there
was this one glimmer of pleasure for him in this whole
mess. Some huge creature (me) was stroking his head and
singing just for him. Now my voice isn't really that great
(I assure you I do not sing for my delegates up here) but
I somehow felt that Yellow enjoyed this song. We sat and
blinked at one another for about half an hour (I have to
admit I blinked back a few tears- feeling a bit useless
with nothing to do but just keep Yellow warm and stroke
Then yellow looked
up one final time, stopped blinking and left, leaving me
to solve the puzzle.
Why had God in
his unconditional love granted this duckling three days
of life and then left it to die abandoned in the bottom
of a green house?
the purpose of it all?
I sat there for
awhile before I got up and put Yellow to rest. Then as
I tramped back through the woods, listening to the rushing
of Little Horse Creek and feeling the warm Spring wind
play against my skin, I received an answer that made me
feel more alive.
Even a baby duckling
living for three days has a purpose and can matter!
as we sat there together on that stump warming in the
sun, had sent
me a message. "Live for the moment. Every second is
precious and beautiful and even a three day jaunt ending
in the dust can bring us moments of incredible bliss. A
stroked head, a gentle song in the warm sun. This is life
and this is wonderful, if even for 30 minutes."
So now I have a
favor to ask. Let's make Yellow's life even more important.
Let's make him the most meaningful three day old mallard
duck that has ever lived. Let's let Yellow in his brief
burst of living send every culture in this world the same
wonderful message he shared with me.
is what Yellow said. "Life is precious, love it,
live it, be grateful for it and drink in every second
forward this message to your friends or refer them to GaryScott.com/yellow/.
Yellow and I thank
P.S. Later today
I returned to the greenhouse, just to check things out,
with a little heaviness in my heart. When I looked in I
saw that the eggs of one of the three remaining hens had
started to hatch and there under her was her first duckling,
just born still wet. A little brown and black wild duckling?
No this baby was all bright yellow! Yellow, the 2nd? Do
I dare? Absolutely. If I had wondered whether or not to
write and send this note because of Yellow's dying I know
that Yellow, the 2nd was there to remind me not to let
his recently departed brother's life be forgotten! Make
Yellow be the duckling whose shout was heard around the
Join the Scotts
at this Seminar Hall at Their Farm on Little Horse Creek.
Details at GaryScott.com/catalog