Sunday, April 26, 2015

1980: Year of the Ducky

In the Spring of 1980, change was in the air. A recent downpour of rain had blanketed the Mississippi Delta and the sleepy little town of Lake Village, Arkansas, began to wake up and stir.

My mother and I were walking along Main Street towards Lake Chicot, which laid outstretched on the east end of town. As we walked past Murphy's, a local mercantile store, we stopped in front of the Sam's Feed and Seed. I could hear chirping coming from inside.

My mother, Jeanette, took me by the hand and led me inside.  My seven year old eyes lit up with excitement as we walked over to the pens that held a large number of baby ducklings.  As my mother talked with the owner to get the price, I looked them all over and one in particular had a gleam of mischief in his eyes.  That was the duck that I wanted.

The man at the counter grabbed a tall, brown paper bag and picked up the duck I had selected. I smiled ear to ear as I looked into the back and Ducky chirps happily at me.  The man also gave me some food and I placed it inside the bag with Ducky and he ate his fill.

Once we returned to our home on the corner of Hwy Street and N. Court Street, we placed Ducky in a small cage and kept him in the kitchen. I would take him out and let him run all around the place, many times to my mother's disapproval. Where we lived, we were attached to a larger house where my grandmother and step-grandfather lived, along with my Uncle George.  Luckily, we had a door on the west side that led to a fenced off portion of the yard where Ducky and I would play.

As Ducky got older, just as school let out in May, we would take walks together all the way back to Main Street and to the Old Water Tower located on Wayne Street. I would even sometimes pull out my tan and brown BMX bicycle with the long, brown, tan and orange banana seat and let Ducky ride on the handle bars. There I was, wearing my polyester button down shirt, red and green plaid jeans, brown shoes and my Alfalfa haircut with a full grown duck riding high, flapping his wings as we went.

My other best friend was a boy named Marcus Anderson.  He and I were a couple of scrawny little runts that practically lived on the streets.  When the other, bigger kids would come around, they enjoyed running over us.  Until Ducky came along, that is. When the big kids came around and we were with Ducky, he would flap his wings, honk and chase after them.  The other kids even accused Ducky of having rabies.

Ducky decided to stay with Marcus one night. It didn't work out since the next morning, Ducky was sitting on my porch. Apparently Marcus' mom wasn't too happy with him for bring Ducky over as a bunk mate.

Once the Summer began in June, it was time for me to take a trip to stay a few weeks with my dad who lived thirty miles away in Hamburg.  Mom said that we were running out of room for Ducky and that my dad lived on a large farm and had plenty of room for Ducky to roam and make friends with the other ducks that my dad tended to.  So Ducky and I packed it up to visit my dad for the Summer.

Dad told me that Ducky was a girl, not a boy, but luckily the name I picked worked either way.  I didn't get to see much of Ducky after that because once my dad introduced her to the pond, she didn't want to leave.  When it was time to return home, I left my best friend in the world behind.

When I had to go back to my dad's for Christmas, it was then that I had discovered that Ducky did not make it long on her own. My father said that she had built a nest and laid some eggs near the tree line just outside of the fence and that an animal had taken her.

Ducky brought a lot of joy in my life that year.  Memories that remain with me in my old age. So the next time you see some weird kid with some strange animal and that kid is bouncing around without a care in the world, just smile and nod. That kid has found the best friend they will ever have.

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