Life ebbs and flows on a farm. This past week witnessed the passing of Caesar, the little goat who had been in residence at Rock's Roost for less than a week - and yesterday an older friend also appeared to be preparing to depart this idyllic rural life.
Hector, the senior duck at the farm, has been a fixture here since his birth in a incubator on my kitchen table top last July. The beautiful black Cayuga was undoubtedly lonely through most of his existence here at the farm, being the only creature in residence with webbed feet. Six weeks or so ago I brought home four little Cayuga ducklings and six Toulouse goslings. I kept the little birds together in a caged area for a month or so until I felt they had reached sufficient size to survive life in a penned compound. Hector, who had begun to notice that they bore some resemblance to himself, offered no resistance when I ushered him into the penned area to join them.
There is a garden shed in the pen, and Hector wisely slept there the first night, but the little water fowl dog-piled into a corner of the pen for safety. Nevertheless, some stealthy predator entered the pen and made off with one of the ducklings the first night that they spent outside of the caged area. The next day I smartened up and erected a couple of barricades behind which the little birds could hide. I also set up a radio in the yard and let a classic rock station play across the outdoor area for the next several nights, giving the illusion that humans were active throughout the evening hours.
The radio worked amazingly well, and I believe that the syndicated radio program, "Nights with Alice Cooper" was especially instrumental in keeping the predators at bay. Now I only play the radio at night on an occasional basis, yet the raids on the poultry have not resumed.
Hector is a strange and crafty duck. He often disappears in the evenings, and try as I might I can't figure out where he goes - but he is always back by the next morning. Some mornings he would reappear within the closed hen house, meaning that he had actually been there all evening, but the not-too-bright farmer was not able to find him. Once Hector moved in with the ducks and geese, he began hiding and sleeping during the day and then patrolling the pen at night.
But Hector disappeared for a couple of days, which was unusual, and did not reappear until yesterday afternoon. He presented as weak and lethargic. When some of the young roosters decided to take advantage of his weakened condition and attack, I jumped in and sent the feathered bullies fleeing for safety. Then I picked poor Hector up, something he would normally never allow. He emptied his gullet of water as I held him - and he looked to be very frail.
Hector, in his nearly a year at the farm, had never discovered the small pond that sits over a slight rise about a hundred yards from the hen house. I carried him to the edge of the pond and sat him down. He waddled out into the water and went for a swim. I came back about an hour later and found him still in water sitting among the reeds next to the bank . He appeared content, though far from frolicsome. When I again returned just before dusk, the duck was gone - and he was not around this morning.
I fear that this time Hector is gone for good - which is sad because he was on the verge of having a community of web-footed friends with whom to share his farm existence. Not only are the six goslings, now half-grown, and three Cayuga ducklings all still doing well, but two weeks ago I brought home an additional four Cayugas. Rock's Roost is fast becoming "Ducks and Geese R Us!" Hector would have so loved that - particularly as he would have been the Big Duck in the very small pond.
(In related news, Sony Pictures has announced a remake of 1964's "Father Goose" which will feature a mature Ryan Gosling in the title role - and MGM/UA is set to begin filming an as yet untitled psychodrama staring Ben and Casey Affleck as a pair of obnoxious insurance salesmen. The musical score for the untitled flick is being composed by Drake. Honk! Quack!)
Please enjoy today's simple and fantastical farm poem, "A Goose and a Duck" by Jade Elizabeth Trainor. If Hector has moved on to a different life, I hope he has a goose, or some other friend, to be his companion.
A Goose and a Duck
by Jade Elizabeth Trainor
Holding each others wings like arms,
The farmer froze and watched them cross the yard,
His wife stock still and staring hard.
A dog started to bark loudly at the two,
It startled them so into the air they flew,
Past the farm and into the town,
It never occurred to them to look down.
Past the town and into the city,
The air smelled stale and slightly gritty,
They landed in a large flock of birds,
But neither could understand a single word.
Into the sunrise they set off the next day,
They didn’t have time for the slightest delay,
Side by side the flew through the air,
The city folk all stopped at once to stare.
Upon their return home to the farm,
The cold night air still and calm,
They flew into the barn to sleep,
Wings around each other not a peep.