a black list and a northwest mallard

THE REDMOND BRANCH of the King County Library System (KCLS) is a couple of miles from our house. I headed there around two one afternoon last week to pick up the first season’s worth of The Blacklist, a television series that my sister Mary Alice had been encouraging me to see. It was a beautiful day for a walk and I just moseyed along down Avondale Road, becoming one with the walk, my (small ‘z’) zen exercise for the day).

I was fortunate to pass a couple of younger walkers who somehow did not have their mini-earphones on so I was actually able to engage them in conversation.

Me: “Hi! Beautiful day!”

He: (“mumble mumble”)

She: (“mumble mumble”)

Um, I consider this to be making headway in the ongoing cultural battle/generational-gap-thing between aging hippies seeking some oneness with their environment—which does, you know, often include other humans—and the generations-searching-for-an-identity that have followed who prefer obliviousness.

Midway, I walked through a small area that is more wooded than usual for an urban area. Fairly thick woods sit on the one side of the street while 100 yards ahead there is a small grass field with a reasonable size stream running through it. The former hides a few deer and raccoons, while the latter hosts several families of ducks (mostly common-to-the-Northwest mallards) and the occasional geese (visiting from Canada).

In fact, I have come closer to hitting a deer bounding across the road at night in Redmond, Washington, than I ever did in the mountainous areas of Pennsylvania!

As I walked, enjoying the feel of the sun, my attention was called to my left, where a beautiful male duck was flopping around on the asphalt in the idle of Avondale Way. One moment he wasn’t there, the next he was. I didn’t hear the flapping of wings that would have warned me of a large bird landing ten feet away.

And, if the bird had fallen from the sky without braking, I saw no sign of damage or even his having been stunned by the impact. He was just there and obviously panicked although not necessarily in pain. I held up my hands to stop traffic, except there was no traffic at that moment. (Reflex, y’know.) I bounded (love that word; makes me feel Errol Fynn-ish1) onto the road and picked the duck up.


It was the first time that I had ever held so large a wild bird before.

The duck—I recognized him immediately as a drake, a male mallard—did not appear damaged: no signs of the fall and he was moving his wings about. I couldn’t see why he was on the asphalt instead of in the sky. And he kept rubbing his head against my forearm.

Then I saw it: some green plastic webbing was wrapped around his bill. I assume that he picked it up in the stream ahead.

I took him to the side of the road, placed him on the grass, held him with one hand, and removed the plastic with the other.

And just like that—POW!—he burst out of my grasp and into the high brush and into the woods.

Looking pretty damn healthy, I might add.

So, had I ‘saved’ a doomed duck from a decidedly foul death by starvation, or had I merely alleviated a temporary inconvenience that any competent drake would have handled on his own?

I waved, wished him well in my best imitation of Donald Duck—which works best if I pretend to be angry, like Unca Donald so often was—and went on my way to getting The Blacklist for the evening’s after-dinner entertainment for Berni and me . . .