a black list and a northwest mallard

Es­ti­mated reading time is 3 min­utes.

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 . . .


Mallards 1000




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