Two neighbors dropped by Rumsey House a couple of nights ago and we were sitting on the porch in the cool evening, drinking red wine and rocking in our chairs overlooking my orchard. Dusk hovered among the trees, a bat fluttered by, I swatted at a gnat. My two Peking Ducks heard our voices and came near, chattering in their duckish voices as they dabbled in the grass for bugs.
“I had ducks once,” Cairo commented. “But they became too tame.”
“Yeah, what do you mean?” asked Leah.
“I mean, they thought I was their mother and wanted me near them all the time. If I was anywhere they could see me, they were happy. But the minute I went inside, they would start hollering for me. It got to be horrible. All that loud quacking.”
“Hmmm,” I murmured.
“But then I had an idea. Well, actually, it was Jenny – you probably don’t know her, she moved away a few years ago – who had the idea. She had given her daughter a giant Barbie doll one year. This Barbie was 4 feet high! Can you imagine?”
We other two leaned forward in our chairs.
“So, I borrowed this giant Barbie and I leaned it out in the yard where the ducks could see her. Then I walked away into the house. The ducks never missed me. As long as that damn Barbie stood there, they were happy!”
I love that story. I’ve had my Peking ducks for several years and they definitely associate me with safety, but I’ve never had to use a doll to keep them quiet. They keep me company whenever I’m weeding, dabbling near my feet. As soon as it gets dark, they return to their pen and I roll a log against their door so raccoons can’t get in. The latch on the gate is too stiff to work properly. When I go jogging at night, I pass their pen and they quack happily at me.