A lot of these stories begin simply then gain complexity as it unfolds. This story follows a familiar path. It begins when Tommy Foster’s parents bought him an Easter Duckling. I am not sure if they still offer Easter Chicks and Ducklings for sale at Easter, but they used to. Looking back on it, it was a poor idea at best. Cute briefly, followed by caring for a farm animal in the city. The experience soon lost its charm.
The Foster’s took good care of their duckling naming him Charlie. Charlie grew and developed into a fine example of a domestic Mallard Drake (male). He was friendly and would follow you around all the while softly quacking. Charlie lived with the Foster’s for a year if my memory is correct. The burden of caring for Charlie was beginning to take its toll.
Tommy was a good friend. There are a couple of other stories on the blog about our adventures. He mentioned to me they wanted to find Charlie a new home. I liked Charlie, but owning a duck was never on my list of things to do. I passed the word along to a group of guys that I hung out with in High School if they knew of anyone interested in a duck.
West was one of those high school buddies. He had been a good friend since third grade. Like any school age kid the friendship would wax and wane during the early years, but by high school we were pretty tight.
Barry came along with my friendship with West. He was a neighbor who lived a few houses down from West. I was not as tight with Barry and our paths probably would have never crossed without West. I was always a little leery of Barry. He was a loose cannon and I was already living with two loose cannons so I did not need an additional one. Barry reads the blog and I think that is an honest appraisal of our relationship, free from any attempt to polish up a memory like a lot of old people do.
Gib, was the last member of the group. We had grown up in the same area of southwest Houston, Texas. I first met Gib through sports and we would continue intermittent contact in the early years via sports. One of the benefits of getting to know Gib was his father Wally. Wally was a good man. I have met few of them in my life, others are compared to Wally and not many stack up.
So one day while commuting to school, I mentioned the Foster’s duck was looking for a new home. It was just one of those things mentioned and it did not gain any traction initially. If the conversation did not have anything to do with a caper, the current status of West latest girlfriend relationship, or beer the conversation never went very far.
A few days later, Gib expresses his interest in the duck. I cannot recall why he was interested, but he was. I facilitated the exchange with the Fosters, and soon Gib was the new owner of Charlie the mallard.
I thought this may not go over well once the rest of Gib’s family realizes they now own a duck. The four of us helped Gib ready a new home for Charlie. The transition was seamless. Charlie was easy going and even tempered as ducks go. He was always happy. Charley was settling in nicely. I was a bit surprised to see that Wally was taken with Charley’s arrival as well.
I cannot remember how soon after Charley had made the move, our discussion turned to his psychological welfare. Since we were predominantly focused on girls at the time, we assumed Charley shared our affliction. We were talking it over one day and decided that Charlie should have a girl friend. Things developed quickly from idea to planning back then. Chipping in and buying Charley a girl friend never came up. It never even occurred to us.
We knew where a bunch of ducks lived at Paul’s Nursery in southwest Houston, Texas. They had a big duck pond out front with easily a hundred ducks in it. We were quickly doing surveillance to plot out the caper to capture an attractive duck for Charlie.
The pond was foul smelling, like a septic pool foul. It did not ever appear to be cleaned ever by the nursery staff. Looking back, why would you have something like that in front of your business makes me wonder. Who comes to a nursery thinking about recreating a septic tank atmosphere in their back yard? Yikes!
During the planning stages we decided we would need a net and all hands on deck to secure a duck. Over whelming force would render the duck flock senseless, and then we could sort through them to find a worthy duck. We had a crab net with a long wood pole, and nothing else but our quick wits and intellect to tackle any obstacle that arose.
It was about 1:30 am when we parked the car up the street in a secluded spot. Paul’s Nursery was located on a fairly busy intersection with a traffic light. The plan was obviously to do this during the dark and when traffic did appear we would all quit moving until they had passed.
It did not take long before we realized that this was not going to be that easy. The pond was bigger than we remembered and the ducks were faster than predicted. The ducks were not greeting us as liberators and were intent to stay put at Paul’s Nursery. At this age one of the things we did best was to improvise and respond to a changing set of conditions. Quitting or leaving without a duck never entered the discussion either.
I do not recall having a set of hip waders along. I don’t think anyone had considered entering the pond as a possibility. It became clear if we were going to secure a duck, someone was going to have to go into the pond. I was not going, no how no way. Gib was always very particular about his grooming habits, so that left him out. West was smarter than the rest of us, so we knew he was not going.
Loose cannon Barry was in the pond before we knew what happened with crab net in hand. The rest of us fell in and began to herd the ducks towards Barry. He was standing mid thigh deep in a septic tank/duck pond with a crab net in his hands. It is one of the fonder recollections I have of Barry. Barry had risen to the challenge, while the rest of us shrunk from it.
Then everything came to a halt instantly! We were frozen like statues in place. There setting at the traffic light was a Houston police car waiting for the light to change. Back in those days there were always two police officers to a vehicle. The officer on the passenger side was looking directly at us. We did not move. The ducks were beginning to calm down, but the policeman continued to stare directly at us.
It took what seemed like an eternity for the light to change. Slowly the police car pulled ahead and on its way to fight major crime in Houston. We quickly got back to business. Once Barry decided to enter the pond the tide shifted in our favor. Two or three attempts later he secured a duck. Not just any duck, but a very attractive Hen Mallard. This had gone better than we had planned.
We all tried to avoid any contact with Barry after his partial immersion in the duck pond. He was ripe to say the least. Once back in the car we took the Hen home to introduce her to Charlie. The attraction was instantaneous and mutual; after all they were attractive ducks.
It was as if they were destined to be together. Destiny at times needs a helping hand. In this case it needed the four of us in addition to a septic pond, and a near miss by the Houston police. To bring this tale to a close, it was a happy ending in every sense of the term. Charley and Louinne happily raised a large bunch of ducklings in Gib’s back yard. His dad Wally loved the ducks. Anytime you visited you first had to hear the latest Duck News from Wally. You would hardly know that Gib existed. I thought Louinne was an overly complex name for a duck, but Gib was dating a girl at the time by the same name. The choice made sense to him, and that was all that counted.
Charlie, Louinne, and their offspring soon out grew Gib’s backyard. Wally however worked with country clubs and golf courses throughout Texas to keep their courses green. He secured a permanent home at River Oaks Country Club in Houston for Charlie and Louinne. Charlie lived a long full life with Louinne at the country club. From his humble beginnings as an Easter Duckling to living large at one of Houston’s most prestigious country clubs. He was a Mallard among mallards.