There was a white duck that wasn’t happy living on a farm, even though he was eating all he wanted. He could sleep in a barn on rainy days.
He’d had siblings, but some went away to other farm families. His parents disappeared when he was 1 year old. They went behind the barn with the farmer and never came back. Other older ducks had also gradually disappeared behind the barn. He heard that one day he too would go behind the barn, and he probably wouldn’t see any of the other animals ever again. No more sunshine on his feathers. No more splashing in puddles on rainy days.
And the white duck realized that, for a duck, he had never been in the water. Could he even paddle? He definitely would never fly, his wings were too small and his body was too large. But swimming more would be nice. And never learning what happened behind the barn would be a relief.
So one lazy weekend afternoon, white duck started walking. He disappeared from the farm and roamed through multiple yards. He quacked hello to squirrels, turkeys, and rabbits. He saw cats and dogs, too; both made him nervous, so he walked a little faster. When it was getting too dark to see, he found a quite spot among some shrubs or scrub palms, and he nestled down to sleep. The next morning he set out to do more walking.
One day he found a large lake with a small island in the middle. He was nervous to keep walking for any more days because the days seemed to be growing shorter. So he decided this lake was his new home for awhile.
He trotted down to the shore and stepped out into the water. He was slow paddler at first, the water’s resistance was strong. But he made it to the island. Several feet away, he saw much smaller ducks than himself feverishly diving underwater for fish. Another duck with a dark green head swam near to him and started submerging its head in the muddy shorefront.
“Is there food down there?” white duck asked green headed duck. He wasn’t even sure he and the green-headed duck would speak the same language.
“There’s bugs in the mud and fish in the water. All I can eat in an afternoon. It doesn’t get better than that,” the green head duck replied before re-submerging.
White duck wasn’t used to foraging for food, he usually ate grain from a bowl and the occasional bug in the farm yard. But he would give it a shot. He ducked his head under and started poking at the mud. Bugs came out and he snapped at a few, just missing them. When he came back to the surface, out of breath. Green headed duck noticed his struggling and said, “It’s easier if you filter mud through your bill small bits at a time. When you feel something moving, swallow it.”
“Oh, okay. Thank you. This is all so new to me. I never swam until today.”
“I wasn’t going to say anything,” said the green headed duck, “but you don’t look like a Mallard, a Grebe, or a Bufflehead. I’m Michael, I’m a Mallard.” A brown duck about Michael’s size paddled up beside them. “This is my partner, June. We’ve been together about 3 years, we’ve had 15 children.”
White duck responded, “I’m, I’m…I don’t have a name. I left the farm where I grew up. I started walking and found this lake. The days seems to be getting shorter so I stopped here. I’d never noticed the days getting shorter before. Is that normal?”
Michael said, “Yes. Many of the trees are going to change colors and then lose their leaves. It’s going to get colder. I think people call it Autumn. You made a good call leaving your farm. You’re a big duck and people eat more ducks in the colder seasons.”
White duck was surprised. When he thought about it, he recalled it was a little colder in the barn when the older ducks disappeared. “Yes, I suppose I was.” He felt his eyes getting watery. June noticed the reflective look in his eyes.
June said, “Well we don’t want to make you sad. We have a beautiful lake here and bugs aplenty. We fly to lots of ponds, golf courses, and yards. This is one of our favorite spots. We always come back and the island is a great spot to sleep. So, what do you want your name to be?”
White duck thought back to feed sacks he’d seen at the farm. “Red Top?”
Michael said, “Red. We’ll call you Red. We’re going to go fly around to some other spots, for now, but we’ll be back when it’s getting dark.”
“Good to meet you!”quacked Michael and June as they took off, flying over the tree line and off into the sky.