A week away from Duck Depot


D. J. Sweetenham

Columnist


Well, the long-awaited trip to the Outer Banks of North Carolina is over. It had to be cut short on account of that crazy hurricane and low-pressure weather system which has made such a mess of South Carolina and surroundings. Over 600 miles each way and, if Millie, my wife, hadn’t had good eyesight and an incredible driving ability, we might still have been on the road. That rain was coming down so hard, I couldn’t even see the tail lights of the vehicles in front of us. When we arrived there, the sky was overcast and it had been raining but we lived in hope that it would blow over and that we would see some sunshine in the near future. Some hope! The following days and nights were filled with the crashing of the waves on the beach below our rented cottage, with sea water running underneath the pilings, at high tide, drowning the road on the inland side. Between gusty downpours, we made a few excursions out to the local Wal-mart for supplies, most of which we ended up bringing all the way home with us. When it was announced on the T.V. that a mandatory evacuation had been declared for Ocracoke Island, just a few miles south of our location, we and seemingly half a million or so other vacationers, decided that was the time to leave while we still could. I was virtually useless with my poor eyesight and Millie did an incredible job of driving all the way back home. I know the old saying about women drivers but Millie proved that there is at least one who can outdrive most men. And I’m not just saying that because she’s standing behind me with a hammer in her hand! No, really, I’m just kidding. She truly is an excellent driver. Anyway, I was so glad to be home again, in Georgia, that if I could have been sure that I could stand up again afterwards, I would have got down on my knees and kissed the front door step of our little house on the bank of Swan Lake.

Of course, at the first opportunity, I had to get out into the back yard to see if there were any ducks around and sure enough the water was churning up and the squawks, squeaks and Lucy’s trumpet call all welcomed me back home. My friend who had fed them daily for me while I was absent, had done an excellent job and all the birds looked to be hale and hearty. I had asked him to feed them in the water and not on land and they were quite happy when I made them wait a few minutes before I threw out some food for them. You know it was, and is, really good to be back home again.

Now, I know that I said I would never leave Georgia again but Millie has already made arrangements for us to visit with her brother Tom, and his wife, Martha, over the Thanksgiving holiday. They live in Mississippi which is a lot closer than the Outer Banks so that won’t be so bad and my ducks have shown that they can get along just fine without me, if they have to. But after that, I trust it will be a really long time before I am parted from Swan Lake and all my “critters.” It took me a long time to find my home so I want to spend whatever time I have left enjoying it.

Just one other note, about ducks, of course. We arrived home last Thursday and the next morning I hurried outside to feed the ducks. They were all milling around at the bottom of the sea wall and as I threw a dipper full of dog-food in for them, a flash of bright yellow caught my eye, from the azalea bushes at the other end of the wall. I put the dipper and the food pail back in the shed and then I slowly moved over to the azaleas. I couldn’t see any more flashes of color but as I eased up to the nearest bush, a beautiful gray lady duck appeared, preening herself as she walked ahead of a dozen or so day-old yellow and black ducklings. Now that really was a wonderful welcome home present. And later on that same day I saw another batch of babies which must have hatched the day we left. And so it goes on. I just hope and pray that they all live long, happy and healthy lives, adorning the waters of Swan Lake.


D.J. Sweetenham, originally from England, is the author of Bumps in the Road and Bumps in the Road - Part Two, highlights of his interesting and far-flung life. D.J., his wife, and two small dogs, live in Stockbridge.