The year was 1969, when
Old Glory was planted firmly on the lunar surface, Kevin
discovered that Winnie Cooper was "hot", Aquarius, by the
Fifth Dimension was the number one top hit, The Beatles sang,
"Come Together Over Me", and OUTPOST 40, was killed in action
in Vietnam. That was the call sign for my cousin, Bill Little.
On the home front, I was
in college in York, Pa. Not too much more then 100 miles from
home but my Dad still wrote me letters letting me know what
was going on in the peaceful little village of Waterside. In
one such letter dated Sunday April 20, 1969, he wrote:
Just a few lines to let
you know that things are still moving along in the usual
manner and that Spring is bursting out all over.
One of the wild duck
hens made a nest under the oil barrel outback of the old store
building and she is sitting on eleven eggs. She began to lay
two weeks ago today. She laid 7 eggs in 7 days, (we looked
each day) then missed Sunday and laid again on Monday,
Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday. On Thursday she also began to
set and has been at it ever since. When she goes off in the
evening for exercise and food, we snoop. The first 2 she
didn't cover but after she laid the third one she covered them
all over with stems and dry grass. The day she laid the 10th
one she mixed some of her fine downy feathers in with the
stems and grass. Now when she is off, that keeps them warm.
Mr. Duck just paddles around and waits. One morning there were
six pretty drakes all together on the smooth waters of the
dam. I guess they were all "in the same boat". When she goes
off the nest, they fly away together or go walking together.
One evening while we ate supper they were up walking all
around over our field and Danny Imler's garden.
We enjoyed your nice
long newsy letter. Give our best regards to Tonnie Thomas and
come see us when you can.
Love and Best Wishes to
Well, that letter from
Dad was where the whole thing started. It seems that Mrs. Duck
hatched 10 of the 11 eggs and abandoned the nest. Arthur and
Marie took the last egg and put it in a box in the kitchen
with a 7 1/2 watt light bulb to keep it warm. Every so often
they would turn it. When it hatched they gave it water from a
dropper. They fed it oatmeal and bugs and it grew to the point
where they could take it outside and let it swim in the bird
bath. When they would put it down in the grass, under their
supervision, it would follow my dad around the yard. It wasn't
afraid of the grandchildren that came that summer from Florida
to visit. Everyone called it Elmer, but as it grew it's adult
feathers they had to change it's name to Elmeretta. By this
time she was eating pieces of bread that dad would throw to
her and swimming in the plastic swimming pool. When the kids
were there, dad would scrub the pool out with Clorox and a
brush and refill it with clean water. After they were all done
swimming for the day, Elmeretta was allowed in. Sometimes
while the grandchildren were splashing around in the pool,
Elmeretta would wait patiently by the pool for her turn.
While she was eating
bugs one evening in the "field of dreams" behind mom & dad's
house, a handsome Prince arrived and walked with her. He would
then go back to the dam until the next evening. Pretty soon it
was morning and evening. Then one day Elmeretta flew away with
her Prince. They would come back to visit but spent most of
their time paddling around on the dam. The summer of '70 they
visited several times, had a nest along the bank of the dam,
with several ducklings of their own, but when they left in the
fall, that was the last they were seen.
It was a great
experience for the grandchildren and the neighbor kids to get
to know and love the little leftover egg that became a
duckling. They watched as she grew into an adult hen with
beautiful blue coloring on her wings that stood out over her
otherwise brown feathering. Yes, the year was 1969, and my
dad, Pappy Little to the kids, was a mother duck and in his
good natured way, didn't mind a bit.