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Caligula, the male, is a Muscovy and just about as ugly as a duck can be. He’s huge, lumbering, and always dirty - his feathers are yellow-tinged and greasy from the glandular oils he secretes, and his face is bright red and covered in warty caruncles. Even the coyotes stay away from him. Ugly as he his, we love Caligula. Ellen and Portia don’t love Caligula at all – they are pretty much a committed couple, but what Caligula lacks in looks he more than makes up for in personality. I think he’s kind of a guy’s guy. He’ll often follow Dave around the property; settling down to watch while he works, then tag along behind him when he moves on to the next project; his big body swinging from side to side – all the while hissing because he can’t quack (Caligula, not Dave). The most interesting thing about Caligula is the fact that he hates rain. While the girls will go from puddle to puddle when it’s raining - joyously bathing, splashing and plunging for worms in the water, Caligula will stay in his house waiting for the rain to stop. Yesterday, I found him hiding in the chicken’s coop – sitting out the storm. No water off this duck’s back – not if he can help it!
The three of them have the run of the property – they seem to be horse savvy and maneuver quite well around them while they forage for insects – whatever sort of relationship they have with the horses it works - they haven’t been stepped on yet. Our dogs will mingle with them every day, but in a nonchalant, “I’m not even going to acknowledge you” way; it’s not that they are afraid of the ducks, rather they are obeying the first rule of the ranch – harm nothing – no matter how slowly it waddles in front of your bone!
In their yard they have a real enameled bathtub – it’s fitted with a diving ramp of sorts so they can get in and out easily. One of the greatest displays of bliss I’ve witnessed recently was to watch Ellen and Portia line up and hurl themselves into their tub of fresh, clean water. Spinning, diving, flapping – it was an aqua ballet duck style. Oh the joy! The joy! Watch out Cirque du Soleil O, there’s a new act in town!
I love our ducks. I’ve seen ducks of all varieties over the years, but this is the first time I’ve ever really paid close attention to them – to get to know and sort of understand them. I can even recognize a few words of duck-speak. I definitely know their hungry quack – it’s rapid, doesn’t change in tone, and is very persistent. My favorite is their excited, anticipatory quack. That happens while they are waiting for their tub to be filled. It’s a lovely, soft and low gurgle – if I translated it into my own voice I would be humming. And there’s the singing quack when they first hit the water – all high pitched and loaded with hallelujahs. Caligula? – he just hisses, but I’m sure there’s meaning in every intonation.
It’s impossible for me to watch our ducks and feel down at the same time. I see them now as they make a pass in front of my deck – heads low, focused and eager – after the rain, every blade of grass holds promise.
Full of Goodness
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