Lucky Duck

          We are not far down the trail on our daily walk in the forest preserve. We walk for the exercise, sure, but mainly just to be there, feeling the out of doors. Most of the time, we don’t carry binoculars, trading off the occasional birding treat for the freedom from encumbrance. We are seeking nothing in particular, but alert to anything.
          Today, a young man is coming toward us, walking his bike. He is not clad like a serious cyclist, and his bike is nondescript. As we get closer, we see that a duckling, or a gosling maybe, is walking behind him. When the man stops, the duck stops. He tells us the place where they met, which we figure at nearly a mile and a half back. He couldn’t see any other waterfowl nearby, he says, and he didn’t want to pick the duckling up. So he started walking his bike, and the duck followed. He is heading for the preserve office, hoping to find someone who can help. It’s slow going for these two, and there’s still a quarter mile to go.
          As the three of us talk, the duckling settles in to rest. The man is both tender and matter of fact, addressing his charge. Yeah, I know. You’re tired. We wish him—both of them—luck, and they head back onto the trail. As soon as the man starts walking, the duckling is up and waddling along after him. I have never seen anything like this. What, the duckling just imprinted on this man, almost instantly? You’re my mom now! I know, I know, anthropomorphizing. Still, I’m going to call it trust. And I’ll add: the duckling was fortunate in the human it found to latch on to.
          We get back to our walk, and on our return, we recognize our bicyclist friend coming toward us, this time riding the bike. He slows down only enough to tell us that a ranger is coming in a truck behind him, with the duckling. The two men will try to find the right spot to return the orphan. Thank you, I say. Thank you for saving him. He swings back on his bike, calling You’re welcome! Have a nice day, as he rides off. Soon the pickup truck approaches. The ranger waves. I want to stop him and say we know about the duckling, want to wish them well. (Really, I want to hop in and ride along.) But we only wave back.
          Later, I wish I’d at least asked, was it a duckling or gosling? And much later, I am still marveling: the incredibly cute and fuzzy chick following a guy pushing a bike, as though nothing could be more natural.


After a career in technical writing, Sherry Stratton has focused on the subjects closest to her heart. Her work appears in City Creatures Blog of the Center for Humans and Nature, Songs of Ourselves: America’s Interior Landscape (2015), Punctuate, Portage, Snowy Egret, and elsewhere. Sherry is copy editor for Fifth Wednesday Journal and editor of DuPage Sierran.

 Photo Credit: Angela Just

Photo Credit: Angela Just