As I was leaving the golf course recently, I spotted some moving objects on the road just ahead of me. A mother duck and her young were crossing the road. All of the ducklings had successfully crossed except one that appeared to be lame or hurt. The mother was frantically trying to push the young one along.
As I slowed my approach, the mother headed toward my car with wings spread, feathers fluffed and her neck fully stretched. She was squawking loudly. I stopped, and she went back to her ducklings.
After a couple of minutes, the baby made it to the center of the road, but fell, exhausted. Another car approached in the other lane. The mother duck turned toward the oncoming vehicle, again spread its wings, fluffed its feathers and dared the car to advance. Like me, the car came to a dead stop.
At this point I thought I would get out of my car to see if I could help the duckling and move it to the other side. The mother would have no part of it. She angrily charged me as if to say, "I can handle this." I obeyed her wish and decided to sit out the drama.
The youngster tried to move again, but only managed to make one small lunge before falling. By now, the mother was circling frantically while constantly running to the other ducklings to check their safety. When the mother could no longer persuade the exhausted baby to move, she decided to roll the duckling across the road with her bill. She did this ever-so-gently, so carefully, so lovingly, glancing wearily at the cars.
Safely on the other side, she continued to push the youngster securely into the bushes. Checking the other ducklings and satisfied that all were safe, she walked into the middle of the road, put her head very high and seemed to nod to the other car. She turned and made a similar motion to me. Then she walked very close to my car, as if to say "thank you," and moved quickly to the side to join her family.
By now there were three or four cars lined up on both sides of the road, so I had to move. I pulled over to the side, let the cars pass, and got out of my car to watch the continuing drama. The ducklings had safely climbed a small hill on the side of the road, and the mother had returned to her injured. It was moving now, very slowly. I saw the mother give the youngster what appeared to be some very tender face rubs and a couple of easy, loving pushes. The duckling finally joined the rest of the family.
It was then I saw the duckling was lame! The right leg was just a stub.
After seeing this, there is no doubt in my mind the youngster will make it. I know in my heart the duckling will somehow adjust to its handicap.
You see, it has a mother's love.
Rick Hammell, a retired newspaper publisher, lives in Spring Hill.