Gimme a freezin’ break, huh?
As the Polar Vortex descends upon us, yet again, I see light at the end of the tundra. Could it be the coming Solar Apex?
This winter has been most horrendous on us here in Long Beach, NY; we can’t have it over soon enough. Yes, I took a beach photo of the recent storm to share with you but I also thought it might be a good time to THINK SPRING. Maybe brighten our minds with a spring photo and thoughts of mild days, outdoor fun and maybe… a spring moment to share. So…
A journal entry springs to life:
We had a saying when I was growing up, “Chicken in the car, the car can’t go. That’s how you spell, Chi-ca-go.”
Now this has nothing to do with Chicago but the chicken was driving the car one fine spring day in 1983. Yes it was over thirty years ago when I lived in West Islip with my wife and our three daughters, Barbara Ann, Mary Lynn and Kathleen when I had my personal spring awakening.
This day in May we looked forward to the West Islip Library’s Pet Show and Contest on that coming Saturday. Kathleen, 12, had entered our Schnauzer, Hanzel. I was in our back yard when Mary Lynn approached me and said she wanted to enter our duck, Fuzzy, in the contest too.
Mary Lynn, 13, had been born with many allergies, a significant problem that seriously troubles her to this day. But only a person with such indomitable spirit as Mary Lynn could have dealt with the many health issues that she’s had.
Because of the allergies we were limited to the kind of pets we could have; cat’s were the most problematic as were many breeds of dogs. So early on we decided to buy a couple of ducks to keep as pets. We were going to buy one duck but the pet store owner shrewdly convinced us a pair would be much more fun for the kids than one. It was much better for his bottom line too in bigger feed sales to us we later discovered. Muscovy ducks were our choice due to their lack-of-quack. Yes, this breed does not quack, so no annoyance to neighbors. We later bought Hanzel, our Schnauzer as the breed is less an allergy problem than others.
The ducks produced offspring of course, they are among the most efficient at hatching their eggs. It is said a Muscovy could hatch a golf ball. I’ll admit, the kids seeing the ducklings break out of their shells was real fun, for them and for me. As they grew the ducklings ranged from tame to wild in varying degrees. But Fuzzy, was particularly tame. The kids could pick her up anytime they wanted.
We had a pretty good fenced set-up for the ducks. I dug a hole in our yard and placed a molded child’s swimming pool as a pond into it with a 55 gal draining-drum beneath. To prevent the ducks from flying away I periodically trimmed a few inches of feathers off one wing to keep them off balance, thereby disabling any flight capability. I’d have to do this every few months, not doing so in time would lead to a duck on a neighbor’s roof doing his imitation of a weather vane…and it did happen.
The kids loved the ducks from the time they poked their bills through their shells and waddled into our world. They loved naming them too, Bonnet, Popcorn and Fuzzy, to name a few.
But when Mary Lynn asked about entering Fuzzy in the pet contest I said. “I don’t think we could do that.” More importantly, and more truthfully, I envisioned the logistics of getting a duck to the contest grounds behind the library. So I told Mary Lynn, “The pet show is for cats and dogs, pets like that, not ducks.” She went into the house, called the library and returned with, “They said, ‘Yes, ducks can enter the contest too’.” I said,“Oh…that’s good.”
Now, as I said, Fuzzy is very tame, she would barely get out of the way of the lawn mower. But with all the pedigreed dogs to be in attendance we thought it prudent to keep her on a leash of some kind. So I fashioned a collar out of my blue nylon watch band with a key-ring loop attached, then hooked it to an extra leash of Hanzel’s. We loaded the old Chevette with this odd ark of pets and people.
Kathleen rode in the back with Hanzel, Mary Lynn sat in the passenger seat with Fuzzy on her lap. We put a large rag on Mary Lynn’s lap just in case. We no sooner got started when the duck drops a load onto the rag. I pulled over, removed the soiled cloth and replaced it with a clean one. Two more blocks, I hit a bump and the duck expressed itself again. But this time all over the shift lever and the gear selection box between the bucket seats.
What I had here was a gear lever with all manner of “shift” upon it. I pulled to the curb once more, deftly using the two finger grasp, (for some reason not taught in driver Ed classes) and put it into park. By this time I was ready to bail out of this whole endeavor and enter a culinary contest with duck soup as our entry. Now I only wanted to clean the mess just enough so we could at least get to the damn contest. I only had quit smoking about six weeks prior so as I wiped the shift lever my mind ran through creative duck epithets, many so naturally rhyming with, “duck.”
Eventually we made our way to the West Islip library. When we got out of the car we immediately drew much attention. It seemed as if nobody had ever seen a duck on a leash! Kids ran closer to see this strange visage, “Oh, a duck!’ “Let me pet him?” “Can we take his picture?” It was as if Mary Lynn had Donald Duck on a tether.
An announcement was soon made over a bullhorn by the Librarian, Ms. Oh, “Will all the birds, cats and rabbits please go to the ribboned area to the right and the dogs to the one on the left? Thank you.” Pets and their owners moved left and right avoiding inter-species conflicts en-route. This was quite an eclectic group of pets, even an earth worm! But beautiful cats and dogs were ubiquitous. I had my camera, of course and was busy running back and forth taking shots of all the fantastically groomed competitors in both ribboned areas . But I kept a close eye on our entry, concerned that some retriever would try to fetch or feast on Fuzzy…or that Fuzzy would poach someone’s pet worm!
The contest finally began. Hanzel sadly lost out in the, “Most beautiful Puppy” category but was now in the talent portion. Hanzel could dance ’round and ’round with ballet-like grace when Kathleen directed him. She held the treat for him to start his pirouettes. But off-leash he was so distracted by the other dogs he wouldn’t perform properly.
Fuzzy competed against a Red Hen…and handily won the blue ribbon in the bird category! I conceded to myself, maybe it wasn’t such a wasted trip after all.
The judges now announced the start of the, “Best in Show”, segment. All the blue ribbon winners of the various categories lined up for a final evaluation by the judges. Fuzzy qualified for this even though all she did was beat out one lousy chicken.
They lined up all the blue ribbon-winners, rabbit, raccoon, gerbil, pet worm (that escaped Fuzzy’s eager bill) and a long line of beautifully coiffed dogs and cats.
Mary Lynn had Fuzzy perched on her arm, falcon-style and it looked absolutely bizarre to see a duck on leash on an outstretched arm. We had noticed that when Mary Lynn slightly raised and quickly lowered her arm a bit Fuzzy would spread her wings like an eagle. I had suggested to her that when the judges approached to do just that. She did and Fuzzy stunned the judges and the crowd, her wings spread wide as if she were posing for the Great Seal of the United States of America.
I was standing near the judges as they discussed the results. I heard them tell Ms Oh, “It’s the duck, the duck, we didn’t even have to discuss it, it’s the duck.” I couldn’t believe my ears. By the time Ms. Oh announced it over the bullhorn I was already in the ribboned-off area. I was taking shot after shot of that Sweet Bird of Success, Mary Lynn, Fuzzy too, with their “Best in Show” purple ribbon.
It’s easy to see in that spring day of 1983, one member of our flock wanted to fly, to spread young wings, another wanted to play it safe with his no-hassle easy-does-it policy. One showed us all how to soar…another just drove the car.
Photos added Nov. 7th 2016 after Mary Lynn’s death Nov. 5th, at 47 years of age: