2006.04.06 Duck amok

Written by David Green.


My cousin, who’s an aeronautical engineer for a company that designs and manufactures helicopters, told me something interesting last Christmas. I just remembered it this morning.

He said that, when designing a helicopter, engineers have to make sure the fuselage can survive midair collisions. Now, obviously if a helicopter hits something big, like a plane, it’s going down, no matter how sturdy it is. But ducks, geese, and other sizable migratory fowl also pose a significant risk to a helicopter if they run into one, my cousin said.

How do engineers test how well a helicopter can stand up to ducks? I asked.

As my cousin described it, they take what is essentially an oversized potato gun, put a dead, frozen duck in it, and fire it at the parked helicopter. Then they measure the damage it did.

“So your job is to riddle helicopters with duck fire, then measure duck splatter?” I asked.

“Essentially,” he said.

“I wish I were an engineer,” I said.

Now, I’ll smack an alpaca, but I like ducks. I like saying the word “duck.” I like thinking about ducks. I like drawing pictures of them. There’s a park in Kalamazoo that has a bunch of ducks in it in the summer, and they entertain me for hours.

“Look at you guys, just ducking around, being ducks,” I say to them. “What do you guys do all day?”

The answer is obvious, ducks duck. I mean, they do a lot of walking and swimming, but mainly they duck. Another thing ducks do is quack.

I like the word “quack” almost as much as the word “duck,” and the fact that ducks quack pleases me to no end. 

When I was employed with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, I had a working relationship with ducks. That is, instead of working, I would walk to the dam in the park’s river and watch the ducks duck around.

One day, while walking the path to the dam, I turned a corner and found a female wood duck not 10 feet in front of me, headed, presumably, also to the dam. It’s not every day that a man sees a duck walking over turf, so I followed the duck, cautiously, observing her almost too duck-like behavior.

The first thing I learned about ducks is that they have keen senses. The duck knew I was there immediately.

But, fact number two, ducks aren’t cowards. The duck could’ve taken to the wing, like I would have, were I in her place, but she instead tried to act like I wasn’t there, peering over her shoulder every now and again to make sure I wasn’t gaining too quickly. She waddled on, cautiously, and courageously.

I sensed this. “Fear me not, duck,” I called to her. “Fear, anger, hate, aggression. These things lead to the Dark Side.”

She quickened her pace. Fact number three: ducks don’t like Star Wars nerds.

Eventually, the duck and I made it to the dam, the duck ducked into the river, I walked to the top of the bridge and observed her.

She swam up to another duck. A mother duck. The mother duck quacked.

The first prolonged and bitter argument I had with a teacher concerned whether or not “The mother duck quacked” is a complete sentence. It is, in fact, a complete sentence, but say it aloud a couple of times. It sounds funny.

You know what else is funny? This joke, which Gene Beaverson told me the other day.

A duck walks into a store.

“Do you have any duck food?” he asks the owner.

The owner says he doesn’t sell duck food. The duck goes home. The next day, the duck returns and, again, asks for duck food. The owner repeats that he does not sell duck food. The duck goes home again. Despite the owner’s daily insistence that he doesn’t sell duck food, the duck continues to ask for it. One day, the owner gets sick of it. When the duck comes in, he says, “If you ask me for duck food, I’ll nail your feet to the floor.”

The duck looks at him for a second, then asks, “Do you have any nails?”

“No, I don’t have nails,” the owner replies.

So the duck says, “Good. Do you have any duck food?”

Here’s another duck joke—Two cows are standing in a field. One cow says to the other, “What do you think of this mad cow disease going around?”

The other says, “It doesn’t affect me. I’m a duck.”

By the way, do you know why ducks have flat feet? For stomping out forest fires.

Do you know why elephants have flat feet? For stomping out flaming ducks.


  • Front.cowboy
    A PERFORMER named Biligbaatar, a member of the AnDa Union troupe from Inner Mongolia, dances at Stair District Library last week during a visit to the Midwest. The nine-member group blends a variety of traditions from Inner and Outer Mongolia. The music is described as drawing from “all the Mongol tribes that Genghis Khan unified.” The group considers itself music gatherers whose goal is to preserve traditional sounds of Mongolia. Biligbaatar grew up among traditional herders who live in yurts. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.base Ball
    UMPIRE Thomas Henthorn tosses the bat between team captains Mikayla Price and Chuck Piskoti of Flint’s Lumber City Base Ball Club. Following the 1860 rules, after the bat was grabbed by the captains, captains’ hands advanced to the top of the bat—one hand on top of the other. The captain whose hand ended up on top decided who would bat first. Additional photos of Sunday’s game appear on page 12 of this week’s Observer. The contest was organized in conjunction with Stair District Library’s Hometown Teams exhibit that runs through Nov. 20.
  • Front.chat
    VALUE OF ATHLETICS—Morenci graduate John Bancroft (center) takes a turn at the microphone during a chat session at the opening of the Hometown Teams exhibit at Stair District Library. Clockwise to his left is John Dillon, Jed Hall, Jim Bauer, Joe Farquhar, George Hollstein, George Vereecke and Mike McDowell. Thomas Henthorn (at the podium) kicked off the conversation. Henthorn, a University of Michigan–Flint professor, will return to Morenci this Sunday to lead a game of vintage base ball at the school softball field.
  • Front.cross
    HUDSON RUNNER Jacob Morgan looks toward the top of the hill with dismay during the tough finish at Harrison Lake State Park. Fayette runner Jacob Garrow focuses on the summit, also, during the Eagle Invitational cross country run Saturday morning. Continuing rain and drizzle made the course even more challenging. Results of the race are in this week’s Observer.
  • Front.bear
    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.
  • Front.crossing
    Crossing over—Jim Heiney was given a U.S. flag to carry by George Vereecke (behind Jim in the hat), turning him into the leader of the parade. Bridge Walk participants cross over Bean Creek while, in the background, members of the Morenci Legion Riders cross the main traffic bridge on East Street South. Additional photos appear on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.hose Testing
    HOSE safety—The FireCatt hose testing company from Troy put Morenci Fire Department hose to the test Monday morning when Mill Street was closed to traffic. The company also checks nozzles and ladders for wear in an effort to keep fire fighters safe while on calls.

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