2006.04.06 Duck amok

Written by David Green.

By JEFF PICKELL

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.rest
    TAKE A BREAK—Last Wednesday’s session of Stair District Library’s Summer Reading Program ended with a quiet period in a class presented by yoga instructor Melany Gladieux of Toledo. Children learned a variety of yoga poses in the main room at the library, then finished off the session relaxing. Additional photos are on page 7. Area children are invited to visit the library today when the Michigan Science Center presents a flight program at 11 a.m. and roller coasters at 1 p.m.
  • Front.batter
    THE DERBY—Tyler “Smallpox” Flakne of Minnesota’s Home Run League All-Stars goes for the fence Friday night during the National Wiffle League Association’s home run derby in Morenci. This year the wiffleball national tournament moved from Dublin, Ohio, to Morenci’s Wakefield Park. During the derby, competitors had two minutes to hit as many home runs as possible. The winner this year finished with 21. See page 6 and 7 for additional photos.
  • Front.green Screen
    OUT OF THIS WORLD—Elizabeth McFadden and Elise Christle pose in front of the green screen as VolunTeen Noah Gilson makes them appear as though they are standing on the Moon. More photos from the Stair District Library’s NASA @ My Library program are on page 12.
  • Front.snake
    Lannis Smith of the Leslie Science and Nature Center in Ann Arbor shows off a python last week at Stair District Library's Summer Reading Program.
  • Front.fireworks
    FIREWORKS erupt Saturday night over Morenci’s Wakefield Park during the waning hours of the Town and Country Festival. Additional festival photos are inside.
  • Pipeline Spread
    LINED UP—Lengths of pipe were put in place last week along the route of the Rover natural gas pipeline that will stretch from Defiance, Ohio, to Ontario, Canada. Topsoil was removed before the pipes were laid out. The 42-inch diameter pipeline is scheduled for completion in November.
  • Front.rock Study
    ROCKHOUNDS—From the left, Joseph McCullough, Sean Pagett and Jonathan McCullough peer through hand lenses to study rocks. The project is part of Morenci Elementary School’s summer camp that continues into August.

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