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.