Roosevelt & Rose, photo © 2007-08 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.
I wish I had a better picture. He really was a good-looking duck. A domesticated mallard, iridescent green and blue feathers against black, a thin white band around his neck.
I’ll always remember him as best pal to our favorite chicken, an Americana named Rose. That is, until she got eaten by coyotes or raccoons last year. Ducks are social creatures, so after Rose was killed, Roosevelt hung out with the turkeys.
We didn’t start out wanting a duck for a pet. Flash back to Spring 2003: Neighbors Nicole and Julie walked over bearing a traumatized wild duck wrapped in a blanket. Their young lab cornered the poor baby and separated it from its mother. Knowing we had chickens and turkeys, Nicole and Julie asked if we might add a baby duck to our brood. Sure, we said, and we named it Waddle.
But ducks like their own kind, so we went out and bought a companion baby duck at the local mercantile. That one we named Roosevelt.
Waddle the Wild could fly, and fly it did all the time, out of the bird pen. Roosevelt, the true waddler, waddled along the fence line, grounded—one of the downsides of domestication.
Rafael and Otis knew Waddle was wild. They put their ears back and crouched around, following the wild duck as it flew across the yard. The poor duck’s run-in with the neighbors’ lab didn’t teach it a thing. It seemed to trust dogs, and it often flew right to Rafael and Otis, whose instincts just couldn’t keep them from wanting to kill and eat the wild duck. And much as we tried to protect Waddle by keeping it in the pen, it couldn’t shake its wild ways.
Sure enough, one day, only about two weeks after the wild duck joined our family, we came home from errands and noticed Rafael and Otis slinking about the yard. Waddle was missing, its feathers strewn all over the place.
And so Roosevelt became the sole duck of the brood. He immediately bonded to Rose, following her everywhere. When coyotes or raccoons—we don’t know which—came one night last year and raided our hen house, Roosevelt survived by jumping into a buried stock tank. That move saved his life, although we lost poor Rose and a few other chickens that we’d had for years.
This past year, with Rose gone, Roosevelt has been constant companion of the turkeys. During the day, it was the turkeys and Roosevelt always, cruising about the place. At night, when the turkeys roosted in the trees, Roosevelt slept somewhere on the ground nearby.
And herein lies the fate of Roosevelt. After having survived the perils of living among wild creatures of the Rio Grande Valley for five years, Roosevelt’s luck finally ran out. Two or three coyotes, probably with a den somewhere in the far corner of our meadow, were prowling near the house last Sunday night. Jim got up five times to chase them off, but even so, they managed to get two toms (who either got flustered and flew down from the trees or weren’t roosting in the branches to begin with). The coyotes also got Roosevelt.
Monday morning as I drove Dee for carpool, I noticed a coyote out by the far orchard, eating something. I called Jim on my cell phone; he walked out there and found the feathers and bones of the turkeys. Later, he found Roosevelt’s feathers.
And so this unique duck’s life comes to an end. He was a good pet. I wish we could have kept him safer, but he never liked being in the pen while the turkeys were up in the trees. He took his chances, and this time he didn’t make it.
Good-bye, Mr. Roosevelt. We’ll miss you. Dee and Em ask that you say hello to Rose for them.