Peanut
Home Up Peanut Patches Robert J. Peeper Ducky Jack

   

April 23, 2001

  This afternoon, I lost my best friend ... My special girl ... my sweet little Peanut ... flew her final flight ... taking wing, so gracefully, across the Rainbow Bridge ... I shall never forget her for, of all the ducks I have ever loved, she was, and probably always will be, my favorite.

    She left me with so many wonderful memories ... 

    I named her Peanut not because she was tiny but because she loved the peanuts that I constantly carried in my pocket for the squirrels. She relentlessly followed me, clucking and fussing, looking at me with her soulful brown eyes, pecking at my leg, until I had no recourse but to give her the peanuts that she so enjoyed. Of course, it wasn't enough to just give her a peanut. I had to slightly crush the shell and stay with her while she daintily nibbled up every morsel. If I tried to leave her before she was finished eating, she loudly complained. She just hated it when the big muscovy males tried to steal her peanuts. And, that is how our special friendship began and, I guess, over time, we seemed to develop our own unique means of communication.  

    Peanut was born almost eight summers ago. Her mother, Grace, made her nest in my white wrought iron planter and I felt extremely privileged to be allowed to watch all the eggs hatch. It was amazing to see Peanut and Patches emerge from the same extra-large egg. They were almost identical and for quite some time, I had trouble telling them apart. But, their distinct personalities began to emerge making it a little easier - Patches had the beauty and Peanut had the brains, at least according to the other muscovies!

    For many years, Peanut was my dominant female muscovy. She set the rules, argued with all the girls, always won and always picked the best nesting spots - usually very close to my home and me so that I could give her the extra attention which she demanded - the  little bowls of water and corn to make nest sitting go faster and easier, lots of fresh water for her bath and a straw broom nearby which I had no hesitancy using to discourage the males from bothering her.

    Peanut, almost always won my "Mother of the Year" award. She was a strict mother and her little ducklings learned at a very early age that "mama knew best". And mama did! She fiercely protected her little ones from the crows and the seagulls and the raccoons and everyone and everything that she felt might harm them.

    It didn't take Peanut too long to figure out that her job of protecting her babies was made much easier when she allowed me to "help" her. Of course, I was very flattered and constantly told her so! Whenever I gardened or sat in the yard, Peanut would march over with her brood ensconcing herself and her little family in the shade of my flowers. From underneath the flowers, she would cluck at the ducklings, giving them their orders which they always, always unquestioningly obeyed! She knew that no crow or seagull would dare bother her when she was with me ... and should a duckling fall into the creek, of course, I would scoop it up in my fishing net ... and, if the babies seemed hungry, "Grandma Duck" would stop whatever she was doing to prepare their duck soup.

        Silly as it may seem to some, Peanut and I became friends and, as good friends often do, she apparently thought nothing of visiting me whenever the mood struck her. Sometimes I'd just find her sitting by my front door and other times she would peck rather loudly on my door - a short duck's way of ringing the doorbell, I guess - to remind me that I was remiss in my "grandmotherly" duties. Her children were hungry! They were growing by leaps and bounds and they always needed more food. What a happy group! It was always such a delight for me to find them camped out on my doorstep. Just like their mom, Peanut's ducklings were very smart, this group, in particular, extremely so. On their own initiative the teenagers split into two groups, one group guarded the back door and the other the front so that my husband and I could never leave the house without some goodies for them to eat.

   The sociable little ducklings who thought that they owned my husband and me and our house delighted all who met them. They followed everyone up my front walk, always trying to come inside. And, of course, one day, my husband decided to invite them in for dinner. Mother Peanut was a bit apprehensive, but, the unflappable ducklings loved every minute of their visit. They checked out all the rooms, slid all over the tile floors, drank from my sweet Gypsy's water bowl, upset poor Pablo and Happy Bird and wreaked havoc all over my first floor! My husband and I were sort of glad when Gypsy took matters into her own paws, so to speak, and finally herded them all out the back door. But, needless to say, we all enjoyed their visit immensely!!!      

        One hot summer's day, when Peanut was a young mother, we had a rare change in the weather - the temperature dropped almost thirty degrees in one day. Unfortunately, I was gone for most of the day and by the time I returned, it was dusk, very cold and raining very hard - almost like a late fall day. I looked for Peanut and her babies, but, I wasn't too concerned when I couldn't find them. Peanut was such a good mother, I just knew she had them tucked in somewhere warm and sheltered. I fed all the ducks and was glad to finally be inside out of the chill. As I was trying to warm up, I heard a lot of clucking and fussing. I looked out my living room window and there I saw a very bedraggled and worried Peanut frantically trying to help her seven little ducklings survive in this awful storm. Unfortunately, they were at the stage where she had just stopped brooding them which meant that they were so much more susceptible to the extreme change in temperature. I knew Peanut was in trouble and I ran out to help as best I could. I found Peanut trying to revive four of the ducklings who were already dead. At the same time, she was desperately trying to keep the other three surviving ducklings warm underneath her, but, the ground was flooded and the ducklings were shivering and so cold and wet. Muscovy mothers are very protective of their babies and Peanut was no exception. I didn't know how I was going to be able to take the ducklings from her. I distracted her somewhat and, luckily, I was able to take the weakest of the three. 

    At this point in time, my husband was already tucked comfortably in bed, oblivious of the crisis going on in our backyard. I raced upstairs with the duckling and I didn't ask him, I didn't give him any choice whatsoever, I just told him to keep the little guy warm as best he could while I got the other two. I shall never forget the sight of my husband, - who, for all his complaining, really is a good guy - with a duckling tucked in his pajama top, trying wholeheartedly to keep him warm. Perhaps, he would finally understand the thrill I get when a tiny, almost lifeless, body responds so eagerly to my warmth and caring.

    I went back out in the pouring rain and somehow was able to bring in the other two. I tried not to look at Peanut who at this point didn't know who or what to be upset about and I hoped she would somehow know that I was trying to help her. Once inside, I was able to dry them and warm them up. They slept all night in my sunroom under lots of blankets with a light shining on them to keep them warm. I checked on them constantly during the night. They were doing fine - much better, I thought, than Peanut probably was. I knew that she would be searching all night for her babies.

    Sure enough, the next morning when I went outside I found Peanut looking all over for them. There is no more heartbreaking sight than that of a muscovy mother looking for her babies and not finding them. Peanut looked in all their favorite places, gently cooing and clucking to them. Peanut came up to me pecking at my leg, practically begging me to join in the search. It was still too cold to give her back her surviving ducklings and my heart ached because I knew she would still keep looking. I felt so helpless.

    About two hours passed and the sun came up warm and strong. The time had finally come for me to reunite the little duck family. The minute I brought them outside, they began to peep and, before Peanut could attack me, I gently placed them in the grass. What a joyous sight to see - the three little ducklings, peeping away, racing to their Mama and Mama Peanut just cooing softly to them. Did she thank me, did she even "smile" at me?  No!!! Peanut just took her babies and happily marched away, but, I had all the reward I could ever imagine whenever I saw the four of them together. 

    Phillip, the little white duckling who slept with my husband turned out to be a little horror. Whenever he was close to me he bit my leg for attention and, as he grew older, he continued this "bad" habit until I finally gave him his peanut. I guess nowadays I'd be called an enabler! I could, however, always easily tell Phillip apart from all the other white males. He hurt ... but, he always made me smile!

    Two years ago, in early June, Peanut's ducklings hatched a few days before a big engagement party I was happily giving in my backyard for my oldest son and his lovely bride-to-be.  I was concerned about how Peanut and her little family would cope with all the guests, the caterers, the children and the confusion. Well, I need not have worried. I somewhat belatedly realized that Peanut had always considered my yard hers. Her routine that day only slightly changed, mostly to protect her little ducklings from the young children whose squeals of delight at the sight of the little black and yellow ducklings made everyone smile. Whenever Peanut decided it was time for her family to eat or to take a bath or to catch bugs, she marched them across my yard, around the tables, in between the guests and through the turmoil and she did exactly what she felt she had to do. It was a lovely party with wonderful food held on a perfect early summer day ... and the thing almost everyone remembers is not any of that, but, rather, a very proud Peanut parading her ducklings around my party, basking in all the praise and compliments and, thoroughly, enjoying all the attention.

 There are so many more wonderful memories
of Peanut that I would like to share with you ...   

To be continued ...

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