Sunday, August 9, 2009
THE MISADVENTURES OF LUCKY, TROUBLE, AND CASINO
When a knock sounded at the camper door, while we were parked at my brother in laws, I climbed out from behind the computer where I had been doing the printing for that day's route of mystery shops calling "Coming. "In just a few short steps I opened the door to find my beautiful great niece holding her even prettier, if at all possible, daughter.
"Hey, girls come in." I grinned holding the door wide so Jessica could safely climb the three steps while carrying Kadence.
We chatted for a little while as Kadence joyfully crawled around the fifth wheel floor, playing with the plastic bowls and wooden spoon I'd set down for her.
"Aunt Jan I was wondering if you and Uncle Gary could take my ducks to your house since you just lost so many, I just can't afford them any more." She finally said, then rushing on to "I don't want to ask Mimi to feed them, they aren't her responsibility. If you don't want them I'll try to find another home for them. I just can't add the stress of them to Mimi, so I thought I'd see if you wanted them first."
The loss she was referring to was the carnage Sean had found the week before in our big coop, 20 or more birds had met their demise in just one night. Sean had found it the next day and was just sick at what he found. Even our beloved Muscovy hen Trudy was dead. Luckily it had only been the broody hens and everyone not in the nesting area had escaped.
I told her I'd talk to Sean, since he is now the main caregiver of the birds, but I thought it would be okay. Mimi is my sister-in-law, Vicki, and Jessie's grandmother, it was her house we were camped at. Sean of course said to bring them home with me that weekend.
Jess had never named the birds and I told her not to worry that they'd get names just like all my other birds, by something about their attitude, or an event in their life. Little did I know they'd get their names before they ever made it to my house.
Because we hadn't known ahead of time I'd be hauling full grown Muscovy drakes home we hadn't brought our usual travel cages with us. Jess said she had some cardboard boxes that were sturdy and plenty big enough if we put one per box. I told her then to be sure and tape the bottom of the box good because Muscovies were escape artists.
Three days later in the gathering darkness of twilight Jess and James chased down the three drakes while Gary put large air holes in the boxes and I stood and laughed as the one with a very white head and almost female markings gave them a run for their money. They were all over the front acreage of the place until both long legged James and his wife were near exhaustion. Just as I got herding sticks to show them how it was done James caught the bird.
The bird was added to the final cardboard box and placed in the back of my truck. As I walked away I said "Be sure and tape the flaps down good on those boxes or they'll get out and Muscovy covered windshields is not a good thing."
While Gary got the camper hooked up I was saying my good-byes and gathering up my last few scattered things as I heard Jess shout "We've got an escapee!" The white headed drake had his second wind and was determined to be free of the cardboard box. You guessed it the flaps had NOT been taped down. Gary had told James not to worry there wouldn't be a problem with them coming open.
Ten exhausting minutes went by as James and Jess chased the bird once again all over the acreage. Finally I suggested he herd it into a small pen in the barn. Once there James once again nabbed the bird, but it took two of us to get it in the box Gary had waiting as Jessie stood guard on the gate in case it got away from us.
Muscovies have long talons and all of us were scraped before it was over. "Boy are you ever a lot of trouble!" I said, as I pushed down on it's head to keep it's feathers from receiving a strip of duct tape. Then I grinned "Therefore, your name shall be Trouble from here on out." Everyone agreed it the perfect name.
This time all three boxes were securely taped shut. It was now dark, which was what we'd been waiting for. We had not wanted to travel with the ducks in boxes on the black bed liner of the dually in the heat of the day. Prior to the run all three had been given an abundance of water. It was an hour and a half to our ranch and we wanted to keep the birds as cool as possible. Therefore they were put at the tail gate area under the tongue of the fifth wheel where they would have air circulating all the way home.
I had reports to file so I worked by the light of my computer screen as we hummed down the Will Rogers Turnpike toward home. Periodically I closed my computer to check on the boxes in the back, or Gary checked his rear view mirrors to do the same. Just as we passed the Claremore, OK exit something in my mind shouted "Birds! Check the birds now!"
Slamming the lid on the computer to end the glare on my side window I looked in my outside mirror to see in horror that one of the boxes was OPEN! "OMIGD! Gary pull over we've got a bird problem!" I hollered. He exited the highway at the next exit to find we were in a construction zone. I watched in horror as the box rose further and further out of the truck bed as he frantically looked for a place to exit that we could safely turn the truck with a fifth wheel behind it into.
Finally we both saw the Hard Rock Casino and he eased through the construction into there as the trailer pushed down on the now nearly out of the truck box. Fearing the worst I jumped out of the truck before Gary even had the truck fully stopped. Rounding the hips of the dually in the dim light of the construction area at the casino all I could see was the box was crushed by the tongue of the trailer and no bird.
Just as tears welled in my eyes I saw the red masque of the male. He was calmly sitting on top of the middle box of the three. The crushed box was the one he'd came out of and it had pinned him ever so slightly, without hurting him onto the lid of the second box, which had given just enough under his weight and pressure. He was completely unharmed!! He was also getting ready to make his escape!
Now those of you who haven't met me don't know I'm a short fat round lady. I'm 5'1" on my tall days, this was not a tall day. We drive a big one ton Chevy Silverado dually. I cannot, normally, reach anything over the sides or tailgate of that truck. But just then, somehow, I managed to boost myself up and grab hold of that bird just as he was shaking his wings free to take flight and hold him firmly in place.
Hollering for Gary to come quick and that the bird was okay I hung on all the while telling the bird to be calm the bright lights and noise were just the Casino and everything was okay. At the word Casino the bird cocked his head and looked around. I swear he smiled at me. His nearly all black body shimmering in the lights he looked around and remained calm. Every time I'd say Casino, he'd react positively. So now that's his name, Casino aka: Cass.
Once Gary got there he took over holding the bird firmly to relieve my aching arms. I then put the tailgate down and loosened the mashed box from where it was penned. It seems while the top of the box had been taped the bottom had not. Someone didn't follow my instructions...
I straightened the box up. Upside down and then Gary and I worked the bird back into the box. Once it was taped firmly Gary slowly rolled it over where the bird and box were then both right side up. At that point I asked if he thought we should go ahead and tape the other two box bottoms. The answer was no. Slowly we worked our way back out to the express way and headed down to the Creek turnpike.
Two miles later Gary uttered a curse word and started exiting onto 11th Street. A second box was rolling up out of the back of the truck. This time on his side. Trouble was being troublesome again. Not thinking ahead of time Gary turned right. The wrong way to go with a big rig we discovered.
Luckily Trouble had not exited his box yet as we stopped. So that tape up job was fixed easily. The problem then was getting turned around. That particular exit, going the direction we had turned leads down to a gravel narrow road with over hanging trees. Definitely NOT the place to take a tall fifth wheel. Luckily that is a very low traffic exit. So in the late night darkness I was out on the highway with a flashlight guiding Gary as he backed UP the ramp far enough to get turned the other direction. Lots of fun I guarantee you considering there is a very DEEP bar ditch on each side of the highway there.
We had decided it was the cord for the trailer lights grabbing the cardboard boxes when we turned a certain way that was flipping them up on end because the middle box never moved an inch. So we rearranged the cord thinking we had solved the problem.
Four miles down the road Casino's box went up on end! AGAIN! It took us to the 161st street exit to find a place to get off that time with Gary crawling along to keep wind from flipping box on out of the truck bed.
Once we were at Wal-Mart I once again rushed out to make sure we didn't have a bird on the loose. Casino was still firmly in his box, but it was standing on end, his tail feathers were up and he was not amused. Muscovies don't quack, they hiss and he was silent. That worried me. As Gary and I lowered him back down to the correct position all the pent up hissing started. This was one mad bird! "Twice in one night!" he was telling me "TWICE! How dare you humans do this too me." He snarled. Soon we sounded like a viper pit as all three drakes hissed and snarled about the indignities they had suffered.
But I wasn't listening, I was trying to figure out what was going on, the cord was still exactly where it should have been. It had not flipped Casino. We'd hauled birds this way many times before and never had such a problem. Not once.
I reassessed the situation and realized what was happening was the birds were walking to the end of the box and then the wind coming through the long air slits Gary had put in the box was lifting the lighter end and turning the boxes up on end. The reason the middle box wasn't lifting was because it was under the actual neck of the hitch and thus blocked from the lifting wind.
I looked at Gary and said "Get the rope!" He made some remark about hanging the birds wouldn't help and I just gave him "the look" He got the rope. We tied it from one side of the truck bed, over the boxes and to the other side of the bed. Problem solved. There were no rising boxes after that for the remaining 45 minutes of our trip.
At home Gary asked me what the third bird's name was going to be. "Lucky." I responded. He said he thought if any bird was Lucky it would be Cass, because he survived nearly being crushed, twice. I said no the middle one that was both white and black, was Lucky because it never got turned upside down. He thought about it as we drug the garden cart carrying all three boxes to the back to release the birds into the cover of darkness and finally said. "I guess you are right, he was the lucky one."
As soon as his box was open Trouble took off for the woods, he was still pissed about being boxed in the first place. The next morning he was out eating with the other birds, so I guess he's forgiven us now.
The boys have had to fight their fair share of battles the last two days. That pecking order thing you know. Casino has already became second husband to our pretty little blue Muscovy hen Cinderella.
I saw Lucky flirting with our chocolate Muscovy hen Red Cocoa Von, yesterday. Trouble is still battling with Jeffery Dalmer, the feather eating black and white Muscovy drake, over who is going to squire one of the mallard hens. So I guess all are doing fine despite trying to literally fly down the highway Friday night.
Want to know more about Muscovies, my favorite non-duck ducks? Google the words "Muscovy Pictures" and you'll find many a web page out there. I personally think the boys a bit ugly, but the hens are beautiful.
I, in fact, prefer Muscovies over regular ducks for numerous reasons. They are much quieter, they are great mousers, they can perch in trees–at least my hens do, my drakes are too fat. They are great moms and will broody any egg given them. They also lay numerous eggs a year.
Jan who will definitely check for tape on the boxes and rope them in herself in the future in OK