Sunday was a bad day. Melissa broke the fence containing the steers, so she and Mary had to move them to a new pasture in the pouring rain. Later a neighbor brought his riding lawn mower for us to use (both our mowers are broken) and just started mowing himself. Pleased, I went on to other things, then remembered I’d left a net fence down in the grass near the vineyard. Would he mow up that way? About the time I’m thinking this, he hits it with his mower. He had to take the deck off in order to free his mower from plastic and fence wire wrapped around his blade. Totally my fault. Gaack. Luckily the mower wasn’t broken.
Then his dog startled our duck, Mr. Bodgepie, and Bodgepie took flight, heading south. He didn’t come back.
The next day, still no Bodgepie. Today Melissa leaves a message for a farmer who lives about a mile to the south (as the duck flies.) He called back late this afternoon. This morning he’d seen what he thought at first was a bald eagle, then he realized it was just a really big duck.
I drive three miles to the general area, a narrow road that follows the Zumbro River as it snakes through pasture and plowed fields. I’m scanning the trees, the road ditches, then happen to look up and see, way the hell out toward the river, a black and white spot.
I race home, get the binoculars, then race back. Sure enough, it’s Mr. Bodgepie, perched on a dead tree about 10 feet out into the river. Crap. The Zumbro is fast and dangerous. I stop by the farmer’s house and determine the pasture bordering the river is his, and I get his permission to walk out to the duck.
The grass is long, over my knees, and crawling with wood ticks just waiting to creep onto me, but I must try. I don’t want to face Melissa–who loves that duck—without trying. So I crawl through the barbed wire fence with a container of cracked corn, and begin the long trek through the unfamiliar pasture toward the river. I get as as far as I can, about 20 feet from the river, then hit muck so soft I start to sink. I talk to Bodgepie, but he just stands there on his log. I don’t think he can ‘take off’ because he needs more real estate for that. He’s a duck, so he could swim to shore, but I’m not sure he knows that.
I dump out all the corn on the ground, thinking that might entice him onto shore, and hike back to the car. Melissa won’t be home for awhile, but she won’t be able to do anything since without a boat, there’s no way to reach him.
I’m fairly convinced this story won’t have a happy ending. We’ll either return and find him gone, or be unable to rescue him and something larger will eat him.
I share this story because sometimes it’s so easy to think that farm life is all cuddly babies and cute calves. It’s also animals getting themselves beyond reach, through flight or accident or disease.
Farmers, whether they’re aware of it or not, do a lot of letting go.