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Harold's duck takes a bow

I guess I'll tell about Harold's duck. Just a year ago I sang, told, and related how a mallard hen came-off the wild Atlantic flyway to nest in the forward house of Harold's lobster boat, Blossom.m At that time, Blossom,m was moored in Friendship harbor, as Harold hadn't set any traps to begin his summer's fishing. But he was getting ready, checking his gear, and as he half stood up toward the bow he looked eyeball to eyeball with this lady and he was much astonished. Nobody ever heard of a mallard nesting in the bow of a lobster boat.

Harold retreated, and his sensitive nature immediately gave him a hard time as he debated what to do. Should he go fishing and perhaps disturb this stowaway by churning his motor seven miles to sea? Should he delay fishing until the ducklings appeared -- a maximum matter of four weeks and minus that much income? After the Friendship waterfront gave him good help by dividing down the middle, Harold decided to start Blossom'sm engine and cautiously move to the wharf, to see what happened. He did. He took on fuel and bait, and loaded 50 traps on his stern, ready to go set tomorrow. He put Blossomm back on mooring , and the duck seemed not to heed anything. Vacant-eyed, as plumed motherhood achieves, she sat. Next Harold went to sea, and she still sat.

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We never knew precisely how this finished. She was on her nest one afternoon when Harold moored Blossomm and came ashore at day's end. The next morning she was gone, and except for one sterile egg on the boards, no evidence of a nest remained. Harold believes someone or something molested her, but I disagree. We had barnyard- domesticated wild mallards for years, and I was convinced she brought off her brood and moved them along overnight.

The best evidence that I was right came a year later, the other day, when Harold came into my workshop to impart, "She's back." Just about the same story. Harold was readying, and was trimming, his forward compartment when he engaged the beady eyes of the old girl again. Same place. And with recollections of last year in hand, Harold didn't hesitate. He kept on getting ready, and when he brought Blossomm to the wharf to get fuel and bait, the duck did as before -- she paid no heed and continued to sit.

But this time the program, and the outcome, took a different turn. This season, Harold decided to haul Blossomm out, scrape her and copper her hull, and paint. This was to be done at a boatyard three miles up Friendship River from the harbor, and after the trip up the river Harold looked, and the duck was right there, serene and confident, showing no concern. "Good girl!" said Harold. Blossomm was now fitted into a cradle and the cradle winched up the marine railway. Still the broody mallard attended to her duty and made no never-mind. On the railway, Blossomm was up by the bow, so the angle of incubation was extreme, but Mother Mallard was not offended and made no complaint.The next day Harold scraped and brushed, and his duck attended to her affairs. But the next morning while Harold was coppering, she waddled aft, jumped to the sternsheet, gave a jaunty quark!!! and took off in search of food -- something a broody bird does from time to time, presumably when hungry.She had covered her eggs with the down, and Harold found she still had the 12 eggs he'd last counted a week ago. Harold kept a-painting, and she never came back.

That's it. A year before, Blossomm had moved about but always come back to the mooring. This year, the hen failed to notice that Blossomm was ashore, three miles from home. Fishermen at the harbor saw her. She was flying around and around Blossom'sm mooring, now occupied by Harold's skiff, and she was in a tizzy of agitation, and she was quacking and squawking so's to break your heart.

Blossomm stayed on the marine railway a little over a week. The unattended eggs cooled down, and Harold properly disposed of them and the nest.Then, shining with new paint, Blossomm was brought down the river to the harbor and put back on her mooring. Harold was ready for the summer lobstering. Two days later he came into my shop so I could repair a broken handle on a clam hod, and he said, "She's back!"

"The duck?"

"Want to guess what's happened?"

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"Started building another nest?"

"Eya h."

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