HUMOR: Special Delivery… Birds, Part Two
The eastern sky just began to turn a pretty rose and blue as we waited in an idling pickup outside the Ortonville Post Office. In the back seat Bob’s dog Corky, tags jingling, shivered with excitement. We towed my duck boat, filled with carefully selected decoys. The motor was gassed, the shell boxes secured and guns ready. At seven a.m. a postal truck paused at the gate, then pulled onto the street. The driver waved as she passed us.
“Let’s go,” Bob said.
Her name was Janet. Bob met her pretending to mail a letter to his mother. The letter said MOM. None too clever but clever enough. He asked Janet what kind of driving she did, and if she’d seen any ducks as she delivered mail out on the gravel roads. Well, she said, there is a certain pond on old Marv Glinnen’s slough, out by Clinton. It was absolutely filled with ducks. And she knew Marv well. She could even get us in. Bless you, Janet.
We followed the mail truck down the street. “And she’s single,” Bob said. Bob’s never been married. Are you going to ask her out? I said. Bob is nothing if not focused. “Let’s see how the hunting goes.”
Now, when you follow a mail truck you learn a few things. The first thing you learn is you do not proceed in a straight line from point A to point B. There are a lot of stops at a lot of mailboxes, driving up one street down another. If you think your town isn’t very big try following a postal truck. It’s a lot bigger than you think. And the final stretch is Main Street, where there are no mail boxes at all. Janet has to get out and walk into every bank and cafe herself (there’s only one bank and cafe in downtown Ortonville, but when you’re anxious to get out to the duckhunt of your life one of anything is one too many). Finally Janet delivered mail to the Stateway Co-Op out on Highway 75 and headed for farm country. We were in business.
She stopped a quarter mile later.
We hadn’t thought of this. Janet delivered to farmers as well as city folk. Every farmhouse brought another stop, and while you’re stopping you learn another thing. Every farmer has a dog. Now it’s a little-known fact the postal worker is actually a friend of free-ranging dogs. And the dogs are friends with her. After all, every dog gets a Milk Bone. What these farm dogs aren’t friendly with are strangers pulling up alongside their house with a duck boat and a strange dog in the back seat. So every stop featured an inordinate amount of barking on both sides. Trust me, Corky can bark, and right into the back of my head.
After another hour following Janet down gravel roads she made a stop and walked back. “It’s not too much further, guys. I’ll get you there as fast as I can.”
We drove two miles up one gravel road, a mile down another, took a left and a right, stopped at one more farm house and there it was. Janet pointed, waved and drove off.
I couldn’t believe my eyes. A vast slough absolutely covered with ducks!
We pulled over and leaped out. I pulled on hip waders. The whole time we could see birds flying. Every square foot of the pond held waterfowl. We had never seen so many ducks.
Bob put her in four high and we bounced up a picked bean field. We found a good spot for dragging in the boat and as Bob threw in decoys I stood on the bumper with the binoculars to get one last good look at the pond. Waves of ducks skittered away. More landed. There was only one problem, confirmed after carefully glassing the whole pond.
They weren’t ducks at all.
They were coots. Every single one of them. Hundreds upon hundreds of… coots. Now, a coot is a fine bird in his own right. They flock up like ducks, and they swim like ducks, and they’re awful cute. There’s even an open season on coots, although I’ve never heard of anyone shooting one and I hope I never do.
“Coots?” asked Bob.
He took the binoculars. “They can’t all be coots.”
Oh, yes they can.
What could we do? Old Marv Glinnen had been good enough to let us in. It would be rude to leave so quickly. We sat on the hill overlooking the pond and ate our lunch. We stared at the water. It was a nice day, a perfect day for duck hunting, with a pale wispy overcast sky and a nice southwest breeze running into a picture-perfect cattail point. I went for a walk. Bob and Corky took a nap. Then it was time to go home.
Unfortunately with all the twists and turns, the stops and starts, we didn’t know where home was. We drove along those gravel roads, good and lost. The sky faded to gray as light fell, and it gets plenty dark on the prairie. Finally we spotted a lonely water tower. A water tower means a town. And a town means a tavern, bless their hearts.
“I’ll be darned,” Bob said as we parked. “There sure are a lot of cars from South Dakota.”
One more lesson. Wondering where you are? Check the license plates.