Mean Ass Mallard Mama

My lazy bones keep getting lazier, and the regular morning walk I initiated eight weeks ago is getting harder and harder to maintain. In the beginning a mile and a half wore me out. Now, I find myself pushing four miles, which certainly contributes to my malaise. The one thing I enjoy are the quiet melodies of the birds and long shadows. Everyday when I leave the house I decide which direction I will turn. Each time I reach new splits in the path and I am forced to decide which direction to proceed. By now, I have memorized the distances of the various routes, and I plot how to add miles to each.

The funny thing about exercising is the process. First, it is deciding to abandon the bed, checking the weather, and selecting proper clothes. Finally, I’m out and walking although sluggishly. As the steps roll by, and the body begins to warm the route emerges at the first decision point, left or right?  This particular morning I turn right, right again, and then left. The sun is bright after three days of grey clouds and rain, it feels good. The birds are particularly noisy as they go about searching for their breakfast, most are busy feeding babies in the nest.  I reach a three-way corner and decide to go straight. This move decides the route more definitively.

I pass a tall tree just beginning to leave out. It has to be more than two hundred years old the trunk is more than three feet in diameter. I stop to examine the creature, it appears healthy and still growing. The sidewalk next to it has heaved a good six inches making the path somewhat trippy.

Walking through the living side of historic Frankfort gives me a view of hundred year old houses blending together with one year old monster houses that match the architecture so well that a stranger would not be able to tell the new from the old. The builder buys up the very small old homes on large lots, demolishes the house and then builds a new home that pushes to the lot lines. Within two blocks, I cross the main street bisecting the town into the historic business district. Again, it is a blend of very old buildings with new ones. One street has three restaurants in a row, Smokey Bar, Fat Rosies, and Francesca’s. They all face the Breidert Green a very small park in the center of town surrounded by businesses. I make another decision when I reach the Old Plank Trail and head home.

The trail passes through what was once Fox Lumber company. The Village bought the property when Fox folded. They have wisely developed it into parking and a beautiful park. The crown jewel of the park is a two acre lake surrounded by a natural Illinois grassland. A stream meanders from the edge of one parking lot and spills into the lake. The stream is fed by the storm sewers of the historic district. It is very rocky and twisting  with a myriad of water plants growing along the edges and sprouting from between rocks. The stream serves as a natural filter forcing water to deposit any particulate matter before it reaches the main body.

I picked up speed as I turned left again to route myself around the western edge of the pond. Then it happened. I saw a female Mallard duck slide into the water. At first it didn’t appear to be anything unusual, but then the neatest, cutest thing ever appeared. She had a dozen chicks following her. They couldn’t have been more than a few days old, but she led them right into the water, and they followed. At first they looked like a string all in a line. Then as she hustled forward they pushed toward her and bunched up in her wake. I stopped to watch this show. She continued to swim, and swim, and swim. I thought for sure she would head for the shore, and give the chicks a rest. She never stopped, she kept paddling with the brood and finally disappeared from my sight at the far side of the pond. As I watched I kept thinking to myself, what a meanie she is to give these little ones such a vigorous workout. I tried to compare her behavior to children of today. A mother who made her baby work as hard as this one did would be put in jail. Nature is cruel, but maybe that is why ducks can live in harsh weather and survive. I’m sure her next lesson was to show them how to feed themselves. I finished my walk at 3.26 miles and took the remainder of the day off.

a-mallard-hen-with-brood-of-chicks-following-cheney-lake-anchorage-CNBC4M.jpg

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