Fuzzy and Wuzzy
Let’s take a walk, in the fresh air, enjoy this glorious sunny day and leave the cluttered minds behind. That’s the way dad loved to start any deal. His arm over the shoulder of his bartering opponent. Always a master deal maker, all his life. If he wants to make a bargain with some person, dad will always come out ahead on the other side of the deal especially when dealing with other dads. He always ended the process with the best and the most of whatever it was he was trying to achieve. In this case there was a new flock of hatchling baby ducks at a farm in the country. We were headed there in the old blue Ford truck. We had two trucks. This was the noisy one and of course it was so early in the morning that I couldn’t keep my eyes open. I slept most of the way there, but I felt every bump and heard that old Ford crash and rattle. The blue truck would rattle and bang every time we hit a pot hole and believe me, we hit a lot of them on the country roads. I Finally, we arrived at the farm just as the sun rose over the horizon. I was in a hurry, as usual. I always wanted to get there, where ever that was, so I could scope out the local critters. So, there we were, my dad and I pulling up into the farmer’s driveway, just as the sun came up over the horizon. I suppose on an early spring morning that would be somewhere around five a.m. and it was so early even the birds and insects weren’t talking. I guessed at the time that maybe the farmer had no idea we were coming to see his brood of ducklings, because he met us at his porch with a shotgun and only wearing his long underwear bottoms. His hair was a jumbled up like he had been in a windstorm, of course, I’m sure it was just bed head, now that I look back on it. But, as a little kid, nobody had explained bedhead to me, although I’m sure I had a few episodes of that in my youth.
When we got to the barn with all the ducks, they were the cutest little things I had ever seen. The farmer had a whole barn full of them and some where even in incubators. Each different type of duck had its own little area partitioned off and the little ones were in galvanized stock tanks so they couldn’t get away. In the fifties, money was hard to come by so dad did the next best thing and that was to barter or trade for what we needed. That day, he had in mind trading off an old beat up wheel barrow for about ten of those ducklings, but dad had no idea he was about to meet the king of the barter. We talked and the old farmer looked at me and then down at the dirt, which he started drawing in with the tip of his boot. Well, dad said ten ducks and the old man just grunts and then smiles at me. I didn’t know why he was smiling at me, so I hid behind dad’s leg, and yes, I was just a little guy. The old man grunted again and gave an ugly face. I thought maybe he was sick or something. Finally, the old farmer picks up a stick and draws the number two in the dirt and then winks at me with a chuckle. Well, then dad looks at me and asks if I think that is a good deal. Well heck no I didn’t because I played in that old wheelbarrow a lot and I figured I would miss the thing laying there in the back yard. But I could tell dad was ready to make the deal and get on down the road, as he used to say. So, I just said yes to the deal and off we went with two little yellow ducks. I sure thought we would have gotten many more from that deal. Dad had come out on the short end of that deal. When I finally had them in my hands, and I looked at them real close I sure thought they would have been white, not yellow. Ducks are always white. That’s what I was thinking. After we had them awhile it was obvious how wrong I was. Those nasty dirty little creatures had white feathers, but they rarely ever stayed white. We put those ducks in a shoe box with some straw, on the way home and they pooped in it and then walked in it and then laid in the poop. Birds are awful messy. After that I had different types of domestic birds in cages and they were all quite dirty. I will never again have a bird for a pet. I do love the birds and we feed them outside and that’s where they need to stay.
It was a beautiful spring morning when dad and I got home with those two ducks. Mom was in the yard, marveling at the vast array of tulips dotting the hillside that sloped down from our garage to the neighbor’s chain link fence. We came in the driveway that was behind mom. We had three of them. Two half circles butted together and a straight one on the side going into the garage. We could go any direction we wanted and never have to back up. As we drove in the gravel made a crunching sound as it was squashed and tossed about by the big tires on the truck. We rattled on down towards mom and dad’s big toothy grin was shining through the dust caked windshield. I could tell he felt proud of his new ducks as he slid across the seat and pushed open the old rusty hinged door. Even though dad was proud of the ducks, I personally thought he made a bad deal. I just shrugged my shoulders. Who was I to say? Just a boy in the life and that life belonged to others, at least for the moment. Things would change though, soon enough I would no longer be the boy in the life, but a man with a life.
He motioned mom to come and see what we had. I crawled across the seat and dropped to the ground with the shoebox of little critters and sauntered over to mom. “What did you buy this time dear?” She sometimes would get angry with him for sneaking off early in the morning for a farm sale. But dad was smug and smiled with great pride as he said “I didn’t go to a farm sale today and I darn sure didn’t spend any money. I bartered that beat up old wheel barrow for a couple of ducks.” She pulled the lid off the shoe box and grimaced. “What are we going to do with these scrawny things?” Dad smiled and put the lid back on. “Tell your mom son. What are we going to do with these ducks?” I think maybe I had turned green and pale. I surely didn’t want to end up eating these on Thanksgiving like dad had told me earlier. “Dad says we are going to eat them for Thanksgiving, mom.”
“Oh, good Lord,” was all she said. She stared icily into my dad’s eyes. “Whatever possessed you to bring those pitiful smelly little birds home?” She continued to glare at him as he gathered his thoughts and said, “I figured the boys would like them and might be a good way teach them some responsibility.”
“You don’t think the animals they have now will do that? They will end up being just like the rest of the critters and I will end up feeding them.”
“Please mom?” I whined. “Aw come on, Please?”
She looked from me to dad and I thought for just a second, she was going to say yes. I was breathing hard and getting excited and then she gave the final verdict. “NO! and that is final” But I knew she could never resist my pathetic little face. The other boys, well, they weren’t her kids and it just didn’t work for them. “ Aw mom, I’ll take care of them.”
When the other boys came back from Barker’s Pond, they had a huge string of bluegill fish. I was in the back yard playing with my new ducks that mom of course, said I could have. She never could resist my sweet little face especially if I threw in a few hugs and kisses. When the other boys came back, they were so surprised by the ducks they dropped the fish on the ground and the dog ran off with the stringer. One of my cousins blurted out. “Cool, where the heck did those come from? Mom really going to let you keep them?” We fed them a few pieces of bread and then carried them around to the back yard so they would be fenced in. Not only did the other boys find them fascinating but our dog did too. He kept chasing them around until they’d had enough and turned the tables on the ornery dog. They ganged up on him, with one on either end and mercilessly chased and bit his butt until he learned his lesson. After that they all respected one another and got along famously.
The hot days of summer arrived, burning holes in the soft carpet of Bermuda grass, as my three cousins and I became fast friends with the two young ducks. They somehow got named after the nursery rhyme, Fuzzy and Wuzzy. You could hear my oldest cousin Richard yell at them when the sun came up. They were worse than a rooster, when it came to announcing the sunrise, and there were two of them. If they were hungry, which of course was all the time, they quacked incessantly until they were fed. Water of course was a big thing for them. We had a large stock tank that they loved to swim in. The cutest part of that was when the dog joined them in the tank. Those ornery ducks would rush across the water at him, trying to scare him out of their pond. He was rather stoic old mutt and didn’t scare easily. After he learned to slide under the water and grab at their legs, once again the balance was restored, and their world was on an even keel again. It’s amazing to me how animals can work these differences out and yet humans cannot. Mom’s prediction was fast becoming a reality as we boys grew weary of the daily grind of feeding, watering and cleaning up after these two future Thanksgiving Dinner Entrées. Mom took over the chore, of course, but we still had a hand in playing with the ducks. They frolicked in our yard like kings and became fat and lazy, just as dad had hoped. They only knew instant gratification, warm straw beds and lots of love and respect from four little boys.
The snow began to flutter and lightly cover the ground in mid-November. A fluttering dance of white petals from the heavens, that we as kids always enjoyed. Its early appearance always seemed to signal the coming winter season and perhaps a few thoughts of sleds, snowball fights, and Holiday meals.
Early one cold autumn morning, just barely after the sun had poked above the horizon, it happened. The impending doom that we had all been dreading for many months. Dad was out in the back yard running around with a dirty gunny sack in one hand and a leather glove on his other hand. He was cursing like mom’s cousin George who was a merchant sailor and swinging that sack around like a lasso. Trying to bag Fuzzy and Wuzzy, with very little luck I might add. The eyes of four little boys had grown to bulging proportions and unfortunately, we saw dad stuff them into the brown bag and tie off the top, as he growled and cussed at the squawking bag. We rushed out of room as fast as we could, and I even stubbed my bare toe on a chair and careened headlong into my cousin’s backside just as he arrived at the stairs. I would later tell him that he tripped and fell down the steps like a drunken sailor.
We arrived at the large kitchen window just in time to see dad throw the squawking sack of ducks into the bed of the truck. “Hey, he can’t do that I yelled those are our ducks, aren’t they? Mom was standing behind us, laughing. “If they are anybody’s ducks, they should be mine.” mom chuckled. “They are better off where they are going. Besides they wouldn’t last out there in the cold, anyway. “Where is he taking them?” I screamed in a spasm of rage. “When’s he bringing them back?” I cried.
“He’s not. They are being taken to the meat market to be prepared for our Thanksgiving dinner.” Mom seemed like she enjoyed telling us that, but I just could imagine that she would be that mean. I don’t remember how much time passed, but huge swarms of flies could have flown through our gaping jaws, and we would never have known it. “You mean we are going to eat them?” I cried.
“Yes, there will be plenty for everybody on Thanksgiving.”
“Yuck, I’m not eating them,” I said.
“Me neither.” Said my cousin. We both agreed, nodding our heads in unison.
When Thanksgiving arrived, we all sat down to the table, our eyes glued to the big silver platter in the middle. There all charred and trussed up with nowhere to go, were our friends fuzzy and wuzzy. “Oh how gross,” “Oh how could you cook them mom?”
My older cousin began drooling down his chin and let out a strange cry of “Ack,Ack.”
“Which one is Fuzzy, and which one is Wuzzy? I asked, with a faint whimper. I was so traumatized by seeing my ducks on the table I truly don’t remember what we ate for that dinner. The memory has long since faded. My mind only retains the memory of that gunnysack and that terrible, terrible, day of infamy, when the remains of two scorched ducks were perched on that little silver tray. Such was the story of Fuzzy and Wuzzy.