6:15 AM, driving to work in the rain, the brakelights on the pickup in front of me come on. I tap mine, but the a-hole is stopping in the middle fo the highway and I’m trying to come to a standstill from 55 on the wet pavement. The guy behind me takes to the median, cussing me like I’m cussing the pickup. I don’t know who is behind him.
We are all stopped, and two of these ladies waddle across the road.
Can’t you fly in the rain? Did somebody clip your wings, dammit?
In western Oregon, there are ducks everywhere, in almost every roadside ditch. It’s amazing that one rarely sees them squished on the pavement. People here are very duck-friendly (with the exception of a few rabid Beaver fans), and it’s not uncommon this time of year to see cars stopped for duck families crossing the road in residential areas. In some areas there are even road signs that warn of “duck crossing”.
Mallard ducks (they’re as common as mosquitos in Illinois) are protected. I suppose you wouldn’t get much flack on an interstate, but if I’m not mistaken, you can get in Big Trouble for hitting them unless there’s no way you can stop.
One day I was driving from Worcester MA on I-190 (very busy, three lanes) when I see a mother duck and several of her ducklings on the wrong side of the median. They had somehow crossed three lanes of busy road, only to be thwarted by the tall cement median, so they were waddling down 190 as fast as they could go. They weren’t in immediate danger of being hit, but the median extended for several miles before it reverted to grass…and on the other side of the grass was 190 going in the opposite direction. I pulled over to the breakdown lane ahead of the ducks and called the first person I thought of, my grandmother. “For heavens sake, just let them be! Don’t even think about going out there and trying to save them!” she says, quite sensibly. “But I can’t just leave them there, they’ll get run over! Maybe I should call the highway patrol” say I. As I’m on the phone with her, a green VW bug pulls up behind me. A guy gets out and starts looking down the road at the ducks making their way closer to us. He waits for a break in traffic and dashes across the 3 lanes. I hang up with my grandmother and get out to try and help him. The mother duck spies us and stops. The guy keeps moving forward, and gets too close for her comfort, so she flies across the road into the woods, abandoning her ducklings. The man starts scooping up ducklings and dashing across the road to heave them into the woods with theIR mother. I’m meeting him halfway and taking the ducks from him so he can get to the others quicker. We get two safe, and by this time cars have arrived and are now stopped in the middle of 190, watching the spectacle. One person in the front row of cars gets out and offers the guy the shirt off his back so he can scoop up the rest of the ducklings all at once. I’m grabbing the ducklings and shoving them in the shirt, he’s trying to keep them all together, and they start jumping out like popcorn. He bends down to get one, another pops out! Finally, between the three of us, all the ducklings are saved, and traffic then resumes.
I didn’t get the guys name, but i’ll never forget the huge smile he had on his face as we parted. It was quite the fun tale.