Think about those extraordinary moments of your life. You might recall a milestone celebration or something unplanned, such as the gift of a perfect spring day when you fished a stream and caught a brook trout or the warm night you strolled outdoors under a star-filled night. Or it could be the day you got an unexpected phone call that changed your life.
Three years ago, a friend of mine called to say she’d had an extraordinary encounter while she and her daughter were wading in the Wisconsin River. A long gosling startled Kim when it swam up to her and actually climbed up her leg. Kim held the gosling while she and her mom searched for signs of other geese. Even though they remained at the river for hours, they didn’t see any others. Knowing that I had pet ducks, my friend called me. I agreed to care for the orphan.
Gertie was incredibly soft and adorable. She also was needy and let my husband and me know when she wasn’t happy. We learned how to understand “goose.” Gertie had a contented coo that sounded like wiggle-wiggle-wiggle. She also had an excited chime when she found something tasty, and a chatter when she was upset. Her “I’m-lonely” gabble could melt my heart. I tried to get her to bond with the ducklings or Josie, our Cockapoo, but she wanted my husband or me. I finally found a tan canvas shoulder bag to wear around my neck. After lining it with paper towel, I opened the flap and set Gertie inside. She snuggled in.
I carried her around during the day and, when it became dark, she was content to rest in the brooder. We soon became best buds. When I gave her a special treat like watermelon, I knew her soft, whispering honks were a thank you. She and I shared a love of being outside and going on adventures, I fondly remember the first time she and I swam together at our cabin’s lake. She showed off her skills by zipping on top of the water like a loon will do. Then she did a complete underwater roll. Afterward, she popped up and looked at me expectantly. I complied with an enthusiastic clap.
Gertie was a bit older when my husband and I walked out on the cab-in’s dock and prepared to go for a boat ride. Gertie followed us and stood by the boat. She gave us her “I’m-lonely” gabble.
“No,” I told her. “You can’t come with.” We sped off. I never thought to look, but she swam after us. The pet ducks followed her.
Our visiting granddaughter, Maria, happened to see them. Since they were still young and had never been away from shore, Maria grabbed a favorite treat, watermelon, and jumped in the kayak to paddle after them. So now we had Gertie following Frank and me, the ducks following Gertie, and Maria following the runaways.
Gertie spotted a woman on a standup paddleboard in the middle of the lake. Gertie forgot about finding my husband and me and zeroed in on the young woman.
The woman had never seen Gertie and the ducks. She thought Gertie might be the ducks’ parent. When Gertie excitedly flapped her wings, flew a few feet, and skidded to a stop, she sent a small rooster tail of spray onto the woman’s legs. “Shoo!” she called. “Shoo!”
Maria was still too far away to explain. Gertie opened her mouth. She had a way of sticking out her tongue, which could be scary. When she did that and included loud honks, the woman panicked. She paddled for safety. But Gertie, the ducks, and Maria pursued.
About this time, my husband and I returned and spotted our grand-daughter, who was explaining the situation to our amazed neighbor. As if to help tell her story, Gertie strode right up next to us, her tail wiggling with delight. Our neighbor had to agree with us. Gertie was an extraordinary creature.
Tune in later this spring for Gertie, the teenage years.
Author Amy Laundrie, a Wisconsin Dells resident, writes a weekly column for Capital Newspapers. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.