A few weeks ago I was getting into my car to drive out of a mall parking lot in St. Louis when I noticed a female mallard step off the curb a few car rows away from me and start across the street with several, well actually,… ten ducklings following her! I could see that the ducklings were having a hard time getting up the curb on the other side and I sped over, making a U turn and stopping my car right in front of the scene of the duckling crossing. Meanwhile, cars were swerving to miss them and other passers by began to make comments and or stop to watch or try to help.
When I got close enough I realized that there was a wide grate across the road with gaping openings and oh, my gosh, five of the ducklings had fallen through the grate! Peeping away and running underneath the road. Oh my, oh my.
By now, we were three women to the rescue: Pam, a young mother with baby Arthur on her hip, on her cell phone trying to reach the Wildlife Rescue Center and Salma, a professor at St. Louis University.
We were all shouting instructions to each other…“Get the mother. She will be mad. We need to put the ducklings in the box…Throw my jacket over the mom, and try to calm her down…”
Salma and I agreed to take the mother and the five ducklings to water, and the pool and waterfall in the middle of the swirling traffic did not seem like an alternative. We put the ducklings in the back of my car in the box that Pam had donated to the cause and Salma held mother duck in her lap covered with my jacket, stoking her.
We drove to Forest Park, built in 1876, a beautiful stretch of about 1300 acres with lakes and lagoons throughout. When we put the mother in the water, the ducklings jumped in behind her and they high tailed it across the lake, mother duck throwing water across her back with her beak. They seemed thrilled to be free and swimming to safety.
Salma looked at me and said, “We did a good job.”
When we arrived back at the parking lot, there were two police cars, Pam and Arthur and one woman who had stayed to see what would happen. “I couldn’t leave,” she said.
Salma was excitedly telling the relocation story to the policemen out the car window. “Keep moving ma’am, we have a fire truck on the way.” And sure enough, the Brentwood Fire Department arrived just then. Three firemen emerged from the truck, and one, David, was 6' 3” I would say. The firemen removed the round cement storm drain lid and Fireman David disappeared down the sewer with that same rescue box and climbed back out a few minutes later with all five ducklings! What a hero. The other firemen were smiling and snapping photos. And then, the Sewer Department truck pulled up.
“Where are those ducklings? We want to see them, “ they inquired.
We decided to take the five ducklings to the lake where we had released the others in hopes of finding their family, and this time, Pam and Arthur followed us. We circled the lake, asking people if they had seen ducklings. Pam was on the phone with a Wildlife Rescue Center. They said all the lagoons were connected and it was unlikely that we would find the mother. “She is probably long gone, and trying to protect her babies somewhere else by now.” So, after an hour of looking, Pam volunteered to drive the ducklings to the Wildlife Rescue Center in Ballwin, about 40 minutes from Forest Park, with Arthur, who is the most agreeable companion. This adventure started around 4:00 and by now, it was 7:00.
April 9, 8:28 p.m. Text from Pam:
"Hi Louise. They are checking ducklings in now at MO Wildlife Rescue Center in Ballwin. They are their first mallards of the season they said.
April 11, 2:28 p.m. Text from Pam:
“Hi there. Just received very nice call from Vol. coordinator at Wildlife Rescue Center. Ducklings are doing great. Very complimentary of everyone. She is going to call Brentwood police/fire/MSD.
This week I will take a copy of Make Way for Ducklings to the Brentwood Fire Department. They had not heard of the book. If you have not read it, get it. It is a heartwarming, true story. And now, there are two versions, at least.