Ducks, Bubblegum and Me


My grandparents had a home on Lake Sinclair in Milledgeville, Georgia. Their house actually set on the Eatonton side, almost in a cove. A large part of my childhood was spent there, with my cousins, for weeks at a time in the summer. We’d usually stay the whole week and then there was a family get together when all the parents arrived on the weekend to pick us up.

There were a group of ducks that would make the rounds at the lake. Well, there were two groups actually. There was a group of wild ducks, mallards, and a group of the white variety. They were still wild, but the white ones can’t really fly.

My grandmother would save bread that was starting to get old, or that was left over from dinner so we could feed the ducks. If we were outside and saw them heading our way, we’d run inside, grab the bread and run back down to the dock. If we were inside, we’d grab the bread and run out to them.

The group of wild ducks had one duck that sort of swam in circles. For the longest time we just figured he was a bit ‘touched’, but we realized he’d lost one of his legs. He was always in the back of the group, but he kept up with them just fine.

In the early 80s there were these commercials for Hubba Bubba Bubblegum with this adorable little old cowboy man in them. My cousins and I thought it was hilarious. Since we got such a kick out of it, my grandmother would always have grape Hubba Bubba Bubblegum waiting for us.

One afternoon, when the ducks showed up, we were on the dock feeding them, chatting, goofing, etc. I’d been chewing a piece of the gum. The thing about Hubba Bubba is it runs out of flavor – quickly. Without thinking anything more than “this gum has gotten yucky”, I took it out of my mouth and tossed it in the lake.

As I’m sure you know, when you’re feeding ducks, pigeons, any group of birds, they dart and dive after the bread in order to get it before the other birds. They don’t often pay attention to what it is, until they’ve gotten ahold of it.

Well, one of the ducks saw me throw it and dove for it in the water. As soon as it hit the water and I saw the duck move I covered my mouth in the “oh no” manner, realizing I should not have thrown it in. Not on that side of the dock anyway. It was too late. No sooner did I cover my mouth, the duck popped back up out of the water smacking his bill as they do with bread or crackers. Granted, he did do it a little longer than he would have with bread, but the manner was the same.

My cousins and grandmother had witnessed the whole thing and asked if I was sure the duck got the gum. They thought maybe he’d missed it.

I just want to pause here a moment and point out, my life seems to have impeccable timing. Not always good timing, not always bad, but it seems that 2 seconds sooner or 2 seconds later, than the moment I’m in, would make a story a whole lot different.

As soon as they asked, and before I could answer, the duck quacked. Well, he tried to quack. It sounded less like a quack and more like a set of bagpipes. No, an out of tune set of bagpipes. We all just stood there listening and watching. I don’t think anyone was even feeding any ducks anymore. We were just frozen, watching the duck.

What began with us staring with looks of anticipation, as to whether or not the duck would ever sound the same again, quickly changed to amazement followed closely by snorts of laughter.

Have you ever seen a duck blow bubblegum? Don’t let anyone tell you it can’t be done. It can. I’ve seen it. You’re thinking “How?” right?

About the third quack-like noise that came out of the duck, two very large purple bubbles began to emerge out of the ducks nostrils. They got bigger and bigger with every quack and eventually popped. When they did, the duck began to quack normally again.

After that it was easy to find him and many people did.

“See that duck right there?” they’d ask someone who wasn’t there that day “the one with the purple splotchy bill? That’s the one Shelley fed bubblegum…”

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