About 20 miles outside Normal, IL lies a small town of 600 people called Danvers. I grew up on the outskirts with my Mom and Dad, Sister, two dogs and a large amount of barn cats that stayed in our shed. When I was little, I would call out to the cats and kittens every morning before school and they would run up to the house like something was chasing them. They were special to me and watching after them taught me the importance of responsibility.
Then when I was in 6th grade I came home from school, walked in the kitchen and smelled something that reminded me of woodchips and sawdust. My Mom was bent over a large shoebox and I heard a faint “Peep Peep” coming from inside. When I leaned over I saw six ducklings, eating some small green pellets the hatchery sent with them. “They came all the way from California! We’re going to use them for eggs and maybe you can even show them in the county fair!” My Mom said. She let me hold a couple, they were so delicate in the palm of my hand and I couldn’t wait for them to grow.
And sure enough in just a week they were double their size and we had to move them to an old baby pool in our basement so they would fit. By one month we had a pen built for them outside, complete with a little house my Dad built from old pieces of our machine shed. I was in charge of morning chores (changing their bedding and checking food/water) and my sister took the night shift. Together we collected the eggs we used for baking and took care of them all on our own. I would be sitting outside reading a book and the most outgoing male, which we named Tucker, would just come up and sit on my lap, just like a cat!
Then one day I came home from school and went to check on the ducks and cats. When I walked up I saw one of our ducks, Violet, had gotten her neck stuck underneath the pen. I could tell she was struggling to break free and her beak was jammed underneath the wood frame. I ran to my Dad and we carefully loosened her neck and brought her inside. We took a tub, lined it with warm towels and propped her neck up. I sat there all night with some feed mixed with water and sugar, trying to somehow nurse her back to health. We did everything we possibly could, My Mom even called our veterinarian but there was heavy nerve damage and there was nothing more we could do. I could tell she was getting weaker and the brace I fashioned from athletic tape wasn’t working. Eventually she passed and I cried for a long time, I had raised her on my own and thinking back to when they were just little balls of fuzz in my hand I remembered how fragile life is. I cared for Violet just has much as my household pets.
Time went by fast, and before I knew it I was a sophomore in high school, we still have two of the six ducks from the little shoebox, and about twenty more! My sister and I showed them in the county fair during the summer (she always seemed to win Grand Champion) and we collected eggs and sold them to various family members and friends. The workload increased but it became something that brought us all together. I loved working with the ducks and they were a part of our family. The experience taught me the circle of life, responsibility and most of all that love comes in all shapes and sizes.