published Tuesday, August 16th, 2011

Roberts: Feeding ducks is good therapy


by Dalton Roberts

We all have some special little spots in this world, and one of mine is the Chickamauga boat-dock area right off Amnicola Highway and Kings Point Road.

This place is special to me because I grew up a mile away in the Watering Trough community, and it was the first place mother gave me permission to bike to when I was a small boy. She'd make me a couple of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and send me on my way. It was my earliest feeling of freedom.

Over time I discovered a large rock jutting out into the water and found I could shimmy down a steep bank and fish off the rocks. Sometimes I carried home a string of crappie and bream, and Dad would cook them on his outside grill.

The boat-dock area has remained special to me throughout my life. Not just for those early memories but for the large family of ducks that hang out there. I love ducks and love to feed them. When we don't have pets of our own, we can always find animals to love and enjoy.

I fed the ducks bread until a "duck person" told me it was not good for them and suggested some form of grain. I chose popcorn as my favorite duck food because I can get a big sack of it at dollar stores for a buck. For a buck I get to see a half-dozen breeds of ducks with their babies.

No animal has cuter babies than ducks. Most animals have to learn the behaviors of their species from their parents, but it seems to me that ducks are born knowing how to swim. They may waddle a little clumsily for a while, but they swim perfectly.

The good thing about feeding them popcorn is that there are always plenty of small puffs for the smallest ducks. They have a problem opening their bills to scoop up big, puffy popcorn, but they can sure snarf up the small puffs.

The family of ducks hanging out at the Chickamauga boat-dock area seems to be growing rapidly. The last few times I have gone there, I see a large number of ducklings. It looks like there is some intermarrying going on because the babies have strange markings, but they are too cute for words.

Some of the adults have been fed so long that they will come and sit at your feet with their mouths open and beg by waddling their tails. I acknowledge that I have had a role in making them dependent by feeding them for years, so I give special attention to "Ol Welfare," the largest of the more dependent ducks.

Ever since I learned to meditate to lower my blood pressure, I have sought to learn a variety of meditation procedures. I learned meditative walking from a Vietnamese monk, and I learned meditative fellowship from my trips to feed the ducks. Just as it is restful and soothing to sit in quiet fellowship with special friends, it feels good and creates alpha brain waves to sit with the ducks. The more of them you get to know, the deeper the fellowship becomes.

The popcorn costs a buck -- a lot cheaper than a visit to my blood-pressure doctor. And those ducks have become family to me.

Email Dalton Roberts at DownhomeP@aol.com.

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