Flannery is out of town for a few days so the girls and I went out to eat, and in an effort to wear them out some before taking them home, we went to the park. They played with the dozen other kids on the little playground for an hour or so, until they decided they wanted to see the children's garden. We walked along the jogging path with the little stream to our right until we came upon a small knot of people watching the ducks that swam there.
While I like to watch ducks at play, having grown up around them, I couldn't understand why they would attract this kind of crowd, or why every face wore a worried frown. A grey haired bearded gent spoke up, "There is a turtle trying to drown one of the ducklings," he said grimly. An old lady tossed in a stick to no avail and the mother duck circled and quacked helplessly.
"You stay here," I told the girls and steeped into the water. The stream was eight feet wide and six to eight inches deep. The first step at the edge was soft with silt, but not bad. The second step was bad. My whole leg up to my groin was sucked down into the mud, and in an effort to dislodge it, my other leg followed suit. The old woman on the bank gasped and fretted for my safety.
"Great," I thought to myself, "I'll be in the morning paper under the headline 'Local Man Dies In Park Stream As His Children Watch'" I remembered watching an episode of Mythbusters recently involving quicksand, so I went on hands and knees to distribute my weight evenly and worked my way to the duckling like that.
The poor little thing didn't have any fight left in her as the turtle held her under by the tip of her bill. I gently lifted her out of the water and the turtle's own weight pulled him from his death grip. I paid close attention to where he fell just in case he decided that I would make a much better meal, but he let the current take him farther down stream. I swear I heard him harrumph as he went. I set the exhausted duckling down at the waters edge and made my way to safety before the mud could try to take my life a second time and the small crowd cheered and applauded.
It wasn't until I was out of the water that it hit me. I was covered in a coal-black mud that had the unholy reek of a thousand years of rot. If I had jumped into an open sewer I still would have smelled sweeter. The middle-aged lesbians offered me a towel for the ride home, but they did it from a comfortable ten feet away. The gray haired man gave me the unfinished half of his water bottle to try and wash off some of the stinking mud. It didn't help, but I appreciated the offer.
My older brother, Bill, did the same thing once, but it was in a rain swollen river and he saved a horse. They put his picture in the paper and he spoke at the local grade schools for a week or two. But I've one-upped him. He saved a horse in front of me and my sister. I saved a duck in front of my kids, and how often does a Dad ever have the chance to be something of a hero in front of his children? Not often enough.