For the love of a duck

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By Ken Stone

Nineteen sixty eight was a difficult year for Americans. Ultra conservative bullets took the lives of Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King. American cities were on fire, neighborhoods were burning and ducks and boats did not fare any better.

The miracle chemical DDT was poisoning the ducks and everything around them and polluted water was poisoning and destroying the boats. If you were a little duck-boat then it was a double whammy with a bigger whammy soon to arrive.

At Coney Island, the ageless amusement park on the banks of the big river not far from here, the Coney Island duck-boats paddled along, aging, worn and tired, but still giving joy to riders in an endless line, day after day after day.

As cold weather approached, the little duck-boats received some months of rest and some time of recuperation. But, for the little duck-boats a new season and the endless lines would never come again. Thus began their 40 year hibernation in the sun, rain, snow, ice and cold; year after year after year.

On a cold November day about five years ago, a warm light shined upon the duck-boats. The Kissel family, known for their decades of providing carnival rides and entertainment, pulled the boats to the side of a building just north of Cincinnati. Inside, carousel horses, lions, tigers, wooden giraffes and lots of other odd pieces of carnival history were being sold at auction.

At the end of the day, about seven men gathered around four duck-boats.

“These are from Coney Island,” said the auctioneer. “What’s the bid?”

The high bidder took two boats and the next bidder took one and the final and lowest bid went for the fourth duck-boat...Huey.

“I don’t know why I bought it,” said the new owner, who is my son’s father-in-law, as we loaded it onto a trailer headed to his carnival toy graveyard in a Michigan field.

A year would pass and then, I began a crusade to get Huey closer to home. After four years of negotiating, Huey now sits, as of this past Monday, at my house.

Huey’s hopes will hopefully improve under my care, though when I look into his eyes he seems to be telling me, “I have had hopes before, yet here I sit abused by weather and inanimate life.”

I see this in Huey’s eyes...I did not hear him say it. I think there’s a difference.

“What in the blabber blabber are you going to do with that....what is that?” She who rules me said about a thousand times since seeing her new lawn decoration on Monday.

“What the blabber blabber is that?”....a neighbor remarked. “And what are you going to do with it?”

“You must be blabber blabber and blabber,” one of my friends said. “And why would you want to save it from oblivion?”

“Seems to me, I guess, that sometimes some things just need to be rescued for the sake of giving people something to blabber about,” I said.

The real reason is, I want to have something in the Christmas parade and the Derby Day parade and any other parade without having to do a lot of float building. Once some sanding, painting and the duck-head is re-attached, I will have a perpetual parade float. It will probably change colors from one parade to the next.

“Blabber, blabber, you don’t do sanding do you,” everyone has reminded me.

Perhaps other groups can borrow it, re-decorate it and enter it in future parades.

It’s a duck and a boat so someone can sit in it during the parade. Therefore I can bestow the title of “Duckmeister” upon someone for the duration of one parade and the remainder of the day. Only one rule. To be the “Duckmeister,” you have to be able to sit in the duck (no standing) and keep your hands inside at all times.

Watch for the duck and the Christmas parade’s Duckmeister on the first Saturday of December. Time is short ,so poor old Huey may not have all his feathers in place yet. Regardless of how sick he may look on Dec. 6, I am committed to having him in the parade. I may just take the Duckmeister job for myself. You know, work out all the kinks of being a Duckmeister before putting the responsibility into novice hands.

“Where is the chicken going to be between parades?” my wife asked.

“It’s a duck.”

“WHERE?” she demurely asked and then proceeded to tell me where she would put it.

“I don’t have all the details worked out yet, but I will take into consideration your impossible idea,” I said to myself.

(Ken Stone is publisher of the Grant County News. He can be reached at kstone@grantky.com or by calling 859-824-3343.)