Thursday, June 16, 2011
By Deborah Sharp
I awoke to ducks in my swimming pool again today. Before you get the idea I'm going all Tony Soprano on you, let me make it clear: I don't love these ducks. The ducks aren't linked in my subconscious to a mother who withheld affection, who hatched a plan to have me whacked, and who I subsequently tried to smother with a pillow.
No, unlike the TV mob boss, I won't be plunged into anxiety and depression when my ducks leave. In fact, I pretty much hate these ducks, and wish every day they'd disappear. My only anxiety will be over how much extra the pool guy charges for additional chlorine and dealing with copious amounts of duck doody. PS, they're not the sweet-looking ducks Tony communed with, either. They're Muscovy ducks -- waddling, hissing devils so ugly I can't bear to insert a picture here. Go ahead, Google them, and you'll see what I mean.
Note to Animal Lovers: Yes, I know all God's creatures are beautiful. But the Muscovy must have been off pooping in a pool when the Lord was passing out adorable animal qualities.
Note to Ducks: Hello? I know you're not great fliers, but did you really miss that big wide river, just a few yards from the pool?
The ducks aren't the least of it. Maybe it's Florida, but some days I feel like an unwanted visitor in the wild kingdom. I'm all for Nature, until it tries to take over.
I exit the garage side door, and a Mockingbird dive bombs my head, imagining (wrongly) in its little bird-brain I want to steal the eggs from its nest in the pink trumpet vine. I walk out to do yoga in my backyard on Fort Lauderdale's New River, and the dock looks like a bombing range of iguana crap. I pick up the broom to sweep it away, and a chameleon hiding on the brown handle hops off and lands in my hair. On the seawall, I see leftovers from a Night-Heron's after-dark buffet. He's picked a land crab clean, extracting the meat from the legs and claws more diligently than a diner at Red Lobster. All that's left is an empty carapace and a couple of eye stalks.
With all the crab holes in the lawn near the seawall, I picture hundreds of the creatures madly burrowing until they undermine our house and it collapses into the water. More room for the crabs! Beneath my bare feet, I imagine a vast subterranean complex of crustaceans, the land crab version of Lord of the Rings.
Old-timers in Florida (like my dad's family) used to eat land crabs; some of the more recent immigrant populations still do. But the crabs have to be corralled and fed corn meal and leafy vegetables for a week or so, or their meat tastes nasty. Not only is it too much trouble; I kind of consider them neighbors these days. Albeit neighbors who wave big fighting pincers when you come too close:
It's funny that the main character in my Mace Bauer Mysteries has a sideline trapping nuisance critters for newcomers to Florida. I'm no newcomer. As a native, I long ago learned to embrace a live-and-let-live policy toward most of the winged, furred, and feathered creatures that share my space. Spiders, for example, live happily inside my home ... mainly because the really big ones will kick ass on the cockroaches (More genteel Floridians call those ''Palmetto Bugs.'' Take my word for it: They're cockroaches.)
But these Muscovy ducks are getting on my last nerve. If Mace really existed, I'd be tempted to hire her to wrangle the foul waterfowl out of my swimming pool and into a more hospitable spot. Mace has wrestled a gator from a golf course pond, so the ducks should be easy. Alas, she's a figment of my imagination. So I'll keep chasing the ducks into the river, yelling at them and shaking my broom. I just have to watch out for falling lizards, dodge the iguana poo on the dock, and be careful I don't tumble down a crab hole.
How about you? Any encounters with nuisance critters? How do you cope?