One of the advantages of being a genuine, bona fide senior citizen is the ease in which one can set aside one’s previous “younger days” wild life — for the wildlife.
Once a senior citizen gets into the graying of America, the thrill of fast dates and even faster cars, exotic dinners by moonlight later resulting in a romp in the pond — skinny-dipping of course — becomes a wee bit passé.
That is, of course, unless you are spending your senior days where the real wild life for seniors still exists … in rural America.
If you are at least partially out in “the sticks,” there is no longer a need to chase or attempt to attract the elusive prospective mate or to worry about whether your car or your new dress is “hot enough” for the occasion or whether there’s still enough money on the credit card when the bill for the gourmet meal arrives at the fancy restaurant table.
Relax. Now is the time to sit back and enjoy and reflect upon the true lessons of life taught by others who continually practice the real wild life … our wildlife friends.
A couple of years ago, my wife and I discovered that our pond, in the rural part of our county, was a natural attraction for both wild and domestic water fowl. We first started to notice that when we become a featured watering hole for our flying feathered friends when blue herons began to arrive on the banks of the pond with complete fishing regalia — including their long and sharp beaks.
For hours upon hours these very skinny-legged birds would stand without movement in the shallow edges of the pond just waiting for a delicious perch, bass or catfish to wonder into their small spear-fishing zone.
One day we observed a heron pull a near-two-pounder catfish from the water and attempted to fly off with it still speared by its beak. No luck. Three attempts down the runway was enough for this resourceful feathered pilot.
With the large catfish flopping around on the bank, and still thinking he had a chance to get away, the hard-working heron began his butchering duties resulting in several flight-size filets which were quickly flown off to wilderness parts unknown.
Enough senior wild life? Hardly. It gets far more exciting than just providing a meal or two for some drop-in (make that fly-in) friends.
Numerous other species of birds make our habitat their home for a day or two … or in some cases for months at a time.
For over half a year now, we’ve observed most of the antics of two black bellied whistling ducks. No surprise. There now are 10 whistling ducks who receive their forwarded mail at our rural address.
We’ve learned a thing or two from this sometimes noisy fowl family.
Yes, we acknowledge that we were a little taken aback when we concluded that the original two whistling ducks were not legally married when they first arrived. At least, they were one male and one female duck. That gave us some comfort.
Shortly after their arrival, mamma duck disappeared and papa duck decided to perch himself atop our roof where his view of the countryside was unobstructed. This became the perfect outpost to provide protective surveillance from.
For several months, papa duck performed his protective duty never failing to ward off potential predators. From other fowl to an errant rooster to several wandering dogs and cats, papa duck kept them all at bay.
Even Rambo, our fully-horned “bull” sheep was totally intimidated by papa duck’s wing span and strength when aimed at the unsuspecting king of the herd.
After one unsuccessful attempt at getting close to where mamma duck was suspected of being perched upon her nest performing her motherly duties, the wrath of papa duck swooped down from the rooftop directly into the face of Rambo. The forever lame barnyard bully never came close again.
Then one day, we were taught more by our two pond guests. All of a sudden, there were eight more little ducks following the now visible … Octo-duck! Yes, we now had a family of 10 frolicking (even skinny-dipping) in our pond. Sometimes at midnight to the light of the moon.
Four months later, the eight newborns are nearly as big as the parents. They forage for themselves, have been taught by the parents to swim, to talk nicely among themselves, and now they can even fly.
For the most part, it appears that mama duck has taught the children most of what they now know while papa duck has seldom slept while providing constant protection for his “wife” and children.
In the meantime, our commercial feed-fed domestic ducks raised by us from week-old ducklings, six in total, continue to wonder around basically clueless. They “mess” around — not a married pair in the flock — and the males constantly fight. The females wouldn’t know a nest if they tripped over one.
We call them our welfare ducks. They can hardly fly at all and rely on us for most of their daily bread — literally!
Lessons learned by this senior moment experience: New neighbors who take care of themselves may become good friends; even those with the biggest horns in town have very real fears when you get in their face; and its tough to get off welfare once you have perfected the habit.
It’s past 8:30 p.m. Shut off the light. I’ve had enough senior wild life for one day.
© Grafe is a former managing editor of the Seguin Gazette Enterprise and a former chief juvenile probation officer for Guadalupe County.