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Opinion: Bill Walton, Duck-Duck

Are we creating a new class of ducks and people?

I was still mentally smiling at the story about ‘Duck Duck Jeep’ as I watched the family of mallards foraging along the shoreline in front of my abode. However, yesterday they had a visitor to their beach area where they often find something to eat after high waves wash things ashore. Picture above.

A young lady, and I suspect she was not homeless unless she had stashed her belongings somewhere, for all she had was a backpack that contained what must have been her necessities. She sat herself on the sand and proceeded to dig in the sand with a trowel. She seemed oblivious to the people walking by, even a dog that approached but was called back by its owner. The lady was doing no harm to others, but it did seem strange to be sitting on the sand, not looking at the lake, on a day that was grey and promising rain.

Stranger still when my family of mallards saw her and saying Duck-Duck, swam towards the visitor to their beach. I suppose they were mooching for food but what she had she was not sharing. It must not have been duck food. The thing was, she seemed completely unaware of the ducks that swam up to her and then came ashore within touching distance. I guess she was in her own world.

Later that evening, I was in the dragon boat stopped for a moment’s instruction just off Olmstead Beach, when a female mallard flew out to the boat and landed only a couple of metres from us. She was looking for food handouts, and we serious paddlers mistakenly had not brought snacks. She said Duck-Duck a couple of times and gave up on us. The coach said "paddles up" and we too went on our way.

And so, now I am thinking ducks and how they have developed a relationship with us humans and our ability to find food for them. This, despite City signs at the waterfront commanding us, by the threat of a bylaw, not to feed the ducks because, not only of duck poo in the swimming area, but it teaches the wild critters to become dependent on our food which in many cases, is not edible or digestible for the duck gut.

I am thinking of the analysis I do each time I eat a wiener, but I digress.

It was not a great leap for my imagination to go from the mallards and the lady on the beach to the Gathering place on Cassells Street. I am not comparing ducks to people, but the very nature of what we as a society may have created in feeding the hungry who cannot fend for themselves. How many of us are unaware, or pretend to be unaware, of the hungry around us – like the lady and those ducks?

No doubt the lady on the beach was in her own world, and perhaps many of us are so comfortable in our worlds that we do not see our fellow humans in need. We have created the need, through our social systems, for soup kitchens and food banks. And yes, the poor have always been with us, but have we and are we creating a new class of ducks and people that depend, and indeed feel entitled to, sustenance?

I expect that Mallard who was mooching at the dragon boat could still dabble for bottom-growing weeds, snails, and dragonfly nymphs, and she will survive. Can the homeless people who are regulars at the soup kitchen go back to the old system of working and earning their supper, or do they not have that capability anymore?

We can post signs denying the ducks free food in the sure knowledge that they can survive without our assistance in finding food and shelter. But what can we do about the growing number of people looking for that same sustenance and shelter? Their tent cities are as welcome as geese on a golf course.

Whatever the reason for its existence, we have created a new class of people who rely on society to provide for them and their habits. We have yet to find a solution that meets the needs of the homeless/displaced/incapacitated and drug-dependant that fits with our modern society’s will to finance that solution.

Duck-Duck. Just saying.

Bill Walton

About the Author: Bill Walton

Retired from City of North Bay in 2000. Writer, poet, columnist
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