Little Bitty, Free Agent

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From Jane's World

Still in my jammies, I walked down to the snake shed to give the donkeys their morning hay. Diego, always the more impatient of the two, was already hee-hawing up a storm, trying to coerce me to move faster. But it was a pleasant spring morning, no need for a sweater or a rain jacket, and I wasn’t in any hurry.

I opened the door of the shed and wham! A big bird flew right at me—or right at the light from the open door I was standing in front of. I was so startled, I didn’t even have time to let out a yelp. I knew this was no robin or barn swallow. Turning quickly to see who had nearly collided with me, I jumped for joy: there was Little Bitty, waddling over to the rest of the flock.

“Bitty is home!” I yelled. “Bitty came back! Bitty was in the snake shed!” I exclaimed to no one in particular.

It’s hard not to like Little Bitty. She’s small and sleek and a great flier. She does fly-bys that would make your hair stand on end if you didn’t know that it was only Bitty.

I had been gone on a trip and when I’d called home to check on everyone’s status, Dane reported that Bitty was MIA. I was saddened by the news, but we both agreed that she had done this before and that possibly the next morning she'd be out in the yard, quacking up a storm, indignant that no one else was out of the duck hall yet and where was her food!?

But she didn’t come home. I did, six days later, and still no Little Bitty.

Little Bitty had flown the coop. She’s my only mallard duck, and when the seller asked if I wanted her wings clipped, I shouted an emphatic, “No!” It seemed such an unnatural thing to do, and with unclipped wings she’d have a better chance of getting away from a predator.

Last year Bitty surprised us with her comings and goings. Always no more than a day or two, but enough time to cause me to worry about her. This was by far the longest time she’d been gone. I’d started to lose hope that I’d ever see her again, when she surprised the daylights out of me this morning.

I threw hay to the donkeys and went over to the duck hall to watch Bitty’s homecoming. Tickles and The Professor, my two watchdog geese that rule over the flock here, seemed to be giving Bitty the cold shoulder. But Bitty had no qualms about gobbling up the grain I had thrown down. What an opportunist! Gone for almost a week and now eating faster and more than the others.

Where did Bitty go? What does Bitty do when she’s away?

I tend to think, since it happened in spring last year too, that she might be looking for a mate. But isn’t that the drake’s job?

I’d like to get one of those snazzy cameras that people attach to their cats’ collars so they can see where their kitty goes when it’s not at home. I could save them a lot of money and time by telling them their cat goes to visit the neighbors, who give them more food and more love, before coming back home to get more of the same! But Bitty going to a neighbor for treats and love? I doubt it.

Little Bitty’s disappearances are one of the many mysteries I’ll never be able to crack. For now, I’ll just rejoice in her being home and not having become Mr. Wily Coyote’s dinner.

Heading back out to put the ducks to bed tonight, I did a double take. No Bitty! I called for her, searched the creek where she likes to hang out, and even checked in the snake shed, thinking maybe she had a nest in there.

No luck. Little Bitty has flown the coop again. She was hardly home long enough to get her feet wet. Looks like Bitty is a free agent with a mind of her own, coming and going at her own will. I’d best get used to it.

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Originally Published June 21st, 2018 in the Crawford County Independent & Kickapoo Scout