You’ve seen them, either in person or on the screen: two rams smashing into each other, raisin’ up and slammin’ heads. Or white tail bucks, antlers locked, necks twisted. Maybe you’ve seen horses reared, hooves slashing the air, mouths opened in battle cry.
I promise you, two drakes going after it can be just as dramatic.
If you’ve got a vision of Daffy and Donald swapping cartoon swats, flush it out of your mind right now.
Ripple chased violent ripple as Drake and Sleeve struggled to prove their strength in the pond. Wings out, necks curled, they both scrambled on the water’s surface, each battling to shove the other under. The loser of the moment would swim away, pursued by the other with a speed Earnhart would envy, and the war would continue. There was no escape. The weaker was too tired to fly away; the stronger was too swift on the water.
Drake’s superiority was at stake, his “manhood” was being tested, and he rose to the task of proving himself. He got the better of Sleeve, and for an eternity, stood on Sleeve’s back, holding him under, shoving his head down, keeping him there. How long can a duck stay submerged? What was happening below the surface, hidden from my view?
Drake is the bull of the herd, king of the flock. Sleeve is his son, as is Crip whose name is derived from the results of Drake’s attack on his leg. Drake held Crip down on the bank one day not long after Crip had learned to fly and chopped at the hip with his beak until Crip somehow managed to scramble away. He was crippled for weeks.
Now Drake was trying to kill his other son.
But somehow–I really don’t know how–Sleeve arose from under his father’s weight, managed to escape the ruthless barrage. He scraped the water with webbed feet and scrabbled to the bank, not stopping until he’d climbed the hill leading to the house.
Drake raised up on the water and flapped his wings as if beating his chest, head up, mouth open in victory. He was still king of the flock, still able to conquer.
Someday, I’m gonna shoot that bird.