Kindred souls.

I often strike up a conversation with people at the various parks that I frequent, and, surprisingly, the topic of our conversation is NOT necessarily walking. In fact, I almost never talk about walking. It is more about what I SEE when I am walking.

I have a treasure trove of little tales and photos that happen by the simple act of tossing out a few peanuts for the squirrels or birds and awaiting their reaction, usually with the camera in my hand. For the last five years, taking photos to accompany my walks has become the norm – it wasn’t always that way though. I began my walking regimen in 2011, and, when I discovered Council Point Park in 2013, the same year I began this blog, my daily meanders became walking AND feeding the squirrels AND taking pictures – now the blog has morphed with posts that are many paragraphs long and accompanied by many photos. This is such a blog post.

We’re bleeding hearts – that’s not a bad trait though.

I’ve met some fine folks I call kindred souls, nature lovers like myself, who make a special effort to show up at various parks to fawn over the critters that live there and ensure they are fed, especially when times are tough, like when a Michigan Winter settles in for the duration and our furry and feathered friends have it tough foraging for food.

In the Winter I worry about my Park squirrels and birds … the squirrels especially. I wonder if they have become “soft” … you know, accustomed to having peanuts scattered at their feet. Do they still go out and forage on those days I don’t make it to my favorite nature nook, or, do they huddle together in their nests, tummies rumbling and going hungry? To relieve my worries or guilt about not making a personal appearance every single day, especially in Winter, I make “droppings” on the picnic table in the pavilion area when I know bad weather is on the horizon. It is my furry and feathered friends’ ace in the hole when I am MIA.

You may think I am dedicated to keeping my peanut pals happy, but I must share this story about Elaine.

Elaine must’ve been here.

Back on February 22nd, a very cold, clear day, I was strolling around lovely Elizabeth Park. This venue is picturesque, no matter the season. It had been quite cold the week before and the Detroit River had frozen over, so I marveled at the ice slabs washed up on the boulders along the shoreline …

… and I was surprised how quickly the most-recent snowfall seemed non-existent.

There are lots of squirrels and birds at Elizabeth Park, so I always take peanuts and seeds to treat them. I ensure my camera is close by to get a few photos memorializing my morning meander, whether I am walking on the path that encircles this park, or at the bird feeding station I call “Birdie Nirvana” – a trip to Elizabeth Park never disappoints if you are a nature lover.

So I was taking photos of the Pekin ducks and Mallard Hybrids paddling around in the small cove near the canal, which surprisingly was not frozen over…

… when I heard a female voice say “good morning – my it’s cold out, but what a beautiful day!”

I turned around and acknowledged her greeting and agreed. Then the woman came over near me and said “well, I wondered where my Pekin ducks disappeared to? They usually come out of the water once they see me with my feed bag.” I smiled and said “they were posing for me” then I added “oh ya, I know all about the feed bag. In fact, I often wonder if the critters who live at the park where I go every day love me for ME, or that bag of peanuts I am toting.” She laughed and extended a hand and said “I’m Elaine and I take it you feed the critters too?” I introduced myself and patted my pocket where the remainder of a bright-yellow cellophane bag of Hampton Farms Jumbo Peanuts was wadded up and stuffed in there. I told Elaine my moniker was “The Peanut Lady” at Council Point Park.

We ended up chitchatting for almost an hour, both of us stomping our feet and rubbing our hands together in a futile attempt to stay warm, and, just like a couple of old friends comparing baby stories, we regaled one another with funny tales about critters at our favorite parks. I wowed Elaine with my story about the peanut-eating Canada Geese. She’d never seen that happen here at Elizabeth Park. I also told of the time a male Mute Swan took exception with me taking some photos of him and the Missus and he climbed up the Creek bank and charged after me. Because I’m never without peanuts, I threw some and he stopped in his tracks – whew!

By the time we parted, she had told me about a great deal on 50-pound bags of peanuts that she and her husband bought at a produce market many miles away. She even offered to get a bag or two for me, meet me at Elizabeth Park and even volunteered her husband to load up my car with the bags so I did not have to lift them. I thanked her but said I had no room right now as I’d loaded up food and pantry items for over the Winter, so I would continue buying them from Meijer, (though they had dropped the ball on keeping them in stock lately). “I live in a small house” I added.

Elaine said she was diligent about walking and feeding the critters and drove to Elizabeth Park all year around for her daily constitutional, while toting a two-pound bag of corn for the ducks and a one-pound bag of peanuts for the squirrels. As Elaine made her rounds, many furry and feathered fans scampered or waddled over to greet her.

Stooping down to lend a hand to some ducklings in need

Elaine told me that on one of her daily strolls, about a week after Easter 2019, she saw several yellow ducklings huddled together on the grass near the marina/catering hall area.

She recognized the trio as Pekin ducklings, seen only at Elizabeth Park. Pekin ducklings are yellow and fuzzy when they are young and their feathers turn white when they are mature. Taking a quick glance around the area, Elaine saw no sign of a Mama duck, so she crouched down and spoke to them and offered a handful of cracked corn which they gobbled right up, so she spread out more corn, several times, and it disappeared in a flash. Elaine wondered if they had been abandoned. She left the ducklings, promising them to return after going to the canal on her daily ritual to feed the Pekins and Mallards. She walked along the boardwalk, went to the canal, then along the path which encircles Elizabeth Park. She was gone a long time, but when she returned again to the marina area, she saw the ducklings were still there. This time they left their huddle and waddled right over to her. Yes, my heart would melt too, as would yours.

Because the ducklings weren’t afraid of humans, Elaine was sure they were abandoned, most likely by someone who bought them for their kids as Easter gifts, cute and cuddly pets, but soon realized the commitment, expense and mess of taking care of them.

Elaine told me her heart was pounding, but she had a solution – she would find a new “family” to adopt these cute ducklings, but it would not be humans this time – no, it would be some of their own kind.

So, luckily Elaine had saved some corn and she dribbled it out of her hand to get the ducklings to walk behind her. Obediently they followed, and the small pieces of corn disappeared as each duckling ran near her heels to be the first to grab a morsel. Can’t you just picture this in your mind? I can as I have had the cardinals hopping along behind me.

Elaine said it would have been much easier to just pick up the ducklings and simply carry them down to the canal with the adult Pekins, but she didn’t want to scare them, and besides, her hands were occupied by the two bags of corn and peanuts.

Well, Elaine did not have the benefit of being a Mama Mallard, but she guided those feathery babies along the boardwalk. It is a long trek from the marina/Chateau on the River and these few pictures do not even show the entire length of the boardwalk, then around the bend and over to the cove. Elaine smiled as she described one of the ducklings straying to the edge of the boardwalk and she almost lost it when it got off course, explored a wee bit too far and nearly toppled into the Detroit River.

This photo shows how precariously close her charge came to landing in the water with this exit where the leaves had collected …

… or, even catching a webbed foot in this wide space in the slats in the boardwalk.

Elaine lured the wayward duckling back to the route by using some more corn which was once again gobbled up. She told me she was wondering aloud “how long has it been since these babies last ate?” It was a long and arduous trip from the marina/catering hall to the canal area … some of these photos give you an example of just how far the group traveled.

This is an overview from above:

This is only a portion of the boardwalk and it curves around a few times:

Finally, 45 minutes later, and they were at the cove area of the canal. Elaine told me that in her mind, she pictured the young ducks gravitating right to the larger Pekins, thinking it was their Mama. But that was not the match made in Heaven she had anticipated. Elaine decided maybe it was best she left and let nature work its magic, so she left the adults and ducklings to get acquainted. As Elaine walked away, the ducklings turned and started walking back the way they came, obediently following behind her (quick learners)! “No!” said Elaine and she hurried over, quickly doling out more corn and got them pointed in the right direction, toward their new kin. 🙂

Perhaps the adults’ maternal instinct then kicked in, or maybe the Pekin adults simply wanted to please their benefactor, but soon the adults waddled over to nuzzle the ducklings. Elaine dumped the remaining corn for everyone and left the rest up to Mother Nature. She walked one more time around the park but decided not to return to the “meet-and-greet site” for fear the ducklings would follow her and not stay put.

The next day Elaine could hardly wait to see if the “new family” was visible at the cove/canal area. They were and they were all swimming around and zipped right over to see her to visit and for their daily breakfast. Elaine smiled and said she felt like a matchmaker and realized she probably saved those ducklings from predators, or sure death, as they likely had no clue how to defend themselves nor any foraging instincts either.

Elaine’s tale made me smile and gave me a warm-and-fuzzy feeling inside. I said I’d have had misgivings leaving those helpless babies too. I told her my angst about leaving the baby robin on the sidewalk, after I discovered it, heart pumping out of its chest and obviously not ready for prime-time fledging yet with such short wings. There was no nest to put it in. I left, tears welling up in my eyes, but when I returned later to take another look at it and saw Mama Robin lurking in the bushes, keeping her baby in her sight, my heart just swelled.

Almost an hour after meeting and each of us uttering “well I guess I should get going” we finally parted. I have not seen Elaine again in the many times I’ve been at Elizabeth Park since that Winter day, but who knows, perhaps we passed one another, clutching our respective bags of goodies, and did not recognize the other without our heavy parkas, wool mufflers and knit hats?

I have a few more tales of kindness to animals and that will appear in a post later this week. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with this quote: “Compassion is an action word with no boundaries.” ~ Prince

About Linda Schaub

This is my first blog and I enjoy writing each and every post immensely. I started a walking regimen in 2011 and decided to create a blog as a means of memorializing the people, places and things I see on my daily walks. I have always enjoyed people watching, and so my blog is peppered with folks I meet, or reflections of characters I have known through the years. Often something piques my interest, or evokes a pleasant memory from my memory bank, so this becomes a “slice o’ life” blog post that day. I respect and appreciate nature and my interaction with Mother Nature’s gifts is also a common theme. Sometimes the most-ordinary items become fodder for points to ponder over and touch upon. My career has been in the legal field and I have been a legal secretary for four decades, primarily working in downtown Detroit, and now working from my home. I graduated from Wayne State University with a degree in print journalism in 1978, though I’ve never worked in that field. I like to think this blog is the writer in me finally emerging!! Walking and writing have met and shaken hands and the creative juices are flowing once again in Walkin’, Writin’, Wit & Whimsy – hope you think so too. - Linda Schaub
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57 Responses to Kindred souls.

  1. ruthsoaper says:

    That is a truly amazing and heartwarming story. I had no idea that the parents would accept babies that were not their own. Nature at it’s best. God bless Elain.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What a lovely post! You and Elaine are kindred spirits. That was a touching story about the ducks.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Linda Schaub says:

      Thanks Anne – I have a couple of more animal stories which I intended to put into this post, but I knew it was already lengthy. I’ll do it later in the week. I wish I’d gotten Elaine’s photo. Elaine and I spent an hour just recounting some cute stories of critters at our respective parks – you are right, we are kindred spirits. She really put a lot of effort into guiding those ducklings down the boardwalk and keeping them on course. All the photos I used and there was still some more boardwalk for them to travel. I was glad the adult accepted them as adoptees.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Michael says:

    A lovely read as ever Linda…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Linda Schaub says:

      Thanks Michael – it was such a heartwarming story and that was back before all the craziness of COVID-19 had set in … just a few, mask-free carefree laughs, even a handshake which seems like an eternity ago now.

      Like

  4. Joni says:

    That was lovely……I have heard of baby geese bonding with a human, I think it was the basis of a Disney movie many years ago?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Eliza says:

    I recall you mentioned her once but not these stories. They’re just, wow. Incredible. I hope you meet her again….

    Liked by 1 person

    • Linda Schaub says:

      Yes, I did mention this to you Ellie – you are right. She was very nice and here we were spending an hour, on a really cold day, stomping our feet a little to keep them warm, as we’d both been walking around Elizabeth Park for a while. You know you keep saying “well, I should get going” … but don’t. I am glad Elaine was successful.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Rebecca says:

    Sweet story with a happy ending. That was so kind of Elaine to take the time to help the goslings.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Linda Schaub says:

    Glad you liked them Kate – Elaine was a person you would like too and easily spend an hour talking about your critter interactions.

    Like

  8. AnnMarie R stevens says:

    Miss Linda…………………………..I enjoyed your story about meeting up with Elaine at the park……………………both of you have: “Compassion with no limits……”

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Sandra J says:

    Beautiful story Linda, there are still so many good people out there. People like that we remember, the kindness and the way they just make you feel good. Times like that in our lives really makes a difference, to them and to us. And the thing that she would have bought that large bag of peanuts and bring it to you in the park. 🙂 So very nice.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Linda Schaub says:

      Yes Sandra – she was very nice and offering to do this with the peanuts and go out of her way was so thoughtful too. I took pictures that day of the boardwalk but then the other picture of the overview was taken a different time … I thought it showed even better the length of the boardwalk. This was a very long journey she took those ducklings on and kept their attention as she couldn’t feed them constantly, except for dribbling corn, the entire way. And she said she was bending down to their level and talking to them – I wish someone had taken some pictures to give to her.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Sandra J says:

        That would have been so good to have photos of that. It is worrisome when the babies are born. Wondering if they will survive. It is a hard life for some of them as tiny as they are at first.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Linda Schaub says:

        Yes, I guess she never thought to take a picture (if she had a camera on her phone) … I just have a flip phone and have never used the camera feature. But I think most people have smart phones now. I think the incidence of eggs not hatching properly must be high and I watched a video one time of a Mute Swan’s eggs hatching. The photographer took videos over a few days and merged them. A couple of eggs did not hatch and the mother went back to incubating them, but the next part of the video, she knew there was no life inside and pushed them out of the nest and into the water. It was odd, even a bit upsetting to see her do that and you have to wonder if they have any bond to those eggs before hatching, or just when the chicks emerge?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Sandra J says:

        It is amazing how nature knows what to do. They know exactly, how to take care of their young and teach them to eat and fend for themselves.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Linda Schaub says:

        I marvel at Nature for that Sandra – in tomorrow’s post you will see what happened when an outsider duckling came toward another mother, but not its own. She was not as indulgent as those Pekin ducks. Ann Marie saw this happen at the little pond in the apartment area where she lives. That story of the sandhill cranes raising the Canada goose along with their youngster was the nicest nature story I ever read – I was sad when the young goose died as I enjoyed reading the saga of the four of them.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Sandra J says:

        I remember that story, truly amazing and so heartwarming. 🙂 .

        Liked by 1 person

  10. J P says:

    A nice tale about the sort of basic kindness that seems so scarce in the world today.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Linda Schaub says:

      Yes JP – it was a feel-good story for sure. It was no easy task to do and I hope I conveyed how long that boardwalk really was. I almost included this story with that of the elderly gentleman who brought tortilla chips for the squirrels because he had nothing else to give them and couldn’t show up empty handed and disappoint them. I had to go home one time as I had a grocery bag with a large Ziploc bag of peanuts inside and left it on the cellarway railing. But in a hurry I grabbed the wrong bag, some gardening supplies I had intended to take downstairs and were also in a Meijers grocery store bag. I opened the bag when I got to the Park and realized I had nothing for them so I had to go home before anyone saw me and came racing over. You feed a wild animal once or twice and they’re your friend for life.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Kirk Beres says:

    Great story! So glad that there are people who lookout for our little friends. And what a beautiful park that is near the river too, Detroit really has some nice sights.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Linda Schaub says:

      Thanks Kirk. I know this woman put so much effort into getting those ducklings to follow to the adult Pekins at the other side of the Park. I am glad she persisted. I’ve met other nice people at Elizabeth Park who go there to feed the ducks. There is a man and woman and every day they drive their van to the same location near the canal. The Mallards, Pekins and Mallard Hybrids know their van and come out of the water and up the hill and wait at the back of the van. They open the door and put down a ramp – some of the bigger Pekin ducks come up and nibble on some corn in the bucket and then has a dolly to take that big bucket of corn down the ramp and spreads the corn from it. They do that every day the same time. I loved watching those ducks, especially the white ones, which are very big and they nuzzle up against their legs while they feed on the corn and afterward. Later this week I have some pictures of a guy feeding M & M cookies to a Pekin duck.

      Like

  12. Ally Bean says:

    Sweet story. It amazes me the types of conversations I have with strangers versus the conversations I have with people who I know. There’s a different vibe to each. Chance encounters can teach you the most about what is right in front of you, but you never noticed.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Linda Schaub says:

      Glad you liked it Ally. You are so right about chance encounters and having something in common and the conversation just flows. I hate a stilted conversation where people are making small talk and have nothing in common. We could have stood and talked for hours.

      Like

  13. Elaine sounds like a very nice person! I don’t think I have ever seen a Peking Duck Linda. When I was a kid my parents gave my brother and me baby ducks and when they got big they made us give them to farm. I will never forget how devastating that was!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Linda Schaub says:

      She was very nice – you would have liked her. They don’t have the Pekin ducks in all the parks Diane – Elizabeth Park is the only place I’ve seen the Pekin Ducks and the Hydbrid Mallards and they are both big ducks. I’ll have some more pictures in my next post of a friendly Pekin. I know how you feel as I had a rabbit named Scratch. I got him from someone in my grandmother’s family – I think her brother, who owned a farm. Scratch was white and kept in a clean bushel basket with straw and blankets. Then he got big and my mom said he was too big to be cooped up and we took him back to the farm, me crying all the way there. We gave him to the guy who gave him to me and he said “great, rabbit stew for dinner!” Nice talk for a small kid and her only pet at that time.

      Liked by 1 person

      • OH NO! How devastating!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Linda Schaub says:

        I know – terrible Diane! I was not that old and to say that was especially cruel. He took over the farm for his father (my mom’s grandfather). My mom said her grandfather was a piece of work. He made the grandchildren go pick a chicken to be Sunday night’s dinner. The grandchildren had to watch him kill it too … sorry but that kind of stuff is not right for kids to see. I wouldn’t want to see it and I’m no kid.

        Like

  14. Aww … now I have warm fuzzy feelings too! What a delightful story, thank you for sharing! I hope you and Elaine do cross paths to share more stories.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Laurie says:

    Awww…Elaine sounds tender-hearted, just like you. She is a good person to take the time to rescue those abandoned baby ducklings. I wonder if something tragic happened to their mama. You meet some of the most interesting people on your walks, Linda. Thanks for sharing this positive story with us.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Linda Schaub says:

      Thanks Laurie – it is a small thing to be kind to animals, but I think Elaine went above and beyond. Yes, you have to wonder what happened with their Mama. I have a few more stories to share on the next post which I think you’ll like too.

      Like

  16. bekitschig says:

    What a nice walk! I loved the duck crossing signs in Australia. Before we left, I was always keen on taking my favorite down, it must’ve been from the 70s, but never dared. (Hey, steeling is bad for your Kharma…)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Linda Schaub says:

      Glad you liked it Jeanine. I think they are cute signs too and have only seen them here at Elizabeth Park. Hmm – I have never seen “goose/geese crossing” signs, and geese are plentiful at this Park, so I hope it is not since the ratio of poop for geese versus ducks is the reason. 🙂 We are always having stories in the news around this time where Mama Mallard ducks cross the street with her ducklings and there is a sewer grate and a few ducklings fall down. Mama Mallard alerts a human and they get first responders to remove the grate and fish ’em out. I like reading those stories. I have a post with a “turtle crossing” sign. It is near the end of the post, but if you are going 35 mph (56 kph), it might be difficult to stop for a turtle, just sayin’:
      :https://lindaschaubblog.net/2019/09/07/smiling-faces-and-wide-open-places/

      Liked by 1 person

  17. they could do a Disney movie about this Linda and you could be hired as a consultant!
    Makes me curious why you don’t see Elaine anymore? I hope she is ok.
    Let us know If you run into her again please.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Linda Schaub says:

      This was such a heart-warming story Wayne and Elaine was excited as she was re-telling it to me. It would make a great Disney movie, those ducklings following this human along the wooden boardwalk and her dribbling corn to move them along. I’m curious too why I’ve not seen her and I said we may not recognize one another – we were both dressed warmly – toque, scarf, heavy coat … all bundled up. But the day I met Elaine, it was very cold and I left a little later than normal since it is right near the water. I met up with her as I was ready to leave for home and it was mid-day, maybe even 1:00 p.m. I usually go earlier, especially in warmer weather – less people and the waterfowl are out and about before the humans arrive. It’s a popular place to bike, jog, walk (lots of dog walkers) and there is boat launching/fishing as well. I will let you know – I look for her every time and wish I’d taken a picture of her for this post.

      Like

  18. What a lovely kindred spirit to meet on your travels ❤ Elaine sounds so kind and thoughtful just like you. I hope you bump into each other again.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Linda Schaub says:

      Thanks Zena – she was really special … I have not run into her yet and we were so bundled up that day, I wonder if we’d recognize each other without all our woolen wear?

      Like

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