Published May 2009
Barnes & Noble.com
Adelle Bradford UK Website
Where to begin this story? Almost any place would do, but people like real beginnings and endings, so the year 1929 is as good a place as any. That was the year that a little girl's love affair with animals began. Memories being what they are, especially when they cover a period of almost sixty years, tend to become blurred, shaded with various hues of “what might have been,” and “what I wish had been,” but the truth is there, particularly when feelings and emotions have been deeply and irrevocably touched.
Animals, even today, the word is enough to evoke an emotional response in Dell. Her lifelong affection and intense preoccupation with animals really began when she was three, with, of all things, ducks, large white ducks greedily gobbling the ripe, black figs that fell at irregular intervals from the large fig tree in their pen.
There were probably five or six ducks sharing the pen with a dozen laying hens and a cocky, belligerent red rooster. The ducks, displaying a reasoning power far beyond that of the chickens, got all the figs that fell from the tree. They had, in some manner, determined just where the figs were coming from. while the chickens failed to connect the irregular arrival of the juicy morsels with anything in particular, the ducks knew that their arrival, however unscheduled, was clearly and definitely connected not only with the tree, but up in the tree as well.
Softly muttering and quacking among themselves, apparently discussing the position each would take, they would spread out and settle down in a loose circle facing the tree, and wait, each keeping a vigilant eye cocked upward. When a fig fell, they would quickly converge on its probable landing site before it hit the ground, quacking loudly all the while.
Of course, the fig occasionally landed on a duck, giving rise to a surprised equivalent of "Ouch!", but the rest quickly assisted in the clean-up job. It is curious to note that none of the chickens, not even the obstreperous rooster, was ever observed trying to invade the circle of ducks. It can be conjectured that, even with its limited intelligence, a chicken can learn that it is not pleasant to be hit by a waddling projectile on its way to a fig feast!