Monday, April 20, 2009

Sympathy for the Devil

Sometimes I'm sure it sucks to be a predator. Predator's get no love. Everyone saves their warm fuzzy feelings for little fluffy bunnies and duckies.


Including me.

Two weeks ago, something began nomming on my pet ducks. I had fifteen ducks and they weren't allowed to simply roam at night. My ducks are very spoiled. They have a Taj Mahal duck house and their own plastic wading pools for the days they don't feel like trekking down to the pond. At night, they are safely locked inside with feeders and a bowl of water with lovely mounds of fluffy shavings to nest in.

Something broke into the Taj Mahal and devoured most of Snowdrop. Turned out that the house breaker had dropped onto the roof from the trees, pried back the chicken wire covering the vent holes and helped himself to Snowdrop (a Swedish Blue duck) and most of the eggs. So we fortified the Taj Mahal with extra boards and went to sleep certain that the duckies were safe.

Not so. The bandit struck again. I opened the door expecting the usual mad dash for pools, but my ducks seemed reluctant to come out. Finally, one by one, the emerged and I saw the first evidence of carnage. Two of my ducks were bloody and badly injured, Squeaker (a little, noisy, crested Swedish Blue) and Staypuff the Marshmallow Duck (An enormous crested white Pekin who looks like he has a giant fluffy marshmallow on his head). Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrr! Inside I discovered the remains of Heidi (A black Cayuga).

Squeaker didn't last the day, but Staypuff really hung in there. He's a feisty one. This time the miscreant had pried open the wire along the back vents of the roof. I no longer had any doubts as to the villain of this piece: A racoon. Once a racoon puts your poultry on his nightly rounds, there is nothing you can do but remove him. I hate killing animals, but I buried Squeaker and Heidi and hardened my heart. The racoon must die.

We borrowed a livetrap and placed it on the roof of the Taj Mahal I didn't want to catch any stray bunnies or skunks, just the killer coon. In a flash of divine justice, I baited the trap with duck eggs. Sure enough the next morning, there he was staring at me. The mighty predator. A medium sized racoon. He was kind of cute and clearly petrified, but he hissed and showed me his teeth. On a closer examination (okay, not to close. I'm not soooopid.) I saw part of the problem. He had an enormously swollen infected leg. Suddenly, it all made sense.

This was a very injured animal trying to survive. My ducks were an easy source of food for him after he stopped being able to efficiently hunt. To him, the Taj Mahal was a handy buffet. I felt a little sympathy for the villain.

Course that didn't stop me from putting a bullet in his brain, but it was as quick and painless an end as we could manage for him and it started me thinking about villains. So rarely are they simply evil for the sake of being evil. No, they want something. Something real. Something necessary. Maybe they're desperate, injured, hungry, under duress. They don't want to be evil. They just want to survive.

I doubt the racoon considered himself the villain of the story. He probably would tell you that he was the tragic victim of an uncaring farmer who maliciously trapped and shot him. My ducks would say that I'm an avenging angel, but I feed them so they're totally biased. I guess sometimes villain and hero is just a little matter of perspective.

Ducks entering the Taj Mahal at night. That is Squeaker in the far left corner and Staypuff just below the ramp and Snowdrop to his right. RIP Squeaker, Heidi, and Snowdrop.


Anonymous said...

Survival as a source of Evil. very timely considering what is on the news today. Also the prime motivation two groups of baddies in my current WIP (or at least that is the justification they use).

Sorry about your duckies. They will be missed.

Mary B said...

Thanks, ralfast. I think survival is an under used motivation for baddies. They don't want to be bad. But they have to be.

Anonymous said...


Sorry about your ducks. :(

I like how you considered all sides. There really wasn't a true baddie.

You could turn this into a fable...

Melanie Avila said...

That's so sad! Poor duckies. :(

What a great way to tie it into writing -- it really makes you think a little more about the bad guy.

Mary B said...

Thanks guys. The good news is that Staypuff the Marshmallow Duck is doing really well. He's going to be fine.

No more racoons in traps (three days and counting). I hope this is the end of it.

Someday I'll write a farming is like writing book. (cause everything makes me think of writing.

But yeah, for me the point was that sometimes the Antagonist isn't really the villain after all.

J. D. Michael Phelps said...


Thank you for moving my Reviews of The Execution of Justice to the proper thread. I just read your blog, and LOVE IT! I really like your style . . . you do sound like a Lawyer, or maybe a LEO. I felt a tinge of sadness as I read about your Ducks, and I offer my sincere condolences. As you know, Racoons are known to carry rabbies. However, I would have taken it to my Vet, instead of putting a bullet in it's head, and I am sure you considered that, but then again, I wasn't there, so I trust you did the right thing.

I'll be reading your Blog.

Michael Phelps

Kim said...

I've always said villains were more interesting because no one is pure evil just for the hell of it (er, well almost no one.) They are far more interesting than the guy in the white hat any day.

I'm so sorry about the ducks, though. And for the raccoon as well (though I totally understand. I'm just a big weenie about killin'... ;p )

MaLanie said...

I love your Ducks! We use to have one named Matilda, who has a part in my book as a hen. But Matilda didn't have it as good as Rooster Cogburn, who got to go in and watch TV in the recliner with my littler sister! LOL

Mary B said...

I love that, MaLanie! Mine only get to go inside when they are little. Of course, I do have two naughty house rabbits and I once hand raised an orphaned baby goat. He lived in the house and liked to watch nature shows on TV.

UPDATE: Staypuff is doing great and his feathers are growing back. He's out and swimming with the other ducks today. No sign of infection.

MaLanie said...

Oh good, I am glad to hear that. Staypuff I love that name!

Katie said...

I wonder if you couldn't have taken the raccoon to a wildlife rehabilitater? You could have explained the duck situation and asked him/her to release the raccoon far from your farm. Just a thought if it happens again.