The dream of every man worth his salt had been achieved. I walked into the backyard of MY house and took a deep breath of MY air. In the words of Delmar O’Donnell (Oh Brother Where Art Thou), “You ain’t no kind of man if you ain’t got land.” It is very empowering to stand on your homestead, chin held high, making plans for customization and reveling in thoughts of tools you will get to buy to accomplish it. Visions of a basketball court, jacuzzi and a happy little tire swing danced through my mind but it was the fuzzy little chicks at the hardware store that enamored my daughter that convinced me the first order of business would be a chicken coop. I had never owned a farm animal before and the visual made me feel like the inspiration of a George Strait song.
“I’ll take two Rhode Island Reds, two Black Sex Links and two Buff Orpingtons please.”
“Sure thing.” The clerk replied and began scooping them up and shoving them into a box. But just before she handed it to me she paused and asked, “How about a couple ducklings? We’re trying to get rid of the last two, so they’re buy one get one free.”
I looked down into the pen and watched the two of them peep around as the clerk made a baby talk sales pitch, “Ohhhhhh awent dey soooooooo cuuuuuuute.”
They were pretty cute, I had to admit but what would I do with ducks? Just when I was going to politely decline, something caught my eye. One of the ducklings had a large poof of feathers adorning the back of his head. A mullet! A Tennessee Top Hat, a Beaver Paddle, a Yep Nope, a Yope, Mississippi Mudflap, Canadian Passport, Missouri Compromise, El Camino, Kentucky Waterfall, A Short Long, a Shlong etc…. I have spent the last fifteen years of my life risking life and limb in avid photographic pursuit of the elusive and dangerous head plumage. When it comes to Mullet hunting I am the child Ansel Adams and Daniel Boone would have produced if they reproduced. I am not humble when I say I consider myself an expert, neigh, an authority, in all things mullet and I have the pictures to prove it. I digress however. I could ramble on for pages on this subject (for pages of ramblings please see my mullet category). The point is, the Mullet God had sent me an unmistakable sign and now it was my duty, my obligation and my calling to adopt that friggin’ duck!
I immediately scooped him up, held him high, Lion King style and proclaimed him ours. At that moment the sun burst through the clouds, shooting a ray of light through the lawn and garden isle on my uplifted hands, while the harps of heaven joined the voices of angels in christening my baby bird as Billy Ray.
“Can I gitum, Daddy?” my daughter snapped me back to reality as she jumped frantically at the edge of the pen. She wanted the other one for herself.
But did we really need two ducks I thought? Then a burst of clarity hit me. What could I possibly be thinking? How would our Billy Ray ever be complete without a Miley.
“Sure baby doll, go ahead and gitum.”
Six chickens and two ducks peeped around cheerfully in our green house grow box. My daughter, still jumping frantically, this time precariously balanced on a step ladder overlooking the hastily reconnoitered box, screamed “Hold ’em, Hold ’em ducky, Hold ’em ducky, Daaaddddyyy……… Ducky hold ’em!!!!!!!!!”. I pealed back the chicken wire top and reached in. Billy Ray and Miley darted to the back corner of the grow box and peeped the most blood curdling peep a baby duck could peep. I pursued them, shoulders deep into the chicken wire. They darted around like little yellow ninjas, my hand coming up with air every time I swiped. By the racket they made you would have thought that I was chasing them with a chainsaw and hockey mask. The cat and mouse continued to every corner of the box, each lunge resulting in fresh puncture wounds to my throat from the redneck rigged cage. Suddenly, like Daniel-san snatching a fly with chopsticks, my hand ran into Billy Ray and I pulled him free of the blood stained chicken wire. Unwisely I handed him to my giddy daughter and with a kick, peck and a scream he was liberated to the confines of the green house. Now I had a fugitive duck and a scratched up, crying two-year-old on my hands.
“Holy Crap Babe, this duck is a freaker.” I yelled to my wife as I finally cornered him between the shop-vac and the dog food crate. “I sure hope he mellows out when he gets used to us.”
Well Billy Ray and Miley never did get used to us no matter how nice we tried to be. They grew into full sized white, quacking nightmares. They hated us all and made it apparent to the whole neighborhood every time we came within fifty feet of them. At the butt crack of dawn every morning they made sure we knew it by cackling at a decibel level that Metallica would have been proud of. I have always had pets and consider myself good with critters but Billy Ray and Miley were oblivious to my charms and it bothered me. I made it a priority to tame these wild beasts and even went to the extent of watching “The Horse Whisperer” to get a few pointers but nothing would stop the incessant racket.
“You will like me, you piece of shit ducks,” I yelled at them.
When they ruined my third consecutive mid-afternoon nap I finally snapped. The only thing better than mid-afternoon naps are orgasms and lengthy, firm turds and these waddling irritations had quacked their last quack. I grabbed my butcher knife and stomped outside with murder on my mind. After a short chase throughout the backyard I finally had Billy Ray cornered. With steam shooting from my ears and rage in my eyes I grabbed him and wielded the blade but something stopped me just as it leveled off at his throat. I have hunted ducks most of my life and I have never once felt remorse for plinking them out of the sky but something was different about this domesticated foul. I bought this animal to be a family pet, I had invested time, money and concern into him and now I was going to lop his gourd off. I felt guilty and trudged back into the house to tell my wife that I had pussed out.
Maybe they weren’t happy with their environment we thought, so we bought them a kiddie pool to swim in. They absolutely loved the pool, they swam in it all day and as a reward made sure to quack even louder than before. We granted them a furlough from the coop, allowing them unrestricted access to the entire back yard and the only thing that accomplished was making the yard a Vietnamese mine field of duck crap. We tried holding and petting them while we cooed in their ear; bad idea. We fed them organic parsnip, basil and broccoli quiches; they made sure to yell their approval at the top of their lungs as they ran away in horror as soon as it was gobbled up. And then one Sunday afternoon, nap number four was prematurely snuffed out. The day had finally come. I ran out to exorcise the demons. This time however it was different . Billy Ray didn’t run from me, he just stood there. Confused by his behavior, I reached down and picked him up like a loaf of bread. I leveled the knife off and just as I was about to slash, our eyes met. His beady black evil stare burned into me. A shiver shot up my spine and my hair stood on end when I finally comprehended his cold gaze. His eyes screamed REVENGE! Nahhh, it can’t be, I thought and I shook my head to rid myself of the notion. I took a deep breath and a moment later he lay headless on my lawn. I was just about to turn my blade on Miley when a thought entered my head. Maybe Billy Ray was the instigator and Miley was just being corrupted by his insanity. I decided to spare her. The next morning’s 5am tirade made it clear that my decision was unwise and she too ended up dressed out and in the fridge. Demons be gone!
It turns out that domesticated duck is much more savory than the wild variety. As my family and I consumed the scrumptious Billy Ray and Miley I bathed in the comfort of a quiet back yard and for a short time the memory of his icy stare was replaced by a full belly. But it was only for a short time. It haunted me. Nightmares would wake me up bathed in a cold sweat, with REVENGE echoing from my dreams. I couldn’t shake it.
At this point it is important for me to divulge a little about myself. I am a tier of flies. One who is not familiar with the intricacies of the art would not know how hard and expensive it is to fool an animal with a brain the size of a kiwi seed. Fish eat a plethora of insects and it is imperative that a tier have a kit that can match anything from a Baetis tricaudatus to a Malacostraca decapoda. I have spent the last twenty years of my life collecting dubbing, hackle, chenille, marabou, flash, fifty some odd types of hooks and the only thing I am more proud of is my extensive collection of belly button lint. Just for reference, the average hackle cape will run you around $40 and I have five kinds. A package of specialized hooks is $7 and I have fifty some odd…you get the picture, it adds up. More important than cost, there is the sentimental value of said collection. It is a fetish akin to a super model and her shoes, Smeagol and his Precious or the creepy nerdy dude and his He Man collection. There is tremendous pride in just touching, organizing and gazing upon each piece of it. Being a former dirtbag and presently a father of three, my financial situations have always dictated that I supplement my fly tying with naturally acquired materials. Left over christmas tree garland works great for flash, my cat leaves behind great gray, white and black dubbing on the couch, fifty pound test can be melted to form perfect damsel fly eyes and of course Billy Ray wings can be used for a myriad of things. I salted them down, let them cure in my work room for a few days and then tucked them in my over-tucked fly kit to be used later.
Fatherly duties (newborn twins and a two year old) had nixed me from all personal desires and “later” came much longer than expected, until one fine day my wife said out of the blue, “You should go fishing tomorrow babe. You have been in this house for so long I’m worried that you’re going to get cabin fever.” I felt like a third grader on a snow day as I blew the dust off of my fly kit in preparation for whipping up some midge nymphs for a day on the Blue Ribbon, Lee’s Ferry stretch of the Colorado River. I popped open the leather case that housed my fetishes and reached in to grab the vice when I was hit by an odor that nearly floored me. I ran to the kitchen and dry heaved into the trash can. “Oh my God it smells like bloated road kill in my tying kit,” I groaned in between heaves. When I was finally able to push my stomach back through my nose holes, I put some tooth paste under my nostrils and cracked the lid of the kit to investigate. I hadn’t let Billy Ray’s wings cure quite long enough and now they had tainted every baggie, bottle, and button in the whole case. Throwing the wings away would not be enough, a total scrub down was in order, but the river was calling and my “me” time dwindling, so I spread my collection out on my greenhouse table to air out until I returned.
My day on the river was manna from heaven. I had actually forgotten what quiet sounded like. I landed not a single trout and I didn’t give a single shit. When I returned from my “me” time, as expected, my wife was juggling the chaos of our household. I threw down my rod and joined in the fray. As I bounced one of the twins I looked out into the greenhouse and gave in to the fact that I wouldn’t be able to decontaminate my fly tying materials until the next day. Everything was right about the world until I dozed off to sleep. I had the reoccurring nightmare. Billy Ray’s coal black eyes cut through my soul and in a devil’s voice, hissed REVENGE. I bolted upright, my heart pounding out of my chest. Wow, that was the most intense yet, I feel like I’m possessed. It took an hour to fall back asleep.
I awoke as I normally did, to “Reveille,” vocalized harmoniously by six month old twins. I groggily stumbled into the kitchen to shake up a bottle and as I measured the four ounces of warm water to two ounces of Similac, I peered out the window and into the greenhouse. There before my eyes lay the most horrific sight any tier of flies could ever imagine. Every piece of dubbing, every feather on every hackle, every chenille, marabou, flash and fifty some odd types of hooks were scattered from hell to breakfast from the greenhouse to the chicken coop, all of it completely soaked in dog slobber. My black lab cowered guiltily in the corner, a piece of black and white hackle dangling from his lip. The stench that nearly made me spew was pork chops and gravy to him. I cannot possibly put into words, the pure rage, that I felt toward that dog at that moment. I wanted to tear him limb from limb. I wanted to beat every penny I had spent on that kit, out on his furry ass. I clinched my fists, gritted my teeth and walked over to kick the crap out of him until there was no more crap to be kicked out. As I lined up my canine field goal kick, I had a flash of self evaluation. I realized that I was about to cross the line from punishment to abuse, so I purposely missed his ass with a kick so hard, it would have been good for three points at 64 yards. I pulled my hammy. It hurt. I hopped around holding my leg in pain. I didn’t know that my anger amp could go up to eleven, but it did. I needed to take my anger out on the FUCKING dog but I didn’t want to do something that I would regret later, after all this was my buddy that I raised from a pup, so I had to get creative. I looked over and saw a pillow on a lawn chair. I beat the FUCKING dog with it, each swing producing a fluffy “poof” sound. I felt good, it scared the piss out of the dog but was physically harmless. Perfect! I swung until I tweaked my back.
Out off breath and hobbled, I surveyed the damage. He could not have raped my kit any more thoroughly. I was a broken tier of flies. I bent down on my knees and began picking through the remnants of my fetishes. I thought back to all the wonderful times we had spent together, as tears formed in my somber eyes. And then like bolt of lighting it hit me…the stench. I gagged. It was Billy Ray wafting from the plastic bags that held my precious. Then I realized. It was not the stench of Billy Ray, but his REVENGE.