Jewish World Review Nov. 23, 2004 / 10 Kislev, 5765
Cold duck on ice?; more
Q: Do you know if there have ever been ducks or Canada geese frozen into lakes or rivers? There has been a discussion on this going on. - Marion, St. Paul, Minn.
A: Marion, I bet this IS the kind of thing y'all discuss up in shivery St. Paul this time of year.
The answer is yes, this does happen occasionally. It's a sad and poignant situation that has inspired writers. More on that in a moment.
Ornithologists and park rangers say waterfowl usually stay away from ice. While their feet are astonishingly tough and can weather the cold, they are much more vulnerable to predators on ice or in the slushy edge of a lake. The open water is also a far better landing strip.
But many rangers have a story about venturing onto thin ice to free a goose, duck or heron who lingered too long as the water froze up.
(There's even an apocryphal story about a humane-society worker who crawled onto the ice to rescue a pair of petrified ducks who were positively wooden with fear and cold. The decoys are expected to survive.)
The French poet Stephane Mallarme, a contemporary of Baudelaire and Rimbaud, wrote about this situation in the beautiful 1885 sonnet, "The Virginal, Vibrant, and Beautiful Dawn." It ends:
"Phantom by brilliance captive to this place,
Immobile, he assumes disdain's cold dream,
Which, in his useless exile, robes the Swan."
So beautiful! So sad! (No wonder poets get all the women.)
In "Fried Green Tomatoes," Fannie Flagg wrote about a flock of ducks who got frozen into a lake. Her tall tale ends happily, with the four dozen ducks taking off, flying hundreds of miles with the frozen lake and setting it down again, somewhere in Georgia, creating a whole new home for themselves in a warmer clime.
And our third waterfowl at risk of injury?
I'm surprised you have to ask. It's the waddling TV insurance pitchman:
Q: I know what it means: to sharply stop doing something like smoking. But why "cold turkey"? - Maria Jones
A: We must be in the frozen poultry section.
Etymologists disagree on this one. Some say an addict craving his drug is often pale, with goose-bumped skin. So he actually looks like a plucked turkey.
Others cluck at that. Cold turkey is an immediate meal that you just yank from the fridge, they say. It requires no cooking or preparation. So it's like dropping a habit.
Just like that.
TIME FOR A QUICK JOKE
A guy wanders into a research lab late one night and declares: "I believe I'm a moth."
"I'm sorry," says the researcher. "I think you need a psychologist. What brings you here?"
The guy says: "Well, the light was on..."
1. What Scot invented the telephone in 1876?
2. What Scot wrote "Kidnapped!" and "Treasure Island"?
3. What song, sung traditionally on one night a year, did Scot Robert Burns write?
4. What Scot is hailed by many as founder of the U.S. Navy?
1. Alexander Graham Bell
2. Robert Louis Stevenson
3. "Auld Lang Syne"
4. John Paul Jones
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Jeff Elder is a columnist for The Charlotte Observer. Comment or try to stump him by clicking here. If you send him a great question, he'll send you a Glad You Asked T-shirt.
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