Other than Ace’s periodic visits, there’s probably nothing residents of Arbor Acres — a retirement community in Winston-Salem — like better than the ducks that waddle and swim in and around the large pond that graces the acreage.
Actually, even though Ace has some pretty big time fans there, the ducks probably rate higher — at least in the eyes of some residents, including my own mother. She, I think it’s safe to say, prefers watching ducks outside her window to having a dog inside her room.
On at least one occasion, she harbored some fugitive newborn ducks who, like all newborn ducks, needed a little protection from the bigger creatures, like foxes and turtles, who tend to snatch them away.
Because of that, the duck population at Arbor Acres sometimes dwindles down to a precious few, and the residents who like to watch them, feed them, and sometimes name them, worry about losing the closest thing many of them have to pets.
(Dogs are allowed there, but only a handful of residents have them.)
Instead, most often, they enjoy the animals nature provides, the ducks, the geese, the fish in the pond and the two blue herons that call the area around the pond home for much of the year.
Sometimes though, even nature needs a hand.
And that’s where Bo Bowers came in.
Bo, who moved into the community in March, brought with him some duck-raising skills, and when the duck census recently dropped he made a deal with the administration — if they provided materials to build the pens, he’d buy some baby ducks and raise them until they were big enough to survive on their own.
He ordered 16 baby ducklings — of five different breeds — through a catalog. They were 12 days old when they were delivered, and he started feeding them in the 4-foot by 12-foot cage, complete with swimming pool, set up behind his home.
Last month, in a ceremony attended by many residents, he “launched” his babies, releasing them into the pond as residents, staff and at least one TV news outfit looked on. Many of the ducks, by then, had been named after residents, including one named Jo, after my mother.
Wake up early enough and you can see Bowers, tall and gangly, striding down a sidewalk with the still-growing ducks following him. He puts out food, talks to them, takes a count to make sure everyone’s still there.
Two of the ducks are of a breed called white crested.
They have tufts of feathers on their head, like bouffant hairdos — quackfros, we called them. There are black ones, brown ones and silvery blue ones, and, diverse group that they are, they all, after several weeks, still hang together — a pack, as it were.
At least two residents warned me to keep Ace away from the ducks, though he has little interest other than watching them.
I’m pretty sure dogs don’t rule at Arbor Acres. Ducks do.