Cordova Chronicles: Have duck, will travel

But leave your comfort peacock home

Daniel Turducken Stinkerbutt, a dapperly and diaper clad emotional-support duck, boarding a recent American Airlines flight. Mark Essig courtesy photo
Daniel Turducken Stinkerbutt, a dapperly and diaper clad emotional-support duck, boarding a recent American Airlines flight. Mark Essig courtesy photo

By now, most of the Cordova-area ducks and geese have traveled south to warmer climes. Their absence, combined with long winter nights and the closure of hunting, provide bird hunters with an opportunity to ponder another season passed, and renew optimism for the one to come.

Plans are laid for new hunting locations and strategies; analysis is made of past blunders. After all, learning is a change in behavior. Given the declining success rate for this intrepid waterfowler, I am a very slow learner. And nothing is more aggravating than the continued success of nearby hunters. It provides empirical evidence that one is not as smart as a spoonbill or nearby human competition, which is somewhat difficult to swallow.

During duck season, at 6 p.m., from our Pete Dahl cabin, I exchange what is called The Evening Duck Report with fellow bird hunters Randy Bruce and Julius Reynolds over at Eyak River. Cell phones are now used for what formerly took place on VHF radio. Thank goodness the FCC wasn’t listening in to those open broadcasts on Channel 68a.

Located only 12 miles away, the Eyak Boys routinely seem to outperform the Pete Dahl Hunting Club, membership one. I often accuse them of putting up an Iron Curtain, in this case of BBs, as the reason migrating birds never make it further south to my location.

But lo and behold, there may actually be another reason. You may have been reading about the growing controversy over comfort or emotional support animals boarding planes. The fact that a passenger was attacked by a dog in the tubular confines of a 737 may have something to do with it.

Granted, there are certainly some passengers that truly need such companions; but clearly the concept is being abused. A number of airlines, including Delta, are cracking down on these free-flying critters.

Yet guess what recently boarded a flight from Charlotte to Asheville, N.C., clad in red shoes and a Captain America diaper? None other than a green-headed Indian Runner duck, proudly named Daniel Turducken Stinkerbutt, which came strolling down the aisle on a leash, leading an apparently nervous human passenger to her seat.

Not only must the TSA have had fun checking the duck’s ID, the on-board attention it received surprised owner Carla Fitzgerald of Wisconsin, “because to me, having an emotional-support duck is normal — it’s my new normal.” She also added “I make sure before he goes in public that he has a shower, so there’s no smell to him.”

I had to read that statement twice to make sure she didn’t say “I make sure he goes in public before he gets on the plane.”

Daniel stares forlornly out the plane window on his brief ride from Charlotte to Asheville, North Carolina, thinking: “Ah, if only I could fly.”  Mark Essig courtesy photo
Daniel stares forlornly out the plane window on his brief ride from Charlotte to Asheville, North Carolina, thinking: “Ah, if only I could fly.” Mark Essig courtesy photo

Either way, what may have ended up in his diaper while he was flying was not addressed, nor the likely ensuing aroma.

Airlines no longer serve mixed drinks on flights, but out at the Powder House you can order something called a Duck Fart. It’s aroma and contents are enough to titillate almost all the senses. And the barmaid will fly you home on a cab if you double down. Maybe the P.H. crew should change the concoction’s name to a Stinkerbutt Special.

Of further intrigue about the comfort duck’s flight is the fact that it is only a two-hour drive from Charlotte to Asheville. By the time Fitzgerald and her web-foot companion went through checking in, boarding, flying and disembarking, she could have likely made the trip faster by car. Plus, she needed the comfort duck because she didn’t like to fly, right? But wait; another possibility: maybe the duck didn’t like to drive?

Nonetheless, seeing Daniel strut down the aisle created quite a sensation. As did a photo of Mr. Stinkerbutt gazing out the window while cruising high above the clouds, which triggered a classic illustration of anthropomorphism from nearby passenger Mark Essig, who happens to have written a book about mankind’s complicated relationship with pigs.

“My guess was that he was gazing out the window, looking at the clouds, and the sight triggered a deep ancestral memory of what it was like to fly.”

It turns out this particular quacker species cannot fly, especially at the rate he was zipping along, many times faster than that of his look-alike brethren, mallards.

This Donald the Duck’s Merry Adventure triggered something totally different in my mind: now I know why there are no ducks flying over my decoys at Pete Dahl.

After being blasted at by the Eyak Boys, they take a left turn to the nearby Mile 13 Airport, hop on Alaska Airlines as comfort animals, and munch on crunchy snacks while heading south well out of range of even Hevi-Metal, the most expensive shotgun ammo on the market.

Perhaps these migrators check the available seating chart first, to make sure no black labs are flying as comfort dogs under the next seat over. However, kangaroos, pigs, alligators, turkeys, tortoises and miniature horses, which have also flown under the guise of comfort creatures, would probably be acceptable.

Then again, maybe not alligators.

P.S. Late breaking news: Also leave your peacocks home. An emotional support peacock was recently denied flight by United Airlines, answering the age-old question “Can peacocks fly?”

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Dick Shellhorn, author, reporter, ref and grandpa, can be reached at shorn@gci.net. Shellhorn was born and raised in Cordova, Alaska, and has lived there his entire life. He has been writing sports stories for the Cordova Times for over 40 years. In his Cordova Chronicles features, he writes about the history and characters of this Alaska town. Alaska Press Club awarded Shellhorn first place for Best Humor column in 2016 and third place in 2017.