Dead ducks quack

This tale is part of an occasional series on my father’s family. 

ducks and dadDid you know that you can make a dead duck quack? If you press on the chest, a duck will quack. When I was a little girl, I used to help my father with dressing ducks after he returned from a shoot. My job was simple: pull the feathers off. My dad took care of the heads, feet and splitting of the carcasses. Mama’s job was to make gumbo or jambalaya with the end product.

I don’t recall being disgusted by this process. In fact, it was enjoyable. I remember the beautiful mallards, wood and poule d’eau ducks that daddy brought home in a bulging,  brown sack. I never went on the hunt. I wasn’t disallowed. I never had the desire to shoot ducks. No, my job was to wait for dad to come home with a big sack bulging with freshly killed ducks.

When daddy came home from a hunt, he carefully laid out his kill. He usually wanted a picture of his trophies. Most times, he hunted with his father or an older brother. The men would stand  or kneel with the ducks, posing  for the camera.

Then came the fun part. A few presses to the chest before beginning was the best part. The ducks moved reflexively to the touch, letting out a good quack with a push on the chest. After a few good quacks, I set to work, pulling feathers. We didn’t keep the feathers, although I know some people used them to make bedding. I sometimes kept a few feathers as souvenirs but truth be told, the feathers had sharp ends. After a few days, I generally discarded my trophies.

My father was not a learned man.  He graduated from high school with some difficulty due to an undiagnosed spelling and writing problem that today would be labeled as dyslexia. After high school, he attended  trade school to be a diesel mechanic. Whatever his deficits were in learning and schooling, he was an expert teacher.

I learned a lot from my dad. Even something as trivial as cleaning ducks, my father turned it into a learning experience. I learned about the different types of feathers on the body of a duck, the differing types of ducks, which ducks were prized and which were not. I learned what the limits were as set by the state of Louisiana.

My dad made a simple task like this quite fun. Instead of being repulsed by the dead animals or being put out since he often needed help during Saturday morning cartoon time, I enjoyed helping him. I probably did a terrible job when I was very young, but I cannot recall one time being corrected severely or made to feel inferior. However badly I did the job, my dad found room to coach me how to do it a little better next time. Except for an occasional reprimand when I became distracted by making the ducks quack, I can’t recall any negativity.

If my dad were alive, he would be 85 this month on Christmas Eve. He would be greatly surprised that I consider him to be a good teacher, given his lack of credentials. Yet, I do. He taught me quite a bit about any number of subjects, whether it was dressing ducks, motor repairs, or getting along with people. That’s not something to quack about.

Thanks Dad.


12 thoughts on “Dead ducks quack

  1. My best plucking story goes back to my family’s time on the river. I was a preschooler, my Grandma’s brother was going out of the egg business(the government took his farm for a reservoir that was never built, another story that.) There were hundreds of chickens to process. My job was to go get the ones who ran off after their head was lopped off. The smell of the scaled feathers from the cleaning process is still with me. I was not much for eating chicken for some years after that. I mean it was on my plate almost everyday for a year. I’m good with it now but it took awhile.


    1. My mama used to have chase decapitated chickens around the farm, too. She never had the chicken aversion that you had. However, I have a good friend who hates to eat chicken due to the sheer number of chickens she ate in hillbilly country where her dad raised chickens. As far as ducks, I never developed a real taste for them. Doves, on the other hand, are quite tasty.


  2. Reminds me of helping my grandparent “put up” dozens of chickens in the “deep freeze” when I was young. My grandfather would hang them up by the legs and cut off their heads and let them bleed out. Occasional he would take on down and let it “run around like a chicken with its head cut off” I was not really grossed out at all. Like quacking a dead duck. My job was also to pull off the feathers before my grandmother would singe off the pin feathers over the gas stove. Wonderful, weird memories.


    1. My dad was a talker, and he was friendly man, almost to a compulsive degree. I am sure he would have enjoyed speaking with your dad, especially about the outdoors life. of the Northwest.


  3. Never had anything to do with ducks until I married Louis . I would sometimes help him pluck the ducks after his hunt . Never heard about the dead duck quacking , wonder if he knew about that . I’m sure he would have gotten a good laugh at me .


    1. Oh, Brenda! The best part was watching the dead ducks move and quack, even when full of buckshot! But plucking ducks was fun to me when I was a kid, too. Louis should have showed you. It was fun.


  4. When I was growing up we had chickens, mostly for eggs, but we’d kill a few for meat too. Yeah, it can be kind of gross, but then if you eat meat, you really shouldn’t pretend that you aren’t killing something in the process. At least that’s how I view it.

    When we killed chickens, I’d help out with the plucking, which was done after we’d doused the dead bird in boiling water. Supposedly that loosened the feathers. However, it never occurred to any of us to make a dead chicken squawk. And now I’m wondering if that’s even possible, or a trait only found in ducks.

    This world is full of weird mysteries, isn’t it?


    Kim G
    Redding, CA
    Where there’s part of a dead duck in the fridge, but I think it’s well beyond the quacking stage.


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