DUCK TALE
Memoir of a Quacking Good Trek to Manhood

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Leukemia had ravaged Pop’s body for more than a year. On October 2, 1991, he fell into a coma. It was then that I made a desperate attempt to bring him back to consciousness by slapping his sallow face. At first the strikes were temperate, but they grew harder. I was hoping he would come to at any moment and hit me back. I thought I could hear Pop calling to me like he always did, “Boy.” “Kid.” “Son.” Images of our many shared experiences, undervalued during my adolescence, paraded across my mind. My mother reached up to stop my hands, “Ricky, it’s not helping. We have to let him go.” At that moment, I understood Pop’s fatherly goal – to teach me how to be a man. The struggles of maturation had kept us at odds most of my formative years. Now it was too late to show my appreciation and make amends. He was gone.

 

As a boy, I did not understand the extraordinary value and importance of the time-sacrifices that Pop made for me. “Good times” were when he could be outdoors, especially during hunting season, no matter the weather. It seemed as if I was no more than a gofer. Always “going for” stuff made me angry, so I tried to reduce Pop’s enjoyment of hunting on occasion by acting like a petulant child.

 

The lower part of the Palmetto State is full of swamps and marshes, a waterfowler’s paradise. Pop and I spent many weekends around Rimini Swamp, Lake Marion’s northernmost area. South toward Charleston and Georgetown’s coastal regions is a wildlife refuge teeming with fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals. It’s a wilderness wonderland, fuel for a growing boy’s imagination and sense of adventure. Join me on a quacking good trek to manhood!

“I found Duck Tale to be an intriguing and delightful memoir full of rich detail, humor, and color. The story grabs the reader and runs on to the next compelling imagery. What a coming-of-age story! Thanks so much for the opportunity to read!” ~ Sarah Stockdale, avid reader

Synopsis:

 

Duck Tale is a coming-of-age adventure memoir set in South Carolina of the '60s and '70s. It is about a young boy's experiences growing up under the wings of his outdoor-loving dad, Pop, and Pop's best friends. Hunting, fishing, camping, and all the escapades that ensued deep in the wilderness of Santee swamp became a unique roadmap to maturing into a man.

 

Man. What a misunderstood word! At what point does a boy become a man? Is it when he turns twenty-one? Could it be on Graduation Day? Perhaps it comes with the birth of his first child? The answer: None of the above. Manhood is a state of mind, pure and simple. It is an achievement culled from mistakes and triumphs. Age has nothing to do with it.

 

Boy. Kid. Son. Pick any one of those titles interchangeably, and that’s what Pop used to call me. As the occasion warranted, he’d call me other things too. On that final afternoon of October 2, 1991, as I slapped Pop’s face, hoping he would open his eyes once more, I fully expected him to wake up and hit me back. It was the only time in my life that I lost control of myself and struck him. I wasn’t angry. I was desperate – begging for one more moment of his attention. With each blow, all the good times paraded across my mind, times that I chose to forget while he was alive. His goal was to teach me how to be a man. We were at odds most of the time.

 

As a boy, I did not understand the extraordinary value and importance of the time-sacrifices Pop made for me. “Good times” were when he could be outdoors, especially when hunting season came along, no matter the weather. It seemed as if I was no more than a tag-a-long, useful only as a gofer. Always “going for” stuff made me angry, so I tried to reduce Pop’s enjoyment of hunting on occasion by acting like a two-year-old. At the time, I had no children of my own. But then, a few years later, I got it. Believe me.

 

There are many rough patches on the road to manhood. Some are humorous, some embarrassing, and a few downright abusive to the psyche – like witnessing the death of a loved one. No matter what fell onto my plate, Pop insisted that I learned not to complain. The words “take it like a man” would sometimes filter into his advice. The answer to navigating challenging situations was to “keep putting one foot in front of the other.” If tears came, well, okay, “but don’t keep wallowing in the pigpen.” Life does go on. Along the way, the psyche either grows or withers. The trick is to learn new coping methods like I began to do one day so long ago. Follow me on a quacking good trek to manhood!