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Gus The Tame
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Gus The Tame Mallard

Farm Corner - November 12, 1955

by Joe F. Combs

An interesting story of a wild mallard, raised on the farm of Louis H. Brown, in Ray County, Missouri, was told to the author by Mr. Brown, some years ago. He is quoted just as he told it.

"In 1923 in the early spring, we found some wild duck eggs on a small lake in the marshy area near our home in Ray County, Missouri. We put the eggs under a setting hen and out of the bunch came one healthy duckling. We raised him on our yard with the tame ducks and geese, and the flock of chickens.

"The story of Gus, as this wild drake mallard came to be known is of real interest, and I could not begin to tell you all about his traits. I will however, tell you how he lived, migrated and died with his boots on, as many famous characters did in the old days in that and nearby Clay County.

"Gus grew up to be an intolerant fellow. He would not walk to the lake every morning with the other ducks, or back with them at sundown. He flew both ways.

"In the morning he made the rounds of the barnyard, and as soon as he could find the old White Leghorn rooster a big fight took place. The rooster had been the boss of that domain until Gus grew up and knocked his ears down in their first fight.

"Gus had an abiding hatred for the rooster. They had a fight every morning, and just as often Gus came out victor. The rooster did his best to outwind Gus, but Gus pulled that old Badger stunt of staying close to the ground.

"We all loved Gus, and Gus seemed to love our family. He was a creature different from anything else in the barnyard. The first fall, when the leaves began to fall and the first northern came our way, Gus stood about scanning the sky with a restless look in his eye. One day a large flight of mallards came over, and Gus just couldn't stand it any longer. He took wing and disappeared with them in the south.

"We thought Gus was gone for good. But the next Spring, about April 1, I went in the back yard to get firewood, as I customarily did, and Gus was there in a big fight with the rooster. After dusting the rooster off in fine shape, he visited with all the barnyard fowl and our family and seemed very happy at being back home again. We decided to tag Gus with a nice leg band, so he could be identified in case of an untimely end.

"Our jeweler kindly engraved a small band with our name and address, and we put it on one of his legs. He kept us his feud with the rooster all year, and flew back and forth to the lake every day. He cruised the neighborhood often and seemed proud of his speed and endurance.

"He became a pet of which we were all very fond. He was much more alert than the tame ducks, and as full of life and vigor as it was possible for a duck to be. He feasted with the chickens and ducks as well as the geese. He had no enemies among them - none, that is, except the rooster. He came to us at our call but would never allow us to put our hands on hime. He made two migratory flights to the south, and safely returned each spring.

"The thrid fall when the migratory birds began to pass overhead, Gus again became restless and would take long flights at great heights. He was really a pseed demon. One day a flight of mallards came over, and Gus joined them for his last long journey to the South.

"About the middle of winter, during the open season on migratory fowl, we had a letter one day from a hunter in southern Florida, enclosing the engraved leg band Gus had worn so proudly in all his flights and fights. Gus had thought, no doubt, that all men were friendly to ducks until the flash of a gun and speeding shot brought pain to his little body, and he plunged to the marsh to close a career few wild mallards are fortunate enough to match.

"As our family looked at the legband, then at each other, there was not a word spoken. It was not necessary to speak. We all knew we had lost more than just a wild duck. We had lost a pal that understood us and even though he hated the rooster, that seemed to be the only grudgehe carried with hime to his untimely end. Gus was a great guy."

Louis H. Brown now resides in Center, Texas.

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