One early spring day, a pair of mallards followed my granddaughter and me all the way around the Saco Lake Trail.
When my eldest granddaughter was about four years old - she was my only granddaughter at the time - we went for little hike around Saco Lake. It was a chilly, wintry day in April.
As soon as we crossed the dam, two mallards, a male and a female, came up behind us. They were obviously used to people feeding them, and my granddaughter was eager to oblige, but we had no food with us. As we walked along, she frequently turned and made motions as if pretending the feed the ducks. This kept them interested for a while, but I was sure they would leave us after a few of these deceptions.
But they kept on following!
At a few places, where the space between the lake and the steep boulders was narrow, the ducks swam along beside us. They never crossed any of the bridges, preferring to swim. But they stayed with us.
At several points, they were walking between us. They were quite unafraid, and they were never discouraged that we didn't actually feed them.
Their persistence surprised me. But when I thought about it, I figured the ducks had no other prospects for food in this still-frozen landscape. We were probably their best option, and they had nothing much to lose by following us.
Only when we reached the beech forest and the trail left the lake did the ducks leave us. They were not at all comfortable to be confined by the forest and away from the water, so we hiked on without the ducks.
When we emerged from the forest and returned to the lakeshore, the ducks joined us again. This time, they swam all along the length of the lake while we walked between the road and the lake.
As we arrived at our car, the ducks waddled up the beach, still looking for a handout.
Generally, I'm not a fan of feeding wild animals, but it is a great way to nurture a young child's interest in them. And the persistence of these ducks just could not go unrewarded. We fed the ducks a few generous handfuls of gorp.
And a good time was had by all. Perhaps, especially, the ducks.