Cooking with Myra: Using ducks for babe magnets not all its quacked up to be

June 28, 2011 at 1:28 a.m.

Chili and Basil Stir Fry with Shrimp

Chili and Basil Stir Fry with Shrimp

By Myra Starkey

At the end of May, my youngest son, Spencer, called to say he was coming home for a couple of weeks.

It was the end of the spring semester at Baylor, so he had no plans until summer school started. He had been cleaning out his old house in preparation for moving to a new apartment with new roommates. He explained that the new place was smaller, so he would be bringing home some the extra stuff to store here in case he needed it later. To a mom, the term "store" means leave forever until the mom throws it out.

As usual, Spencer was evasive on the actual time he would be leaving campus because he was trying to work out a last-minute lunch date with a girl he wanted to spend some time with.

Taylor and I are used to the casual nature in which our children make plans. There seems to be no exact schedule, only that they'll be home when they get there. This usually means a late dinner reheated for the weary traveler.

Late in the day, I received a frantic call from Spencer. There was so much noise in the background that I only knew it was him because I had caller I.D. I yelled for him to go to a quiet place and then asked what was going on. He explained that he was in his car and the background noise was his two ducks. "Quack, quack, quack," the ducks sounded hysterical and Spencer seemed exasperated. "Why do you have ducks in your car?" I queried. He explained that they were his special pets, and he was bringing them home for me to duck-sit until it was time to go back to school. I told him there would be no ducks at our house.

I reminded him of that Easter, many years ago, when we bought pet ducks, and they pooped all over the backyard and all the kids got persistent diarrhea until we got rid of those fowl. I gave him two options. Either let them go in the Brazos River there in Waco, or bring them home and put them at the pond on our ranch.

Hours later, Spencer arrived without the ducks and seemed very sad. He said he had tried to transport them, but because of their non-stop quacking, he decided to let them find a new life on the Brazos. We tried to console him, reminding him that it is against the nature of ducks to travel in a car, that they only fly on such long journeys.

He had purchased the two baby ducks from a feed store there in Waco. Spencer has a one-track, fraternity-guy mind when he makes these sort of life decisions, so, of course, the reason he got the cute little ducks was to attract the attention of sorority girls. What co-ed would be able to resist the fuzzy little creatures? He fed the ducklings by hand, so they assumed he was their mother. They followed him everywhere he went when they were not confined to their duck (dog) cage. He named them Harold and Gump.

Girls flocked to his house to see them paddle around the baby pool the roommates bought so they could teach them to swim. I would not have believed all this, but I saw it on video. There was Spencer sitting in the baby pool with his legs outstretched and next to him was a beautiful girl in a bikini. He is filming the baby ducks as they waddle around and then swim in the pool. Apparently, when baby ducks get tired they crawl up on their "mom" to take a rest. His female pool-mate seemed most delighted.

Occasionally, he would walk a few blocks to friends' houses, and the ducks would follow him down the street quacking and waddling to keep up. If a girl would tell him that there were ducks following him, he would act like he hadn't noticed and would then turn around and pick up the ducks. That was a big hit with the females because it gave them the impression that he was a man who loved and cared for defenseless creatures, that he was not just another shallow, self-centered guy looking to pick up chicks.

Spencer enjoyed his pet ducks until he realized that there was no way Harold and Gump could make the four-hour trip home in the car without him going crazy with the noise. I could feel his tension the afternoon he called. He had raised the little guys almost from birth and was not ready to part with them yet. He kept me on the phone while he took them to the river, and it was heart wrenching to hear him telling the ducks to go. Apparently, he placed them in the river and dumped a pile of food on the shore nearby, but when he turned to go back to his car they followed. I could hear him running and then the car door shut, and it was quiet. I knew it was difficult for him to abandon his ducks to a new and probably brief life in the wild.

When he arrived a few hours later in Victoria, I knew he needed comforting. I had made some chocolate chip cookies, but he said he wasn't hungry. It is hard to say goodbye to such cute pets, particularly when they had been such a great method for attracting attention from the opposite sex. What will he think of next?

I am trying to eat healthier and came across a recipe for stir fry. This type of cooking, which was made popular in Chinese cuisine, is healthy and incorporates a lot of vegetables. The fish sauce can be purchased at most major grocery stores or at an Asian market. Enjoy.

Myra Starkey lives in Victoria. Write her in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901, or email



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