If you suppose erroneously that ducks and higher education have
nothing in common, you will want to hear what I have to say.
Colby College is an esteemed liberal arts and science institution
here in Maine, which the founding fathers located in a poor place.
As the college and the community grew, the prosperity of the City of
Waterville surrounded the campus with activity and abuse that at
last far exceeded the academic influence of the encircled
institution. So Colby's President Johnson arose to state, "We'll
move Colby into serenity and sunlight!"
Not much, really, was actually moved, but the old Colby was
deserted and a new Colby built on bucolic Mayflower Hill. This was
far enough away so the click and surge of cotton-mill looms and
freight-train whistles do not disturb the scholarly meditations of
And in designing what may well be the nation's most scenic
campus, the designer marked off the location of Johnson Pond, a
"made" spring-fed jewel of beauty to complete the fresh emergence of
this new Phoenix.
Soon after Colby was relocated, I chanced that way and was
impressively amazed, and stopped to say so to President Bixler, who
had now succeeded President Johnson. I offered him a thought rather
"You can move everything else, but the dust of ages is left
behind. Colby needs, now, a new lore, a new tradition, a beginning
of a new set of old stories. The New Colby has no Prof. Carberry
Beanpots, no cap on a chapel spire, no Mark Hopkins on a spruce log,
no song on a special day. Colby must start all over again."
Dr. Bixler said, "What do you suggest?" To which I rejoined in my
ripe twang, "With your permission, I would like to give Colby a few
ducks to embellish Johnson Pond. A new college has to start
And with his acquiescence I stuck an Indian runner drake and
several lady friends in a grain bag and dumped them a-splash in the
Pierian spring of the New Colby.
There was no academic procession for this, no recognition of my
generosity. I told Dr. Bixler he'd have to find winter quarters for
the birds, and it would be well to get a bag of grain. But, I said,
if I know people and ducks, Johnson Pond would soon be rimmed by
bird lovers tossing crumbs, and daily care by the groundskeeper
might not prove critical. Dr. Bixler said he guessed so.
Thus Colby faced a future with new Old Colby stories incubating.
Indian runner duck eggs are chalk-white, look like those from
Leghorn or Wyandotte hens, and an Indian runner duck will lay out
successive clutches with faithful rapidity. …