My Gift to Colby College Drives Them Quackers

By Gould, John | The Christian Science Monitor, September 1, 2000 | Go to article overview

My Gift to Colby College Drives Them Quackers


Gould, John, The Christian Science Monitor


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 yearning students.

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 much thusly:

"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 somewhere."

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. …

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