As I learn more about Cricket and Tucker and their many adventures in Sabattus, Maine with Pam and her family, I find myself relating their story to pieces of my own. I have a strong urge to somehow transform their journey into an adult novel but know that first it is a children’s book in the making. Cricket, a duck with a slightly misshaped beak was in line to be culled. It’s a deformity that one has to look intently upon to notice, it seems a stretch that it would mean that she was not worthy of being sold to a farm or as a pet. Still, having an unsymmetrical beak changed the course of Cricket’s life and in it’s own way would unexpectedly affect many others .
Cricket is a soft and loving supporting role in our series. She is noble and kind and never seems to ask for anything in return for the support and strength she offers daily to Tucker. Her presence in the barn in Sabattus, Maine allows for Tucker, born with a genetic defect like Cricket, to exist. He was hatched with a neck that is unable to extend and is bent over. Cricket is his crutch, his leverage to move about to and fro, from the barn to the yard and provides him with unconditional love, wrapping him in warmth and support as he faces many challenges each day.
Tears formed gently in the corner of my eyes as I read Pam’s text describing one account of how Tucker would be lost without Cricket, that no other duck from any flock will accept him. Tucker not only has Cricket, he has Pam and her family. Pam is humble and would never say that her animals would be lost without her love and caring. She shared with me that due to her own struggles in life she gravitates to animals that are “unwanted” and are pushed aside as if they are disposable. Sharing these thoughts here, there is a lump in my throat and a heaviness sitting in my stomach. Is it possible that certain groups of animals and people in our world have become disposable, a population that doesn’t seem to matter or share the value of others. What makes certain animals or people less desirable or worthy?
As I begin writing the story of Cricket and Tucker, two undesirable ducks, I find these questions swarming and asking me to check my own compass to see where I sit with these matters of heart and mind. There were many times in my own childhood in which I felt cast off or on my best days, almost beautiful enough to fit in and be a part of the whole. What causes each of us to create these invisible standards for ourselves and others and why do they apply them to animals? Cricket is a special duck who seems to be able to rise above it all. She runs out to greet Pam or Christian, Pam’s son, when they come to the coop to feed the ducks or change out their straw. Tucker is slow and always last. He takes much longer to greet Pam and Christian but he never stays behind, he always makes the effort to be a part of the flock. Cricket lovingly waits for Tucker while the other duck have departed, long before he can get there.
While Cricket’s only difference is her slightly misshaped beak, Tucker is severely handicapped and is vulnerable to predators. Neither duck can fly, they are too big. Tucker makes a unique whistle sound with every breath he takes because of the position of his neck being in a constant downward slump since being born. He can’t lift his head or even stand up straight and needs Cricket’s body to help him stand up or lay down. Somehow Cricket knows that Tucker needs her to survive and she makes herself available to him, always sticking by his side. Both were born with a genetic defect which will prevent either of them ever being able to be used for breeding are finding their way through life with the help of Pam. If not for her saving them both from being culled their story wouldn’t even exist. Pam’s ability to love all animals gave the two ducks a second chance at life, at being able to be each other’s support and companion.
It’s this innate knowing, unconditional love and admiration that we are going to place in the heart of the Cricket and Tucker series. They are not the only animals that Pam and her family watch over in Sabattus, Maine. How could they be? As I begin to learn their names and hear their stories from Pam, the urge to write their stories into books for children grows stronger and stronger each day. This journey has just begun but it has already taken over my heart and I hope to do their story justice as we share it with all of you.