Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Square Peg – Woo Hoo… The Duck Dropped!



The Square Peg – Woo Hoo… The Duck Dropped!
© S. Bradley Stoner

Time: New Year’s Eve, 2004, 23:00 Hours. Place: Havre de Grace, Maryland. Occasion: New Year’s Celebration. It’s Woo Hoo time!

The east coast. Not my favorite place to live, although I have lived there… for two years. It was a company thing. Understand, I had lived in the west most of my life. I prefer it that way. There’s just a feel to the west you don’t get in the east. Seems to me that everything moves way to fast in the east. People in a hurry. Cars in a hurry. Planes in a hurry. Trains in a hurry. Heck, even the buses are in a hurry. Who ever heard of a bus being in a hurry? I like the pace a little slower, life a little more laid back. You know… the west!

Still, I had my family with me. Yep… we actually moved there. On purpose. Sort of. So, us being us, we made the best of it. My lovely put up with my penchant for Civil War history. We toured Antietam where the Battle of Sharpsburg occurred and left the legacy of being the single most bloody day in the young history of our nation. And, like a lot of battles, it had no clear winner… and a whole lot of individual losers on both sides. Then there was Gettysburg… you really can’t get a good sense of the battle there without visiting it. Books, maps, and pictures just don’t do it justice. To understand the battle, its scope, and its horror, you have to go there. But, lest I digress too much, suffice it to say there’s history there… a lot of history. And we took in as much of it as possible in the short time we spent there. Although I often was on the road, I was home most weekends and we made the most of it. I’m glad we did,

Besides, there are lots of other things to see, and you’d probably be amazed at how rural some of these states are. Westerners might also be surprised at how small these states are. A day’s sightseeing might take us through Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey and back home before seven in the evening.  Unless it’s a holiday… then traffic sucks and you’re lucky to get to the next town by ten that night. If there’s an accident… well heck, just shut down and listen to music. You’re not going anywhere. We once spent four hours listening to music on I-95. Ever see an eight lane parking lot?

Anyway, as New Years 2005 approached, my lovely was looking for New Year’s celebration locations. Baltimore was out. Too #@!^ many people… and they had pickpockets. Not for us. So, she looked for something small town. We’ve done lots of small town celebrations. Some are fantastic. Some, not so much. This time she fixed on a little thing called the Duck Drop in Havre de Grace, which was just a few short miles from where we lived in Bel Air. Now, New York has its ball drop… everybody knows that, but why a “Duck Drop?” Well, turns out that Havre de  Grace fancies itself as the duck decoy carving capital of the world. They even have a museum of old carved decoys right up to modern master carvings. Yep, you might say they give a duck about their heritage. So, in keeping with that, they don’t drop a ball from a high pole in Havre de Grace… they drop a duck. Not a real one, of course. PETA and the SPCA would have a fit, and that just wouldn’t do for the second most liberal state in the Union.

Now having been to Havre de Grace’s 4th of July celebration, I figured, heck, this ought to be good. I mean, on the 4th they had a big carnival for the kids, tons of crafts booths… and the fireworks… oh man! They shoot them off over the bay. It sounds like cannon fire coming from line ships. You can feel it! It almost transports you back to the War of 1812 with British ships of the line bombarding the defenders at Fort McHenry. Almost. So, with that in mind, I was expecting something special. I mean after a 4th celebration of monumental proportions and laying claim to the Duck Decoy Capital of the World, how could it not be?

So, we take off early for the celebration and arrive at the site of the celebration, a school parking lot, around 11:00 P.M… and find no one else in the lot. ‘Uh oh,’ I think to myself, ‘this is going to be a bust.’ I look at the light pole and see the duck at the top. It’s a plywood outline with colored lights on it. Looks kind of like a mallard. Kind of. Yeah, I’m thinking we made a mistake. My lovely is more optimistic. She points out that we’re way early and that most of the celebrants will be locals. Everybody else near Baltimore will be crowding the waterfront, providing easy pickings for the sneak thieves. At least we’ll avoid those.

About 11:30 a parade of cars starts filling up the parking lot… and then the surrounding streets… and then the empty fields nearby. Son of a gun, there’s a good sized crowd gathering. Somebody starts a music and light show in front of the duck. It’s kind of cool… lasers dance to the beat. People are dancing, jostling one another in the crowd. We’ve copped a good spot atop a small knoll in the garden area for viewing the doomed duck as it falls from its lofty perch. A nice couple, with kids about the age of our youngest, park themselves nearby. It takes about thirty seconds for the kids to pal up and disappear, promising to be back before midnight, and we spend the twenty minutes making new friends. Sure enough, the kids materialize from the crowd about a minute before midnight.

The crowd grows hushed as the music stops and the announcer booms over the P.A., “IS EVERYBODY READY?” “Yes!” replies the crowd in a single voice, but not as loud as the announcer expected. “I SAID…. IS EVERYBODY READY?!” This time the crowd matches volume for volume… “YESSSSS!!!” The duck starts to inch its way down the pole, wobbling a little bit at the end of the cable. Then the countdown begins. “Ten… nine… eight…” You get the idea. When the count hits zero and the duck is down, the sky erupts and Auld Lang Syne blares from the giant speakers. Among the voices singing along with the music, the oohs and aahs punctuate every burst of brilliant mortar shells… mine among them. I love fireworks… the bigger the bang, the better, and this show had a lot of big bangs. I don’t know who funded this thing, but I’ll wager it rivaled Baltimore’s. It lasted almost a half an hour and ended spectacularly.

“Wow! What a show,” I said as we drove home than night. “What a great way to ring in the New Year.”

My lovely leaned close and poked me in the ribs. “Told ya,” she smiled.

So, here’s hoping y’all have all your ducks in a row for New Years… and may good duck drop in your lap!