Life With Mark
Back in the summer of 1980 my wife, Margaret, our then-eighteen-month-old son, Nicholas, and I spent several weeks in a dreary resort in the lower Catskills. It was there that we met the Ducks.
The Ducks were a group of mildly retarded young adults who were enjoying a holiday at the same hotel. I believe it was Margaret who bestowed the designation on them, because of the fierce attachment one of their number seemed to have developed for a Donald Duck flotation device kept in the swimming pool for the use of children. His name was Herb, and in contrast to the other Ducks, who were friendly and outgoing, Herb was withdrawn and more than a little strange. He would spend hours stroking the resort owner’s cat, and once planted himself in the middle of a busy intersection in a nearby village where he proceeded to direct traffic until the local police intervened. Herb’s favorite occupation, however, was paddling up and down the pool supported by the duck float, which he regarded with the same kind of nervous jealousy a young child reserves for a treasured toy. Losing possession of the float would send him into a state of visible agitation, and while he never contested any child for the object, the act of restraining himself took all the limited patience he could summon. Calm returned only when the precious thing was restored.
About the Author
Arch Puddington is director of research at Freedom House and the author, most recently, of Lane Kirkland: Champion of American Labor.