Ducks in a Row

A New Reality

Friday, May 22, 2020

 

One day last week, sometime around 4:00 pm, I commented, “I guess I should start thinking about dinner.”  My darling better half said, “Why, it’s way too early?”  Now, here’s where I get to the point of this narrative—my reply was:  “I like to have my ducks in a row!”

How many of you have heard that phrase?  Where does it come from?  What does it mean?

Well, it’s a fair assumption that it alludes to a mama duck leading her ducklings in an orderly single file.

A small brood of ducks in our backyard.
A small bunch of ducks in our backyard.
Mama sets out for a swim.
Mama sets out for a swim.
The others take notice.....
The others take notice…..
......off they go!
……off they go!

The universal meaning is to have one’s duties, responsibilities, or affairs well organized and in order.

Organized Chaos
Organized Chaos
Dreams of Future Travel
Dreams of Future Travel

But where did it come from?!?  How did the phrase become a standard metaphor for good planning?  The earliest reference in print comes as a metaphor in a political article from The Detroit Plaindealer in November 1889.  Perhaps it refers to billiards when the balls are lined up in front of a pocket; maybe, it refers to a lawn bowling game of the 1700s where the duck pins were lined up in a row; could be from shooting galleries where tin ducks were lined up as targets.  No one knows.  But my favorite, although demonstrably untrue, proposal is that it comes from the Peabody Hotel in Memphis where ducks (who live in a plush enclosure on the roof) are gathered into a row by their trainer and paraded down a red carpet to the elevator and down to the lobby, twice a day, to swim in the fountain.

The Peabody Ducks began in Memphis, Tennessee in 1932.
The Peabody Ducks began in Memphis, Tennessee in 1932.
They live in plush digs.  Their penthouse fountain has a dedicated staff!!!
They live in plush digs. Their penthouse fountain has a dedicated staff!!!
Twice a day, the ducks take the elevator to the lobby.
Twice a day, the ducks take the elevator to the lobby.
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This is the lobby of the Peabody Hotel in Orlando, Florida where we visited in 2013. All these photos were taken there. The Orlando Peabody has since been sold; re-branded with a new name; and the ducks have retired to a private lake.
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The “performance” consisted of 5 ducks in a row marching to the lobby fountain, swimming and preening while the trainer entertained the audience; and then the show ended with a grand march back to the elevator and their rooftop garden!

No matter where it came from, the meaning is clear.  In our house, “preparedness” is a well-honed skill developed as an Eagle Scout in the 1950s and “organization” is a character flaw of the Scout’s mate.  We file; we alphabetize; we collect and store for future use; and I prep the ingredients for dinner.  Apparently, our penchant for organization is obvious.  A friend once pranked us by rearranging the artistically placed bird collection atop a cupboard into “ducks in a row”!!!

Ducks in a Row
Ducks in a Row

So, we were prepared when the pandemic struck. We are prepared for hurricane season.  And as we weather phase #1 of our state’s economic re-opening, the guidelines may keep us cautious and frightened, but we have the resources to make the transition a little less stressful.  Someday, toilet paper may again be readily available in the grocery store.  But ‘til then…..we have our ducks in a row!!!

Sanderlings in a Row
Sanderlings in a Row
Or, Geese in a Row
Or, Geese in a Row
Sandhill Cranes in a Row
Sandhill Cranes in a Row
Sandhill Cranes, Going Home, All in a Row
Sandhill Cranes, Going Home, All in a Row

PS  Dinner that night was Meat Loaf with Raclette Potatoes:

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Pre-planned and organized:

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As we transition to a more normal life, stay safe, be well.

 

Keep Your Ducks in a Row!!!!

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2 thoughts on “Ducks in a Row”

    1. Thank you for the nice comment. We are very lucky to have so many cute critters in our yard supplying us with fun photo ops!!! And we look forward to the time when new travel memories will be created. But thinking about fun past trips is pretty gratifying, too!!!

      Like

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