My First Ranger
You never forget your first.
I was twelve the day I met my first Army Ranger. I remember it like it was yesterday. Twas a fine summer morn in Somerset, Massachusetts, the duck capital of the world…Okay, it may not actually be the duck capital of the world, but there are a lot of freaking ducks there to the point where there are actual DUCK CROSSING SIGNS. During winter, while kids in other towns made snowmen, we were forced to make snowducks. Hell, there was an even a bill to make a giant Trojan Duck that would rest at the town’s entrance. Anyway, for whatever reason, Somerset loved it some ducks. One duck in particular, a female creatively named “Quack” by the moms of the neighborhood, was a particular fan favorite as she would eat directly out of your hand and all but let you pet her.
When Quack was around the kids were happy, the moms were happy, and there was much rejoicing. And those duck crossing signs would keep our ducks safe…until that moment.
Quack, with ducklings in formation behind her, led the march across the street. Around the turn came a car with a teenager at the helm. He hit his breaks. The neighborhood held its breath as the car came to a stop.
Ducklings fled in all directions. All four were healthy and safe.
But alas, there was one victim.
My mom screamed out as she saw Quack on the warm, heartless pavement. Her chest and part of her neck were crushed, but the duck was still alive, making horrible clacking noises. Some of her guts were exposed. I wasn’t even a teenager yet and hadn’t been exposed to a whole lot of death, but I was pretty sure this was a done deal.
In less than two minutes, every man, woman, and child in the neighborhood was blocking traffic in a circle around quack. My next door neighbor yelled, “Someone needs to get help!”
That’s when Mr. Peterson ran over from across the street.
Mr. Peterson, also known as Major Peterson, had served on active duty for many years, both as an enlisted man and later as an officer. He was now in the National Guard and spent his military time as the National Guard liaison and cadre member to the Ranger Training Brigade. He was a big friendly bear of a man, and we just knew him as the guy that roughhoused with us.
As he busted through the throng of people, it was clear he was looking for the injured human. His sharp eyes quickly took in the situation and his posture changed rapidly when he realized the victim was…well…a duck.
“You have to help!” one woman pleaded.
Mr. Peterson, looked at her, nodded, and said, “No problem”. Everyone looked relieved. The Ranger was going to save the day. I wondered what kind of medical magic he was going to perform. Maybe some medical trick learned on some long lost battlefield that us mere civilians weren’t privy to.
He gently picked the duck up, placed one hand on the top of its head, while the other cradled its body at the base of its neck.
With two quick movements, Mr. Peterson had violently and rapidly snapped the duck’s neck in two. It was out of its misery.
Instantly there was commotion. Some people yelled at him for killing it. One woman half struck him in tears. Mr. Peterson was incredulous. “What did you want me to do? Perform reconstructive chest surgery? It’s a duck!”
My neighbor looked at him with murderous intent, “It’s not a duck, Carl! It’s Quack!”
Mr. Peterson shook his head, grabbed the duck, and walked away.
Everyone left started crying…except for me and my brother.
It kind of Quacked us up.