Here a Quack, There a Quack (a whimsy)

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The current media blitzkrieg reminds me of a time when the American icon called Donald was a duck.  A Disney character often scolding or combating his cricket-capped nephews Huey, Dewy and Louie or some other zoomorphic nemesis, that Donald wore a sailor suit (though he never seemed to claim a nautical background, even in his romantic life) and seemed pretty middle class.  He was not the best or the greatest at anything, was in fact, a simple enough bird, though one who enjoyed his creature comforts and feathering his nest. He did not savor opposition.  DD was amusing and sometimes admirable, not excessively addicted to the truth.  He is also the most widely broadcast comic character outside the superhero genre.

What I most miss about that Donald is not his huge bill nor his inclination to belittle those not like him or those opposed to him.  Though he didn’t seem to have huge hands, I don’t miss his big feet or his greed.  And this is the moment I experience some passing regrets about copyright protection.  I would love to post right HERE an image of DD displaying the mode which, as a kid, I most enjoyed: the ghost-white duck in mid-tantrum.  Such a posting might be reckless, though.  [I should mention that DD was most famously drawn by the trio of Taliaferro, Banks and Rose.]  I loved those renderings of our hero in full hissy fit, leaping and stomping, spit and pin feathers flying, as if he were scrapping with some invisible force.  His bill might sprout fangs, he might spit lightning, he would squawk and stammer, with squiggles in the air around him to signal that he was employing transgressive and downright unprintable language as he wheezed and yammered like Rumpelstiltskin in full fury or a Celtic war poet screaming his scorn song against an enemy fortification.  He was impressive, and I was enchanted.  Even the other animals like Mickey and DD’s own moneybags-rich Uncle Scrooge McDuck might recoil in awe, though they did not seem smitten by his persona, all that ire and twisted inconsistency, all that verbal shrapnel and dragonfire.  They indulged him or gave him space till the fits passed, the feathers settled, and soon the Peaceable Kingdom would be, for a spell, restored.  He was, after all, a decent fowl at heart and perhaps the founder of Ducks Unlimited.

Much as I delighted in the whirlwind of the Tasmanian devil or the stormy outbursts of Elmer Fudd, it is Donald Duck with that orange-ish broad bill that I wish the satellite TV networks would resurrect more often.  Entertaining as he was, he remained somewhat marginal, as he lacked the good heart of Steamboat Willie (the inevitable M. Mouse), the ingenuity of Tweety-bird, the enterprise of the coyote, the wit and percussion of the woodpecker.  Plunging into my morning Cheerios, I keep wishing he were not disrespected, ignored, short shrifted, wondering if it’s not time for a movement, as the general atmosphere we now swim in suggests that Donald Duck’s hour has come round at last to slouch toward Hollywood or the Beltway to be reborn.  That bat signal good old Commissioner Gordon used to summon his nocturnal hero to Gothem — somebody needs to get to work on a Duck call right away.

About R.T. Smith

recent-meR. T. Smith has edited Shenandoah since 1995 and serves as Writer-in-Residence at Washington & Lee. His forthcoming books are Doves in Flight: 13 Fictions and Summoning Shades: New Poems, both due in 2017.


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