Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Duck, Duck, White Duck February 23, 2022

A cluster of ducks, including two white ducks, follow the partially frozen Cannon River in downtown Northfield. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo February 2022)

“DUCK, DUCK, GRAY DUCK!” If you’re not a native Minnesotan, you might stop me right here and protest. “It’s Duck, Duck, Goose!” you likely would correct. And then I would protest.

Ducks border both sides of the Cannon River on a February afternoon in Northfield. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo February 2022)

A few years back, in October 2017 to be exact, a tight end for the Minnesota Vikings initiated a game of Duck, Duck, Goose following a touchdown. Ohio native Kyle Rudolph was quickly corrected. Here in Minnesota, we term that children’s game Duck, Duck, Gray Duck. Not Goose. But Gray Duck. That set off a storm of conversations in which many a Minnesotan defended our name for this game which involves participants sitting in a circle, tapping each other on the head and calling out “Duck” or assorted versions thereof. The child pegged as the “Gray Duck” then tries to catch the person who is “It.”

Nearly camouflaged against a snowy backdrop, an uncommon white duck. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo February 2022)

Duck thoughts fly through my head as I consider a scene on the Cannon River in the heart of downtown Northfield Sunday afternoon. There, among the drake mallards with brilliant iridescent green heads and the hens in their unassuming shades of brown, were four white ducks. All white with brilliant orange beaks and webbed feet.

Looking the other direction from the pedestrian bridge offers a view of ducks edging the open river. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo February 2022)

I was thrilled to finally see these white ducks Randy has previously spotted flying over Northfield on his way to work. These, he said, are not domestic ducks given their propensity to fly just like any other wild duck.

I watched this pair for awhile and they appeared to get along just fine. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo February 2022)

We can only guess at their origins since we are uninformed, except when it comes to Duck, Duck, Gray Duck. Perhaps the white ducks resulted from a genetic mutation. Or the mixing of wild and domesticated. Whatever the reason, these waterfowl drew our interest.

Ducks hang out together on the frozen Cannon River. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo February 2022)

I wondered if the other ducks would exclude/shun/avoid the white ducks. As I watched them walk across the ice and swim in patches of open water, I observed no ostracization. We could learn a thing or ten from those ducks.

© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling