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Ducks, goats in the spring build rich childhood memories


Growing up, Ward’s Feed Store was a sort of magical place. On the outskirts of downtown, it was the Waters family source for any farm supply we might need. There was always a lazy dog lounging on the concrete floor, a plethora of snacks to choose from at the counter after school and an undeniable smell of feed each and every time you opened those large metal doors. But for us, specifically one Easter, Ward’s held more than just our weekly supply of sweet feed.

We owned a small hobby farm nestled in the heart of Kingsport. The place was grandfathered in and so my mom got her lifelong wish of having any farm animal she could want. This also meant my sisters and I had that same luxury (at times, to my dad’s dismay). One Easter, as it was told to me, my mom and dad “saw the Easter bunny hopping down the street with a basket full of baby ducks” — which really meant they got a duck for each of us at Ward’s.

To a 6-year-old girl growing up in the ‘90s, who else would you name your duck after other than Ginger Spice, your favorite member of the all-girl band, The Spice Girls? (However, I’ve since decided Sporty Spice was a much more worthy member of the band, but that’s a column for another day and special edition all together).

My two older sisters named their ducks Mo, after the third member of the Three Stooges and KC, because the duck was a Khaki Campbell. As for my younger sister, she came up with a name I’m sure no one has ever given to a duck or any other living thing for that matter. She decided she’d name her duck “Salad” — “because her neck is green,” she would say.

Being the proud owners of four baby ducks wasn’t what we expected though. For starters, we eventually discovered that three of our ducks, which had girl names, ended up being males.

For a family of all girls, this was upsetting — though I guess Salad could pass as a male or female’s name.

As for Mo, who was the only duck we thought was a male, “he” in fact turned out to be the lone female. My sister renamed her Mojo, so that she didn’t have to go the rest of her duck life as a female duck named “Mo.”

After our ducks put what we called “the duck pen” to good use on our property, we later got two goats. They were wonderful, small pet goats, but as most goats do, they had a knack for escaping their pen.

Macarena, a Nigerian goat named after the ‘90s hit, “Macarena,” and Tinkerbell, a Pygmy goat named after the fairy from Peter Pan, both loved to climb our fence and roam our property and sometimes that of our neighbor’s. And when that wasn’t enough entertainment, they’d happily climb up in the large oak tree in the backyard.

The two goats weren’t the only two who liked to escape. We also had a Morgan Thoroughbred horse named Beauty. One time, she somehow escaped from her pasture and found herself a nice flower garden to fertilize in our neighborhood. Our neighbor on the end of the cul-de-sac didn’t welcome that sort of fertilizer and requested that we shovel it from her yard.

Spring and summer at the Waters household was never dull, that was for sure. And though I’m certain my mom was sick of seeing our two goats way up in the tree in the backyard and my dad probably wasn’t too excited to shovel manure out of our neighbor’s yard, chasing goats and misnaming ducks was all part of the fun of growing up on a farm — and it certainly has provided a plethora of memories to look back on for my family.

I can’t say we’ll be looking to get back into the duck business anytime soon. And the goats we have now are well secured (and I’m proud to say, have not ventured into our neighborhood in quite some time). Ward’s is nothing but a memory now as it looks like it’s well on its way to becoming a parking lot and that childhood home of ours is owned by someone else and looks entirely different from how it used to (it breaks my heart to see the spot where the colossal barn that had to coolest loft a kid could ever dream of once had been).

But my family and I often revisit that place in our minds along with the adventures we had there. This spring, and really in each season we encounter, I urge you to live in the moment and say yes to that animal every once in a while — and then prepare yourself for more memories than your Easter basket can carry.