There was this big C&W bar I used to go to when I still had a sense of whimsy about me. Once a year the owner, who raised ducks, would sponsor The Duck Derby, an all-out, day-long drinkfest disguised as a sporting (read betting) event. The day started with pitchers of Bloody Mary’s and Screwdrivers at 6am and ended at closing time which was NEVER. The first heat of the Derby started at 2pm and the real challenge was to choose a winning duck. A winning duck first of all, will finish the 20-foot oval mapped out between the pool tables and bar stools. Almost all the ducks never made it to the finish line where a special duck Chex-mix treat awaited. I entered the Derby four times and the closest I came to winning was 10th place (out of 30 entrants) by Sir Quack-a-Lot, a black, grey, and green feathered friend. The races would last up to 30 minutes depending on how long it took for one duck to cross the finish line. Bill, the bar owner and DerbyMaster, had warned me about the duck I selected.
“Oh, you might want to pick another one, just in case” he recommended.
“Just in case what?” I asked.
Evidently, Sir Q had quite the history in the Derby. Since finishing dead last in his first-ever shot at the title, his performance resulted in the only rule ever created for the race: no giving alcohol to your duck. (This was later extended to drugs after some idiot fed some to his duck, forcing the only delayed Derby). Bill stopped the races and took the duck to his veterinarian who was able to save the little guy. So I was deciding between Sir Quack-a-Lot and Mallory Mallard for my racer, and since I seem to prefer the underdog, the Knighted One was my choice.
Bill posted the betting lines and Sir Q was given a 100-1 shot just to make it to the final heat. I won 1000 bucks that day because my duck was kicking ducky ass and taking ducky names and I had placed a ten-spot on this long shot. The final heat of 10 ducks was set to take place at 7 pm and my friend Chuck was helping me as I entered the 13th straight hour of drinking and ducking. It was ten minutes until post time.
“Where the hell is the duck?” I was questioning Chuck on Sir Q’s whereabouts.
“Oh man, I just turned away for one second…” The duck hunt is on. 5 minutes to post time. With a minute and a half left, we found the duck sitting on top of a bar table surrounded by some drunk-ass honkey-tonkers. They were laughing as one of the ladies was feeding him beer out of her mug.
We were in trouble.
Bill pulled the gate for the last race and Sir Quack-a-Lot bolted to the lead. That drunk-ass duck is gonna win this thing. We get to the half-way mark and some other duck was catching him on the turn. All of a sudden, Sir Q started wobbling a bit, recovered and somehow found a second gear, racing out to a lead coming down the stretch. We were all hooting, hollering, cajoling, anything to get the ducks to finish the race. I was already basking in the glow of victory and counting my money as Sir Q neared the finish line. With two feet left in the race, Sir Quack-a-Lot hops the race barrier and takes off through the bar. Just like in the movies: glasses breaking, pitchers spilling, purses flying, tables knocked over, feathers flying, the whole enchilada. Duck shit everywhere.
I was smiling.
Officially, we came in tenth place because Sir Q did not finish the race. That was my last race in the Derby and I harken back to those days anytime I am eating Duck a l ’orange or Duck Framboise.