It’s 7:45, the sun is up but the Kiva Plaza is still in the shade of the surrounding Garvey buildings. The shade blocks the summer sun from hitting the Sky-Earth-Medicine statue and the fountains that accentuate the courtyard.
Laurie Dorsey stands over a group of wild ducks. They’re feeding on the food She just scattered on the ground.
Laurie, a San Antonio native, and unofficial, “Duck Lady,” has been keeping watch over the fowls for seven years. She has worked for the Garvey Center for ten years, three years as a temp.
The wild ducks are familiar to her, as it’s usually the same group every day. She has seen the same mama duck for years. And enjoys seeing her young return each spring.
This story is not about the wild ducks on the plaza, but it begins with a pair of wild ducks.
Years ago, two wild ducks started staying year-round, the female couldn’t fly, so she and her mate stayed in the fountains. They made a nest near the parking garage. The residents and office workers fell in love with the couple. A groundskeeper at the time started feeding them and taking care of them. This went on for a few years until one morning the female turned up dead. Something killed it. Shortly after that the male left.
Neighbors were disappointed, so it was decided to get Jack and Bob. That’s when the Duck Room off the plaza was set up. Bob and Jack lived here a long time. The ducks were infected with some virus.
Jack went blind and Bob lost vision in one eye, so Bob would lead Jack around the plaza. A third older duck was donated, and Pretty Boy was added to the mix. Eventually Pretty Boy passed away and so did Jack.
Bob was lonely and the neighbors took pity on the poor duck. Three chicks were brought in to be his buddies. Bob welcomed Einstein, Socrates, and Joey into the flock and showed them the ropes.
Laurie lets the wild ducks finish up, before she brings out the much more territorial Garvey Ducks.
The Garvey Ducks live in the home originally created for Jack and Bob. Laurie leads me down a plain gray hallway and opens the door to a long narrow room. The floor is covered in hay and the four ducks go wild when Laurie enters the room.
The ducks are separated into pairs in their home. This is to keep Einstein (Einie) from dominating the other pair. That pair being the black and white ducks Zeus and Socrates (Titi)
Zeus is the baby (his parents are Einie and Titi) that bobs his head to show love to Laurie. Who asks, “You guys love me?” Titi (with blue in her wings) is the temperamental one. Standing in the corner giving us the stink eye. Laurie whispers, “she doesn’t love anyone but herself.”
“Are you guys ready to go?” The two ducks head towards the door. Laurie tells me the ducks are a little skittish and has me stand behind the door. I squatted behind the door to get a pic, but the ducks came flying by me so fast I could not get a shot. I did follow them literally, quacking down the hall as they headed to the courtyard.
Laurie and I joined them in the plaza. Zeus, he’s a bit of a wise-quacker, was chasing away some of the wild ducks and Laurie clapped her hands and scolded him. He walked away sulking.
Titi and Zeus hold domain over the upper fountains that run along Douglas. Once they are situated, Laurie and I go back to the Duck Room.
Laurie tells me, “The ducks trust me, we have a special kinship. I have been taking care of them since they were chicks,” The adopted duck mama should know a thing or two about being a mom, she has 8 kids of her own.
We meet Einie and Joey. Einie is the black and white alpha duck. He is very protective of Joey, the all-white “Sweetheart of the Plaza.” Like their roommates, these two make a run for the door. They will hang out in the lower fountains spending part of their day in the small pond surrounding the Tom Montemurro sculpture of the Native American on his horse. Laurie tells me, “I think this is the best spot in the whole Garvey center.”
Interesting side note: Joey does not care for the water; she will spend most of her day walking around the plaza and loves to look at her reflection in the windows facing the courtyard.
“The residents love these ducks. If one of them gets into the street, a resident always calls to let me know.” Laurie said, smiling as she watched the ducks swim around. I told her I could not help but think of the Peabody Ducks in Memphis. The famous ducks live on the roof of the hotel. In the morning they ride the elevator down to the lobby and walk to their fountain down a red carpet while a live band plays their fanfare. Laurie had not heard of it, but thought it was a great idea.
The plaza was recently under renovations and the ducks could not get outside much because it was too dangerous. The Garvey Center provided a couple of kids’ pools for their home so they could get some swim time in.
Laurie wrangles the ducks up around 3 or 4. Sometimes one of the ducks will hide in the beautiful greenery that Laurie helps create. Einie is the worst of the offenders.
The four fowls return to their home for a dinner of lettuce, canned corn, and special treats Laurie calls, “yum yums.”
Laurie told me about an incident with Zeus one night while bringing him in. “I had a few ducks up here, and I was bringing Zeus and Titi down, and of course Zeus saw the wild ducks and I told him “No, leave them alone.” He was trying his darndest not to do anything to them. And he got to that step, and he was like you know what, ‘I’m going back to chase them’. So, he stalked away and Titi was like ‘uh-uh’ and she put her head down, rammed right into his butt, and pushed him down the stairs. I had never seen anything like that before. I just had to laugh, I just thought that is so Joey. She was probably thinking, “you should not have stood there and thought about it.” I guess she was ready to go in. Honestly I think it was intentional.”
Maybe it’s time to get a band and create a fanfare for Wichita’s version of the Peabody Ducks. They deserve it. We might also add a theme for Laurie as she takes care of Garvey’s most famous residents.