Our Story

The Story Behind the Stories

The stories in The Grapevine Creek Ducks series are true — based on our real experiences with twenty real ducks that we have had as pets.  We have taken a few liberties to make the stories accessible to younger readers.  We’ve changed Abby’s age to about eight to appeal to the age group the books are designed for.  In fact, she was sixteen when we got the ducks featured in our first story — and therein lies a completely different story!  It’s a story that involves a happy accident, a terrible chronic illness, and a lot of duck poo.

The Happy Accident

Bob and Phil, our first ducks

Bob and Phil, our first ducks.

When we were house-hunting, we found a delightful house in the woods outside of Winston-Salem.  It had a creek running through the back yard, and behind it was a farm with a large pond fed by the creek.  But even more appealing, there were ducks!  They had been hatched by the previous owner as a preschool project, and then released to live on the pond.  They came up to the house every day to get a snack.  Abby named them “Bob” and “Phil,” and the kids decided that this was the house we would buy.  Good thing the adults liked other things about the house, too!

Of course, we soon discovered that the ducks were a couple, and so we changed “Phil” to “Philomena.”  We kept a bag of cracked corn in the garage, and every day Bob and Philomena would waddle up to the back door, quacking for their daily treat.  For about two years, they were a daily routine — until one day Philomena was killed by a fox.  That was our first experience of duck grief — Bob spent weeks going up to different houses, quacking to find his missing mate.  Then one day, about a year later, he showed up with a little wood duck girlfriend.  He tried again and again to get her to come to the house to get corn – but she was wild and never learned to trust us.  We had to leave the corn and go inside, and then she would come up and eat with him.  And of course, eventually, another fox caught up with Bob.  No more daily visits from the ducks.

Chronic Illness

Abby and the four original ducklings

Abby and the four original ducklings.

Abby was in doing well in high school.  She was in tenth grade, playing in the orchestra, and had completed the classroom training for driver’s ed.  Then, a few days before Halloween, she came down with what we thought was a terrible case of the flu.  But she didn’t get better — after many rounds of testing and referrals, the doctors announced that she had Myalgic Encephalomyelitis or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS).  She could barely function; previously a bookworm, she couldn’t comprehend a simple paragraph.  She had to drop out of school.  There currently is no real treatment for ME/CFS. We were devastated.

Many referrals later and through treatment of symptoms, Abby gradually improved until she could bear a small amount of activity on a good day.  But she was terribly bored. One day she brought up the subject of ducks: after Bob and Phil, she had always wanted to have some more ducks.  Now she had the idea that a couple of pet ducks would help her with an activity that would get her out of the house and give her a something to focus on.

The ducks became a family project.  We did tons of research, built a pen and coop that would keep the ducks safe from predators at night, and then one day went to the farm store.  We came home with four amazingly cute ducklings, and the story began!

There is still no cure or real treatment for ME/CFS.  There is exciting research going on that is very promising, but a definitive diagnostic test and treatment are still years away.  Abby has been able to reach a plateau where she is able to function a little better; but it is a daily struggle with devastating symptoms.  If you would like to learn more about ME/CFS, we recommend visiting the Solve CFS website at https://solvecfs.org/.