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The Mast Head: Off Limits Till the End Times

Wed, 05/10/2023 - 18:22

Eating some tuna mac from the North Main Street I.G.A. on a bench at the Nature Trail one afternoon this week, I began thinking back about how crazy things got in the spring of 2020, when the Covid-19 pandemic was spreading. Forget about toilet paper shortages, what really concerned me in those early weeks was what we were going to eat.

“Please distribute feed in water,” a sign at the Nature Trail reads, somewhat ambiguously. Did that mean chunks of bread, too, many have often wondered, or did “feed” mean something else? Whether because of their misinterpretation or not, no one much pays attention, tossing bits of bagels or Pepperidge Farm to the ducks, and until they were captured and carted away recently, to a few aggressive domestic geese.

The Nature Trail, if not quite natural, is an interesting micro-ecosystem. Songbirds dart here and there to pick up scraps of bread that the ducks miss. Showy wood ducks hang around somewhat more tentatively. A muskrat or two dwell in the banks of the creek. On the far side of a patch of rough ground under the David’s Lane bridge, carp as long as my leg wait for anything that makes it past the ducks and grackles and drifts downstream.

As the world shut down in the first months of Covid, it was the presence of these huge fish that got my attention. Well, and apologies to my vegan friends, it crossed my mind that we might survive on a few of the Nature Trail ducks as well, if it came to that low point.

What is odd is that I cannot actually remember now what I put on the table. I recall empty meat and poultry sections at Stop and Shop in East Hampton, but not really any other shortages. It was like New Year’s Eve 1999, when we expected planes to drop out of the sky due to a mostly imagined computer issue and hoarded rice, beans, and various canned goods. Well into the first decade of the century, I was still finding odd tins of soups and things in the cupboard.

In the end, the ducks and carp remained safe, and a good thing, too. It would take a hell of lot more than a virus to make the effort worth it. Though, being so well-fed on their high-carb diet, they could be fatty and delicious indeed, if utterly off limits except in the case of apocalypse. It’s nice to know we won’t all go hungry in the end times, right?

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