Joel Armstrong, a loan officer at Sterling Bank in Spokane, works in a second story office. He watched a mother duck choose the concrete awning outside his window as the unlikely place to build a nest above the sidewalk. The Mallard laid ten eggs in a nest in the corner of the planter that is perched over 10 feet in the air. She dutifully kept the eggs warm for weeks, and on a Monday afternoon all of her ten ducklings hatched.
Joel watched the mother duck encourage her babies to the edge of the perch with the intent to show them how to jump off. Office work came to a standstill as everyone gathered to watch.
The mother flew down below and started quacking to her babies above. In disbelief Joel watched as the first fuzzy newborn trustingly toddled to the edge and astonishingly leapt into thin air, crashing onto the cement below.
Joel couldn’t stand to watch this risky effort nine more times! He dashed out of his office and ran down the stairs to the sidewalk where the first obedient duckling, near its mother, was resting in a stupor after the near-fatal fall. Michael stood out of sight under the awning-planter, ready to help. As the second one took the plunge, Michael jumped forward and caught it with his bare hands, before it hit the concrete. Safe and sound, he set it down it by its momma. The other stunned sibling, still recovering from that painful leap. (The momma must have sensed that Michael was trying to help her babies.)
One by one the babies continued to jump. Each time Joel hid under the awning just to reach out in the nick of time as the duckling made its free fall. At the scene the busy downtown sidewalk traffic came to a standstill. Time after time, Joel was able to catch the remaining eight and set them by their approving mother.
At this point Joel realized the duck family had only made part of its dangerous journey. They had two full blocks to walk across traffic, crosswalks, curbs and past pedestrians to get to the closest open water.
An empty copy-paper box was brought to collect the babies. They carefully corralled them, with the mother’s approval, and loaded them in the container. Michael held the box low enough for the mom to see her brood. He then slowly navigated through the downtown streets. The mother waddled behind and kept her babies in sight, all the way. As they reached the river, the mother took over and passed him, jumping in the river and quacking loudly.
At the water’s edge, Joel tipped the box and helped shepherd the babies toward the water and to the waiting mother after their adventurous ride. All ten darling ducklings safely made it into the water and paddled up snugly to momma. Michael said the mom swam in circles, looking back toward the beaming bank bookkeeper, and proudly quacking. At last, all present and accounted for: “We’re all together again. We’re here! We’re here!”
In May 2009, the duckling “rescue” scenario was repeated when a new brood of ducklings hatched and was once again caught by Joel as they jumped out of their nest.