If you know Chicago you surely know of the Museum of Science and Industry. It is located on South Shore Drive and 57th Street. During the 1893 Columbian Exposition it was called “The Palace of Fine Arts” and is the only remaining building from that World’s Fair. (Incidentally, it was at this exposition that Nikola Tesla provided the first wide-spread utilization of electricity).
The Museum is a wonderful place. It was constructed in classic style and it is upheld by a series of Greek-style caryatids. Inside there are wonderful interactive exhibits which are extremely educational. Outside is a WW II submarine. If you’re planning a trip to Chicago you should include a visit to the museum. You’ll find it’s worth your time.
During the exposition, the area south of the museum was flooded. People arrived at this exposition by boat on what is now known as the Midway. The Midway is now a dry and open area where students from the University of Chicago frequently engage in athletics.
Directly south of the museum there is still a lagoon, usually populated by a large number of ducks. I used to take my dogs back there for a walk. I had to restrain my golden retriever, Dickens because he thought these birds were fair game and would get excited at their sight. But he learned that it was okay to look – just not to chase.
The street just north of the museum was a major artery that fed into South Shore Drive. I usually drove it as I went to work. It was always extremely busy as Chicago’s citizens went to work during rush hour. Traffic fed east onto The Drive and a lot of traffic flowed west with people who were on their way to their jobs at the University of Chicago.
One morning as I was getting ready to go onto The Drive, a mother duck and three of her ducklings decided that they were going to cross the street. Why they had decided to leave the safety of the lagoon was beyond me. But as I saw them jumping from the curb and into the street I thought, “Oh, Lord. They’re going to get run over.”
I turned on my flashers and got out of the car, raising the hood. Two other people like me on their way to work did the same thing. But we were all in the eastbound lane, heading on to the Drive. We succeeded in holding up all the traffic which no doubt truly annoyed those who were in the long string of cars that were behind us and had no idea what was happening.
But two of the three of us realized that while this would allow our duck family to cross half of the street, they still had a hurdle to face. They had to cross the other side with driver’s whizzing by as they headed off the Drive on their way to work.
The two of us stood on the north side of this road as the mother and her offspring made their way across the street, mother duck encouraging her babies across by walking at a fast clip. (It wasn’t fast enough for us as we stood there impeding traffic). Finally they made it across the street and were safe.
I’m sure that we upset a lot of people who were on their way to work. We were fortunate that this happened almost a block from the exit on the Drive so that the drivers who were exiting had a chance to slow down – seeing us in the road.
But the most gratifying part of this experience was that when the duck family had made it to safety and we got back into our cars, at least eight people got out of their cars and applauded enthusiastically.
During my day at the office I worried that mother duck had decided to take her brood back to the safety of the lagoon but would once again have to negotiate the treacherous road.
But when I got home that night and took my puppies for a walk I saw the ducks in the same place I had left them that morning. They stayed in the park for two days and then I saw that the ducklings were old enough to fly with mom’s instructions. On the third day the family disappeared from my little park.
I believe they had escaped the confinements of walking on the earth and had taken flight – to begin their own duck brigade.