Ode to Whitey: a duck story


David Hancock, Staff Writer

His name was Whitey. Whitey was a Bruin, a member of the Bear Creek family, and a duck.

Bear Creek, despite officially being home of the Bruins, has also been the home of a small family of ducks. In the area between the A and B buildings there is an oasis, commonly known as the duck pond; it serves as a home for those of the Mallard species. This duck pond actually consists of three circular ponds, various trees and bushes that exude the sweet aroma of spring and a small moat along the front of it all.

The origins of the pond trace back to Bear Creek’s earliest days, when the science department was allowed to give away ducklings to students as a project. This practice has since been banned, but upon its conclusion three odd ducklings were left, two male and one female. The female died young, but the two males, Whitey and Mickey, lived on for years as the best of pals.

Whitey passed away in early April. Mickey, now the sole survivor of a bygone era, deeply mourns the loss of his best friend. Yes, ducks have feelings too.

A short disclaimer: taking care of ducks is hard. A rough estimate of the cost of duck feed alone is $500 per year per duck, and ducks can live for as long as 20 years. There is also the cost of upkeep of the pond and the structures inside of it.

“Ducks require more maintenance than the space shuttle,” author Bob Tarte said in his book “Enslaved by Ducks.”

The upkeep of the pond over the years can only be described as a labor of love by all involved: the various teachers who chipped in for the ducks’ food, woodshop teacher Roger Crane and the engineering department who created a pump system to keep the pond clean, and the “Duck Whisperer,” Campus Supervisor Anthony Sulfaro, who personally feeds and cares for the ducks every day.

“I’ve been taking care of the ducks for a long time — about 20 years,” Sulfaro said.

Sulfaro is also responsible for naming the ducks after Yankees legends Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford. Although Sulfaro is a loyal New Yorker through and through, his love for the New York Yankees pales in comparison to his love for Bear Creek’s ducks.

Sulfaro has fed the ducks every single day — rain and shine, weekday and weekend, and even during breaks — for longer than most people, teachers included, have even been at Bear Creek. He greatly mourns the loss of Whitey, whom he took home for a proper burial.

Speculation has arisen of Sulfaro’s impending retirement, but he is willing to continue to care for Mickey, retirement or not.

“Mickey’s been having a really rough time,” Sulfaro said, tears filling his eyes. “I mean, how could he not? He’s depressed. He lost his best friend.”

Although still mourning Whitey’s passing, Sulfaro is grateful for the continual support of the Bruin family.

“I just want to thank everyone who chipped in for the ducks’ food and water and everything,” Sulfaro said. “You’ve all been great.”

The fate of the duck pond is up in the air at the moment. It is unknown whether Mickey will stay at Bear Creek or not, and how to care for him if Sulfaro does retire.

When asked about how he is dealing with losing his best friend and possibly losing his loyal caretaker and his home, Mickey optimistically remembered his favorite quote from Robert Frost.

“Quack quack,”* Mickey said.

*Duck to English translation: “In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.”