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Chick magnet

After reading about a man calling 911 to report a chicken crossing the road, I was reminded of a crazy encounter I had a few years ago driving down I-64.

by Terry Meiners

On the car radio, Pastor Dave Stone had just wrapped up his radio sermon extolling the virtues of providing service. Instead of focusing on inhaling, he encouraged his flock to highlight the act of exhaling by spreading service and support in society.

I had no idea that I was about to become part of a five person team that would save seven precious lives.

Bathed in bright morning sunshine, I drove eastbound on I-64, imagining a glorious day of golf with three visiting buddies. As my car made the slight descent following the Hurstbourne Lane interchange, I noticed a cluster of moving objects directly in front of my car.

Clarity came frighteningly fast. A mother duck and her six ducklings were scurrying across the interstate highway. Four baby ducklings had just been crushed behind them. Their bodies were still rolling from the mauling they’d just endured by a vehicle a short distance ahead. Other drivers in the fast lane flew past the scene, apparently unaware of the danger at hand.

I jammed on the brakes and swerved toward the emergency lane, causing a black Mercedes behind me to decelerate and swerve wide left to avoid the panicked cluster of ducklings.

My car zipped into the emergency lane as an automated voice announced that the anti-lock brakes had been used in extreme fashion. The Mercedes continued down the highway.

I popped on my flashers, grabbed my phone, and jumped out of my car, screaming toward the ducks to repel them from turning back across the highway. As other cars and trucks came rumbling past, I waved at the drivers hoping to slow them down. They probably figured I was a nutty hitchhiker.

The six surviving ducklings dutifully followed their mother’s every move. She frantically paced back and forth along the concrete barrier wall in the center of the interstate highway as I kept yelling at them to keep them from trying to return back across the interstate while many more cars and trucks darted by.

The frightened mother duck repeatedly tried to scale the center barrier wall but slid back down after her initial leap. Her tiny ducklings would’ve been abandoned if she’d scaled the wall, and probably killed if she’d jump down from the barrier to flee across the westbound lanes.

There was no chance to run across the interstate and try to corral the ducklings. If I were lucky enough to make it, I’d have a difficult time keeping them from running scared right back into the lanes of oncoming traffic.

Hoping to marshal a group of drivers to put on their flashers and slow the traffic, I called WHAS Radio and asked to be put on the air. While I waited for host Drew Deener to get to my call, I realized how ludicrous a request this would be.

Since I’d read many stories on the air about people misusing 911 for non-emergency purposes, I was reluctant to phone in with a ducks-stuck-on-the-highway emergency.

What the hell. If I’m committing a crime, I will pay the fine. At 9:43, I dialed 911 and my phone lit up with the emergency cross symbol.

“911…what is your emergency?” a calm but alert woman asked. I explained my situation and asked if she could send a police car to the interstate’s fast lane to turn on its emergency lights to slow the traffic so that the ducks could be removed.

The operator did not make me feel foolish or react to the situation as if it was unworthy of police attention.

I explained to her that I had been walking along the interstate’s emergency lane shouting at the ducks trapped in the center emergency area and I was now about 300 yards ahead of my parked car.

“I’ll send the police.”

I keep screaming and pointing toward the ducks while passing drivers looked bewildered by my actions instead of noticing the ducks in crisis. On they drove, no doubt wondering why a grown man was flailing his arms on the side of a freeway.

Within a few minutes, two Jeffersontown Police cruisers with lights flashing pulled up behind my car and remained static. I was still walking far up the road from them, so I waved my arms frantically toward the police until they noticed and pulled out onto the highway. As I pointed toward the mother and ducklings still scurrying along the highway center barrier and inches from death, the police cars separated and pulsed their sirens to slow and stop the surging lanes of moving vehicles behind them.

A Jefferson County Sherriff’s deputy vehicle appeared on the other side of the interstate barrier and stopped in the emergency lane if needed to hold opposite traffic.

After the pair of J-Town police cars had the highway barricaded, I ran across the three lanes of the interstate, removed my wind jacket, waving it like a bullfighter’s cape to startle the birds back across the highway.

The mother quacked furiously as all six of her babies trotted right behind her and back into the tall wet grass down into the easement adjacent to properties well clear of the elevated highway lanes.

Officer Dwight Tyler of the Jeffersontown police department had gotten out of his cruiser and called me by name. We shook hands and I thanked him for saving those babies. The other policeman, Ofc. Tori Walker, smiled and waved from his police cruiser.

Many of the stunned drivers of about 30 stopped vehicles broke into applause from their vehicles and a few hollered “Nice going” through their windows.

The mother duck and her babies scampered deeper into the tall grass away from the highway, with a lesson hopefully learned. Stay far, far away from moving vehicles and especially far away from tall hollering men waving golf jackets.

Special thanks to the woman who answered the 911 call, the two Jeffersontown Police officers and the sheriff’s deputy who all took action instead of dismissing the incident as just some clueless animals who’d created their own peril.

The five of us acted as a team, saved seven lives, and provided some of the service Pastor Stone suggested on the radio only moments earlier.

It was a good day.

Posted 17th April 2011 by Terry Meiners

dad. husband. observer. media personality. pathological flyer.