Wyo's Duck washing. yes that's right, Duck washing Page

Wyo's note: What follows below is my wife's view of my participation on a my companies oil spill response team. To anyone from my company who reads this, the opinions expressed are my wife's and not mine. With that said  when I read this the first time way back in '91 I laughed till it hurt. It must have looked nuts to an outsider especially one who is married to a certified or is that certifiable "duck washer"........ By the way my Duck washing days ended in 2003 after our move to Houston when someone asked the question " Why is a geologist washing ducks?" It was fun while it lasted.







Dear Mom and Dad,

Jonesy is gone to wash ducks. Wooden ducks. No, I'm not making this up -- though I wish I was. It's not what I expected him to be doing when I helped to support him through those grueling years of advanced education.

I'm afraid the ducks are just the beginning. He's going to learn to wash all sorts of critters -- all because of the Valdez. Spilling oil all over Alaska was very bad for Exxon's Public Relations. Now people think they are a Big, Bad Oil Company. So the corporate types decided to teach their employees to wash critters so they'd look like a Kinder, Gentler Oil Company.

Phase I of this master plan was to recruit an "E-lert Team" to respond quickly and decisively when a tanker makes a mess on the environment. I don't know why they picked Jonesy for the Natural Resources Response Group. He's not exactly Speedy Gonzales (though he is much cuter). His normal range of operation occurs in a Geologic Time frame of plus or minus a million years. His personal theory on being chosen is that someone heard he's actually seen critters in their natural environment. When added to the "ologist" of his Geologist designation, this was enough to equal "natural born duck washer" in a corporate brain.

His training began with a trip to Newark. This sounded very fishy.

"Exxon is paying to fly you all the way to Newark to learn to wash oily ducks?"

"It's not something I can learn to do just anywhere," he said. "There's not a lot of demand for duck-washing schools."

This made enough sense to be scary. It was even scarier when he came back a certifiable -- I mean -- certified duck washer. I guess I wasn't impressed enough with his new credentials, because he decided to share his newfound knowledge with me, despite the fact I'd never met and never expected to meet a duck I wanted to wash. But if I do, I now know that it takes three gallons of Dawn Dishwashing Liquid. It seems they use Dawn because it dissolves oil without dissolving the duck.

"They flew you to Newark so you could wash a duck with Dawn?"

"It wasn't like washing dishes!" Jonesy looked injured. "It bit me." He presented finger.

I examined the mark. "If you dirtied a duck, then washed it with Dawn, I'm not surprised it bit you."

"I didn't oil it first. That would be inhumane!"

But washing a clean duck with three gallons of Dawn wasn't?

The next phase of Jonesy's training was the "surprise" drill (which would have been more of a surprise if it hadn't been noted down on a company-wide calendar). As he stuffed gear into his duffel, Jonesy complained loudly about the interruption to his busy schedule. But I could tell he was excited to get out in the flora and fauna where oil usually gets spilled and test his new-found skills on the wooden ducks they'd be using for the "exercise" (read "duck games" here) decked out like a right-wing paramilitary group -- except for being armed with Dawn instead of assault weapons filled with paint.

That's where he is now. Out in the swamp in the rain answering to the code name "Birdman," sitting in a boat named the "Mallard" with three other duck experts, being guided by "Duck Hawk" (helicopter), and trying to scoop up wooden ducks with a bloated butterfly net while not knocking each other out of the boat. If he gets his duck, he then turns it in at the "duck dock" (shore), and reports to "duck central" (command center) where he will attempt to get his ducks in a row by mopping them up with Dawn.

Personally, I think they are all quacked up.



A version of this column originally appeared in The Lovell Chronicle on December 24, 1991.