Dog Tales by Fred Cartan

Boris and the Duck

Many years ago, and far from Moscow, perhaps 200 versts, perhaps 400 versts, there was the farm of the rich farmerdog Orlov. It was as fine a farm as any farmerdog could want. There were fields for grain, there were meadows, there were ponds and forests. Farmerdog Orlov had sheep for wool, he had chickens and ducks and geese for eggs and food. He had cows for milk and meat and horses to help him. It was a fine farm. But this story is not about Farmerdog Orlov. No. It is about three animals that lived on his farm.

The oldest animal was a goose, Pavlik. He knew all the other animals on the farm and they liked him. He was old and tired and his beak and feet were not as shiny as they had once been. His feathers were not always in order but he was wise and helpful.

He did his best to watch out for the geese and ducks on the farm. He tried to keep them out of trouble and give them advice in a polite way. Sometimes they listened and sometimes they did not. But either way, Pavlik did his best.

The second animal was a duck, Nickolai. He was a fine, strong, duck with shining white feathers and a bright yellow feet and beak. He was the only duck that had not been born and raised on the farm. He came from far away and had seen things that the other ducks had not. He kept a nest close to the pond.

All the other ducks and geese respected him, but they were careful around him. It was not that he was a bad duck. He was not. He worked hard doing the things a duck must do, swimming, catching bugs, keeping his feathers clean and so forth. His problem was that he had a terrible temper.

The third animal in this story was the work horse, Boris. Boris was a big work horse, and moved and spoke slowly. His hide was a bright brown. He had a white face with large brown eyes, and strong white legs with great flat hooves and just a little hair at the fetlock.

Boris liked the farm. Boris liked his warm stall in farmerdog Orlov's barn, especially in the cold winter. Boris liked the meadows and Boris liked the other animals that lived on the farm. They liked Boris too. Boris did not talk much but he was the sort of horse that one could depend upon.

Nickolai liked Boris too, and for a good reason. One day in the summer past, Nickolai was getting his lunch in the grass at the edge of the pond, poking his beak here and there among the stems of the meadow grass.

A fox came out of the forest. The fox was hungry. He saw Nickolai. He said to himself, "That duck looks fat and healthy. It would be a good lunch." He began to sneak up on Nickolai intending to grab him in his jaws and carry him off to the forest and eat him. Nickolai did not see the fox.

But Boris did and came trotting right over to help Nickolai. The Fox heard the thump thumping of Boris's great hooves and looked at him and saw that Boris was looking right at him. The fox looked at Nickolai again. He decided that he would be better off hungry than to be stomped flat under Boris's great hooves so he ran back into the forest.

Nickolai saw this and he thanked Boris for saving him from the fox. He and Boris began to talk and became friends. Nickolai was a good talker. Before he came to Farmerdog Orlov's farm he had lived near a Boyar's farm. He told Boris stories of the great things he had done as a young duck and the things he had seen and the places he had flown to before his wings were clipped.

Boris liked to hear these stories, because Nickolai made them sound so interesting. Boris had never been far from the farm. He had been raised there and except for an occasional trip pulling hay to the market he had seen little of the outside world. Boris often grazed on the meadow grass near the pond so he could listen to Nickolai but because of the ducklings and the goslings were everywhere, he was always careful to move slowly and watch where he put his great hooves.

One day Boris was grazing in the wheat field near the pond. The sky was blue and the sun was warm and there was a gentle breeze blowing. It was a good day. The field had just been harvested and there were some stems of wheat that had not been cut or had been just bent over. Boris liked this wheat. Boris looked over the grain field. He saw some birds and some ducks and geese in the field too. They were eating the wheat that had fallen on the ground when the wheat was cut. Boris wandered over to the fence near the pond and began to eat the stalks of wheat that the mowers had missed.

All of a sudden Boris heard a loud hissing. He looked down and to his astonishment it was Nickolai. His feathers were all ruffled up and he seemed mad. "You are stealing our wheat," he hissed loudly. "All this wheat belongs to the ducks and the geese. You should not be here."

Boris was taken aback. "But Nickolai," he said. "I am only eating the wheat from the stems. There is much wheat on the ground for you and the other ducks and geese and I can't eat it."

"I don't care," Nickolai hissed. "You are a thief. Go away!" And Nickolai got so mad that he began to hop up and down.

Boris was unhappy and began to walk away. He did not think he was a thief. Just then, Pavlik, the old goose noticed that something was wrong and he flapped over to Boris, loosing a feather in flight. "What is wrong, Boris?" Pavlik said.

"Nickolai said I was a thief. He said I was stealing his grain. He did not want me to eat the wheat stalks. He said I should not be here." Boris got a very sad look on his face and walked slowly away, hanging his head down.

Pavlik waddled over to Nickolai. "Why did you call Boris a thief?" he asked. "There is plenty of wheat for us all."

"Well, it is our wheat," Nickolai answered. "Horses should not eat it. He should not have come here."

"But Farmerdog Orlov put Boris in this field," Pavlik told him. "Where else could he eat? You should not get mad. He is your friend. You have hurt his feelings. You should apologise."

"I don't care, I don't care. I won't apologise!" NIckolai told him. "I don't care if his feelings are hurt." And Nickolai waddled off quacking loudly. Pavlik looked sadly after him.

After a few days, Boris and Nickolai seemed to be getting along better with each other. They talked and Nickolai told Boris more stories. Pavlik thought things were back to normal.

A few days later, however, Boris went down to the pond to drink. He waded out into the pond and bent his head down to drink. He had just finishing drinking when a loud noise startled him. It was Nickolai.

Nickolai quacked, "Go away you stupid horse. Your big feet have stirred up the mud in the pond just when I was about to go swimming." And Nickolai stood upright and flapped his wings against Boris's feet and hopped up and down.

Boris bent his head down to Nickolai and said, "But Nickolai. I'm sorry that I have stirred up the mud in the pond with my feet but I have to walk out a few steps to find water deep enough so I can drink it easily. I did not mean to make you angry. If you had asked be to drink at some other place I would have done that."

Nickolai replied, "Then go you stupid horse and let me swim in peace." Boris looked at him sadly, and moved away.

Pavlik had seen the argument. He waddled over to Boris and asked, "Why was Nickolai angry?"

Boris had just finished eating a mouthful of grass. He looked at Pavlik with a sad expression in his large brown eyes. "I don't know why he was mad at me, Pavlik. He said I was making the pond muddy where he wanted to swim. But I didn't do it intentionally." Pavlik thought to himself, "Nickolai is not behaving properly. He may lose a good friend."

A week passed. Nickolai had not spoken to Boris. Boris was eating grass near the bushes where some of the ducks and geese had their nests. He had just taken a big mouthful and was starting to chew it when he heard a terrible squawking just in front of him. He looked down. It was Nickolai again. He was so mad that he was hopping up and down again and flapping his wings and making loud noises but he didn't say anything to Boris.

Boris turned around slowly to look down at him. "Nickolai, my friend, what is wrong?" But Nickolai did not tell him. He did not say anything. He just squawked louder and struck Boris's foot with his beak. It hurt Boris's foot, and he stepped back to get away from Nickolai. Boris felt a crunch where he had put one of his back hooves down. He turned his neck slowly to see what he had stepped on. It had been a nest. It was now quite flat.

Nickolai continued to strike Boris's leg with his beak and finally he squawked out, "You have ruined my nest, you stupid horse."

Boris looked back at the flattened nest and said, "I am sorry, Nickolai, I did not see it." He lifted his back hoof from the nest and put his front hoof down to balance himself. And he heard an even louder squawk from Nickolai and when he looked back at Nickolai he found that he had put his front hoof on the edge of one of Nickolai's bright yellow webbed feet. He lifted his hoof and Nickolai hopped away on one foot squawking even louder.

He squawked out loudly. He called to all the farm animals. He said, "That terrible horse Boris has destroyed my nest and tried to cripple me. Go and see for yourselves. See my poor foot." And Nicolai showed his injured foot to all who would see it. "I demand that Boris be punished."

Hearing this, Boris looked down and a tear came to his brown eyes and he walked slowly away with a unhappy look on his face.

All the farm animals gathered. "We must make a judgement," they said. They all gathered in a circle and listened to Pavlik who told them what had happened after Nickolai had started squawking. They talked with each other and to Pavlik. Pavlik listened to what they decided and then waddled over to Boris and said, "Don't feel badly, Boris. The farm animals have decided that it was not your fault."

Then Pavlik waddled over to Nickolai who was waiting to hear of the decision. "Nickolai," Pavlik told him, "the animals do not think that Boris was at fault. They think you should apologise to him."

"I will not," Nickolai told Pavlik, and he turned his head away from Pavlik and waddled away.

Late that afternoon, Nickolai began thinking again about the decision of the other farm animals. He began to get mad all over again. "They are stupid, stupid animals" he quacked. And then he became madder and madder. He began to hop up and down and squawk loudly as he thought how unjustly he had been treated.

Just then, Farmerdog Orlov walked by, with a small axe in his paws. He heard the squawking and looked over at Nickolai. "Just what I was looking for," he thought, and he reached down and grabbed Nickolai by the neck and carried him off.

That Night, farmerdog Orlov and his wife and his pups had roast duck with orange sauce and they enjoyed it.