Dickley Duck paddled sideways. Instead of paddling front and back, front and back as a proper duck should, he went SLAP—SKIDDLE, SLAP—SKIDDLE, SLAP, and PULL sideways. If he wanted to go in an easterly direction, Dickley turned his body north or south and paddled sideways.
“This is ridiculous,” said his father.
“Most unusual,” said his mother.
“He gets there just the same,” defended his sisters and brothers.
Other water creatures opened their mouths in wonder, and, being kind, said nothing. But a few, like the Heron twins Meg and Greg, laughed and laughed and shouted such things as, “Look at Silly Sider the sidewinder go! He should be in a sideshow! Ha-ha-ha!”
Dickley didn’t like to hear such remarks, of course, but they bothered his mother even more. One day when he saw tears in her eyes after some foolish goose children had said unkind things about his swimming, Dickley said to himself, “I must try to find a way to paddle like other ducks. I’ve tried by myself, but my feet just go SLAP—SKIDDLE, SLAP—SKIDDLE. Maybe somebody else can help me.”
Then Dickley Duck sidled off down the lake until he came to Muskrat’s home. “Can you think of a way to help me train my feet to go front and back, front and back, as a proper duck’s feet should go?” He asked.
Muskrat scratched his head. After thinking a while he said, “Try putting your head down into the water as you move your feet. That’s what I do. With your head down it might steer you forward.”
“Thanks,” said Dickley, and he tried the suggestion. But when his head was down his feet just turned him over and over in somersaults.
Then Dickley went to Mrs. Mink’s house. “Can you tell me a way I could make my feet go front and back, front and back, instead of sideways?” he asked.
Mrs. Mink closed her eyes and thought for two minutes. “No, I can’t,” she said. “Not unless you try using just one foot at a time. While you’re pulling with one, you could lift the other one high and put it way out in front of you and try to go forward as the high one comes down.”
Dickley looked puzzled. “Thank you,” he said. “I’ll try that.” But it was no use. Dickley turned end over end until he was dizzy.
“This isn’t getting me anywhere.” sighed Dickley. “Perhaps there isn’t a way to get my feet going in the right direction.”
Dickley felt discouraged as he came to Brother Beaver’s house. “Brother Beaver, do you know any way to make my feet go front and back, front and back, instead of SLAP—SKIDDLE?” he asked.
Brother Beaver blinked and slapped his flat tail on the ground three times. Then he said, “No, I don’t, Dickley Duck, but if anyone can help you I think it would be Clara Crane. She’s one of the wisest birds I know.”
“Thanks,” said Dickley, and he went to where Clara Crane was standing in the water watching for a fish to come along.
“Clara Crane, Brother Beaver thought you might be able to help me.” Then he told her about the way his feet always went SLAP—SKIDDLE sideways instead of front and back as they should.
Clara Crane stared into the water for so long that Dickley thought she might be falling asleep, but finally she looked up. “Dickley,” she said, after some quiet thought, “I think your main trouble is with your legs. You must first teach your legs to turn themselves in the right way and your feet will follow properly.”
“But how can I do that? My legs are hooked onto my body and they aren’t very long, and I don’t know what to do!” Dickley wailed.
“I’ll help you,” said Clara Crane. “It’s all a matter of leg exercises.”
“Oh thank you, thank you,” said Dickley. “Could we start right now?”
“Yes, indeed. Now stand tall and turn your body this way and that way, but keep your legs still. Twist—twist—twist, right and left, right and left! Do you feel your legs hurting a bit? Good! That means you are exercising them!”
Well, Clara Crane worked with Dickley for several days, but Dickley didn’t care for the exercises. Sometimes he wanted to give up because his legs were sore. “It’s too hard! It isn’t worth it!” he declared. But then he thought of his mother’s tears and of some of the water creatures’ unkind remarks. So he kept on.
After a time when Dickley swam he didn’t just go SLAP—SKIDDLE, SLAP—SKIDDLE sideways. He began to go slap and pull, slap and pull with a forward motion. Then one bright day he started swimming, slowly and carefully. Off he went in the direction his yellow bill was pointing—straight forward, front and back, front and back!
“Hooray! Hooray for Dickley!” cried all his brothers and sisters.
“Hooray for Dickley!” quacked his father and mother, and this time tears of happiness filled his mother’s eyes.
“Hooray for Dickley!” cried Meg and Greg, the Heron twins.
Then Dickley flapped his wings and shouted, “QUACK! QUACK! QUACK! Hooray for Clara Crane and all my other friends too!”