June 13, 2024

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Cook’s books “Ducks: And How To Make Them Pay” not about revenge

In 1894, a man named William Cook — yes, really — published a book titled Ducks: And How To Make Them Pay. You can read the whole thing for free at the Internet Archive; or, someone published a hardcover version, if you’d rather read that. But I don’t know why you’d want to.

Despite the promises inherent in its title, Ducks: And How To Make Them Pay contains no explicit guidance or advice in how to hold the mallard population of this planet accountable for their many war crimes. There is no recompense for the sins we suffered from the foul play of fowl. This is literally the first sentence of the book:

The original idea which led me to publish the first edition of this books that there was a need for sound practical information upon a subject, which, if properly taken up, would be likely to lead to great results being attained in connection with an industry which would not only provide employment and renumeration for many, but also open up a way for families, both in town, and country, to produce ducks for their own consumption, even where only the smallest accommodation existed.

Not the most grab-you-by-the-collar opening line hook I’ve ever read, but still. I assumed there was indeed a “need for sound practical information” upon the subject of exacting brutal revenge of those ducking ducks — a subject which, dare I say, if properly taken up, would indeed lead to great results being attained!

But no. Cook’s book is neither a cook book, nor a brutalist blueprint for waterbirds recrimination. It’s just a bunch of technical stuff about how to raise ducks. According to Cook, the way to make ducks pay is to provide with a happy and healthy life, so that they in turn can give you things like eggs and juicy poultry. As one irate reviewer wrote:

What can I say except that I am disappointed. I came here expecting a guide to avenge myself upon God’s one mistake, the bane of humanity and nature. Instead I find this, a guide to the profitable husbandry of Ducks. Instead of helpinge me to rid the world of these megolomaniachal monsters it wants to create more of them. 

In conclusion, rather than judge these fowl beast as the foul beasts they are, this book puts them on a level with fair foul like the majestic Turkey or the honorable Genny Hen. 1/5 would not read again.

Of course, there was at least one five-star Amazon reviewer who was pleasantly surprised by the lack of bloody vengeance in Cook’s book:

A little disappointing, but the work is a piece of history. Definitely funny to read because of the different words they used back then. Most of the advice on ducks seems to still hold up. The pictures of ducks in this book are really cute

So there you have it: if you’re interested in duck husbandry, then Ducks: and How To Make Them Pay could be just the thing you need. But if you were hoping for instructions on achieving drake atonement—even just simply milk shaking them—I’m afraid you’ll have to keep waiting for that satisfaction.

Ducks: and how to make them pay [William Cook]

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