'Ducks' make splash with tourists

Tuesday, November 9, 2004

Not all ducks are created equal. Some are tourist attractions.

Branson has a whole fleet of "Ducks," modified World War II amphibious vehicles that now carry tourists on land and on water.

Racing full speed into Table Rock Lake in one of these vehicles is like careening downhill into the water in a motorized bathtub.

Our family experienced the sheer joy of it during a trip to Branson last weekend. The plunge into the lake sent a deluge of water crashing over daughter Bailey and also left me terribly wet.

Bailey's clothes were still wringing wet by the time the sightseeing journey ended.

My wife, Joni, and our oldest daughter, Becca, were seated in a different section of the craft and escaped the flood.

Still, Bailey thought it was great fun once she got over the initial shock of feeling like a drowned rat.

It also helped that Bailey and the other children on the trip got to drive the Duck around the lake under the watchful eye of the captain, who provided running commentary about the history of Branson and assorted trivia.

Talk radio, I'm certain, can't begin to compete with this guy.

Of course, the best thing about the Ducks is that all the passengers are given a plastic, yellow, duck-bill-shaped whistle that makes a quacking noise.

It's amazing how relaxing it is to blow the whistle. The Duck captains encourage their passengers to do a lot of quacking, especially when passing golfers or tourists in another Duck. By the end of the sightseeing trip, our family was quacking with the best of them.

I'm convinced we would all feel better about election campaigns if we could let out our frustrations with a quack or two every time we saw those negative political ads.

Keeping the kids in line might be easier too if all parents were outfitted with duck whistles.

Of course, Cape Girardeau has ducks too. But the river city's ducks are of the feathery kind as opposed to the metal, motorized, 38-passenger variety.

Local tourism officials might want to get a fleet of these Duck craft.

Now that the old Mississippi River bridge is all but razed, we're in desperate need of riverfront tourism in Cape Girardeau. If we could get some of these Ducks, we could send tourists crashing into the Mississippi River for a fee.

Unlike the bridge blasts, there's no end to these river plunges if organized right.

Naturally, plunging into relatively clear Table Rock Lake may be more aesthetically pleasing than rushing into the muddy Mississippi River. But outfit everyone with a raincoat and that problem would be easily solved.

We wouldn't need a river observation platform downtown if we had some of these Ducks.

Frankly, it makes you proud to be an American when you see such mechanical ingenuity. According to General Eisenhower, the vehicle helped win World War II.

And when it comes to winning the tourism battles, these mechanical Ducks might be perfect for Cape Girardeau.

Best of all, tourists would come away with a handy souvenir that wouldn't ruffle anyone's feathers except perhaps those ducks in Capaha Park.

Mark Bliss is a staff writer for the Southeast Missourian.

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