Cue the John Phillip Sousa
August 17, 2013 3:30 PM   Subscribe

Though the original Peabody Hotel in Memphis, Tennessee opened its doors nearly 150 years ago, many would place its true birth at around 1940 when they first began the Peabody Duck March. The tradition has drawn people from far and wide to watch the mallards in residence make their morning commute from their rooftop palace to the fountain in the lobby. If you can't get to to Memphis, there is another Peabody in Orlando that also holds a Duck March, but don't bother with Little Rock (The Peabody there held their last march in May before being converted to a Marriott). Oh, and if you happen to shell out enough dough to stay the night, don't forget your complimentary duck soap.
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI (13 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Thank you for this! Staying at the Peabody with my mom was a big treat when I was growing up. Mom always told me what David Cohn said about the Mississippi Delta beginning there, although of course neither of us knew who had said that. More than once we accidentally went downstairs in the middle elevator right before the ducks were expected, and found ourselves greeted by flashbulbs and a red carpet. Mom used to say that there were probably pictures of us getting out of that elevator in Japan.

The other night, I was melancholy, and I got to thinking about those ducks -- I said to myself, "good Lord, those birds are probably all dead by now." Then I looked them up on Wikipedia and saw that mallards can live up to 20 years, so there is hope that some grey eminences at the Peabody are the same ones I saw when I was young.
posted by Countess Elena at 4:00 PM on August 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

Duck soap? Now look, alright, I catch on why a horse, why a chicken, why a this, why a that... I no catch on why a duck.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:25 PM on August 17, 2013 [4 favorites]

Nice post, the Peabody ducks are a fun tradition. (I've sometimes wondered, though, if a hotel employee follows them around with cleaning supplies, just in case there are any "accidents" during the march.)

Countess Elena, the article at the second link says the ducks only stay at the hotel for 90 days each and then go back the farm. So if some of the ones you saw still could be alive, they're definitely retired from the hotel business.
posted by Nat "King" Cole Porter Wagoner at 4:38 PM on August 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

I was a maid at the Peabody for a few years, and my floor was the penthouse suites. The duck soap was always disappearing off my cart. It took me a long time to realize that the guests were stealing it for souvenirs -- such petty theft didn't occur to me as a possibility. I mean, it's soap shaped like a duck.
posted by Toothless Willy at 5:22 PM on August 17, 2013 [6 favorites]

Nat: That job belongs to the Duckmaster. When I was employed there, the Duckmaster was a metalhead who would hide his mullet under his tophat.
posted by Toothless Willy at 5:23 PM on August 17, 2013 [7 favorites]

We stayed at the Peabody when I was maybe four. My older sister loved the ducks but I remember being afraid of them.
posted by trip and a half at 5:25 PM on August 17, 2013

My family took me to see the ducks when I was little. We couldn't afford to stay there, but we watched them march. I even got a little book about the ducks that I loved as a kid.

I took my wife to see the ducks back when we were dating. One of the pieces of literature about the ducks said that they lived in a "lavish duck palace." Ever since, we've talked about how nice that sounds. Occasionally, she'll sigh wistfully and say "I wish I lived in a lavish duck palace." It does sound nice.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 5:30 PM on August 17, 2013 [3 favorites]

But can you still dance on the Plantation Roof? The Skyway has been restored but I don't think the Plantation Roof is there anymore; from descriptions, it appears that's where the Duck Palace is now.
posted by Anitanola at 7:43 PM on August 17, 2013

I really, really wish I had the job of a Duckmaster somewhere. I mean, you're taking care of ducks all day.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:37 PM on August 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Yeah, Duckmaster sounds like it should be a fun job, although given the duties as described by Toothless Willy, I'm thinking you'd have to walk a fine line between authoritarianism and persuasion:

"Attention, ducks! - I am your MASTER!!
Also, I have to clean up your poop, so please try not to do that in the hall or lobby, OK?"
posted by Nat "King" Cole Porter Wagoner at 10:00 PM on August 17, 2013

Turns out the Duckmasters (there's more than one) have a blog. Maybe they should have a theme song, too:

(to the tune of "Goldfinger")

"Duckmasters (quack QUACK quack) - they're the ones,
The ones who take care of the ducks..."
posted by Nat "King" Cole Porter Wagoner at 10:27 PM on August 17, 2013

I really, really wish I had the job of a Duckmaster somewhere. I mean, you're taking care of ducks all day.

As an owner of a small flock ducks, I'm here to tell you that the thrill wears off quickly.
posted by waldo at 6:30 PM on August 18, 2013

If you ever want take a friend there (which is an excellent idea) and want to see the whole range of human emotion in a six second burst (which may or may not be an excellent idea), while the ducks are walking down the red carpet, lean into your friend and whisper "You know, if I slip the guy in the the red jacket a $20, he'll let us pick which ones we want cooked..." Then smile slyly and refuse to answer any further questions.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 10:22 AM on August 19, 2013

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