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A letter from a wise 'quacker'
Holli Bragg
Holli Deal Bragg

The letter was postmarked “White River Junction” and the return address was “123 This Avenue, Anyplace, IA.”
    No stranger to anonymous mail, I am always a bit leery of opening odd envelopes with no return address. There are people out there who don’t like my having written about their arrests, or who don’t agree with my political opinions. Even if the letter isn’t ticking I always wonder whether it has been sprinkled with anthrax.
    Carefully peeling the envelope open, I withdraw a folded sheet with quills sticking out. Feathers have always fascinated me, and my Native American blood is likely the reason hawk feathers have spiritual meaning for me. Curious, and just a little apprehensive, I open the letter.
    There are three beautiful gray feathers inside.
    Then I read the letter, with some difficulty, as every word was a different font and size.
    “We have been watching you, oh yes we have, and we have several demands that need to be met to ensure we don’t escalate operations,” it read.
    “We demand you continue setting the standard for small town reporting. We insist you keep the information pipeline open for the happenings in Statesboro. We recommend you continue setting an example of friendship to your many friends and admirers.”
    OK, should I be flattered or is the letter tinged with sarcasm? I read further.
    “We would like you to check in on the ducks at Shelby Park, in between the Edgewoods of Gentilly and maybe take them a baggie of dry cat food,” the letter continued.
    “We trust that our demands will be met,” it read. “We do not want to escalate, but you must know we are prepared to. We are sending these feathers as proof that we can get to you at any..” and the there is a small clock symbol, which I assume stood for the word “time.”
    The letter was signed “The Anatidaephobia Gang.”
    OK, the letter seemed kind and flattering, but was also just a bit odd.
    We — the news gang and I – were intrigued. Looking the “a” word up at was fruitless, but when we tried Google, it made sense.
    Anatidaephobia is the overwhelming, irrational fear of being watched by a duck.   
    I look around. No ducks in sight. Yet, those feathers lay silently on my desk, a friendly threat that if I don’t show up with the goods, I may end up deep in the bottom of the Shelby Park pond.
    What did the letter author mean by “escalate?” According to, it means “to increase in intensity, magnitude, etc.”
    So, if I don’t cave and take said ransom to the feathered friends, will I get more duck feathers in the mail?
    Will ducks start surrounding me everywhere I go?  Will this letter create an unnatural case of anatidaephobia, wreaking havoc on my life?
    Wait, there’s more. What appeared to be random symbols at the bottom of the page turned out to be some sort of code.
    Fellow reporter Jeff Harrison rose to the challenge. Painstakingly, he searched for the font and learned it was one called Wingdings 2.
    Letter by letter, he deciphered the cryptic message: “I must say, Holli, you are deeply missed by us, and you did help the town seem really special to us.”
    My mind was in turmoil as I tried to remember who indeed could have written the mysterious ransom note.
    Then Jeff finished cracking the code.
    It was signed – Kevin Tschida.
    I met Kevin a few years ago, along with is wife Paula, at a “blog party” where several Statesboro Herald bloggers got together to meet in person.
    A feathered friend lover with several duck and chicken “children,” Kevin now lives in California. He has a wonderful sense of humor and I now recall a promise he made a while back to “get me,” and get me good.
    You did, Kevin. You did. Thanks for the fun!!
    Holli Deal Bragg actually loves ducks and may be reached at (912) 489-9414.

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