Last July, Sandi and I became the proud owners of a pair of Mute Swans. We named them Penelope and The Duke of Earl (Penny and Duke for short). We spent many hours just savoring the joy of watching them on the pond. Then, at the end of August, tragedy struck. Penny, the fe-male, disappeared. We were devastated and spent most of the next two days searching for her, but no trace, not even a feather, could be found. Ultimately, we had to fence in the pond to keep Duke from endlessly roaming the property looking for her. In September, we purchased another female to be his companion. You see, swans are social creatures and normally mate for life.
Soon, thereafter, we started hearing rumors of a swan on Watauga Lake, about three miles from the house. Each time we would go look, but the reported swan was not to be found. And while each time we went past part of the lake, we'd look; we had all but given up hope. We just consoled ourselves that she might be alive and had miles of lake in which to swim and en-joy. After all, by now she was wild and the chances of capturing and bringing her back to our pond were slim. But, if the truth be told, we worried that food would be hard for her to find this winter due to the draught and the very low water levels in the res-ervoir.
On the Thursday before Christmas, once again we got a call that the swan was seen on the lake near Pioneer Landing. It was late and the weather was bad, so we decided not to go look yet once again. The next day, on an impulse, I drove to the lake and there she was! In the falling rain, I got out of the truck and called her name. To my joy and amazement, she looked across the inlet to where I was standing. As I continued calling her, she swam across the white cap waters towards me. But, try as we might, the bank was too steep and rocky for me to climb down and for Penny to climb up. In desperation, I rushed home and got Sandi. By the time we returned, Penny was gone. Crushed, we started to search. We soon spied her under the bridge. Apparently, when I left, she had followed the truck as far as she could swim along the shore
Back at the landing, we were able climbed down a less steep and rocky bank to the shore. Calling, she came right up to us, hungry and somewhat weak. As Penny took the bread from her hand, Sandi reached out, took hold of her and wrapped an arm around her body. This was not the wild bird we thought she would have become; there was no struggle or stress; she just seemed very happy to be back with us. Penny lay quietly in Sandi's lap for the drive home. Once there, I got the chance to hold her while Sandi went to get food and water. Waiting, Penny laid her head on my shoulder. All was well; we had our Penny back!