The view through Joe Mansheim's side window raises all sorts of questions. What for instance is a duck-hunting truck driver doing with a waterfowl riding shotgun?
"Truckers are like, 'what the heck is that?'" said Mansheim about the 9-month-old mallard named Frank, propped up on a pillow, head darting from side to side, riding in the passenger seat of his International Truck.
"Goofy duck," said Mansheim, with the affection a father might show his young son.
Mansheim and Frank chat often on the road. Joe complains about the traffic; Frank quacks. And driver and duck go about their business delivering construction materials throughout the Twin Cities for Elite Transportation Systems.
"Pretty good looking site we helped build there," Mansheim said proudly to Frank as they descend into the Mississippi River valley with a load of steel for the new I-35W bridge. "We did a good job Frankie."
To many of the construction workers he encounters in his deliveries, Mansheim is now known as the "duck man."
The title suits him just fine.
"I go to these construction sites and you always see everybody smile when they see him," Mansheim said.
It all started about a year ago when Joe spent $700 on a duck hunting dog, that wouldn't hunt. His boss quipped that he should have skipped the dog and just bought the duck.
"So I called up a feed and tack store in Stillwater and said, 'I'd like to order a duck,'" Mansheim recalled.
It was all meant to be a joke, until the little ball of fuzz that arrived a few days later connected with the duck hunter in ways that aren't quite natural.
"Here have a little more," said Mansheim to Frank as they share a banana in the cab of the truck. "Good stuff, hey buddy?"
One morning last spring, Frank followed Mansheim out of the kitchen and across the yard to his truck. Frank hasn't missed a day of work since.
"I'm a duck hunter but I don't consider Frank a duck. I just consider him a friend," said Mansheim. Truth is, for the first few weeks Frank was known as Frances, until Joe realized his duck was a drake.
"Stupid as it sounds, maybe if more people had a duck in their lives we wouldn't be all so mad at each other," he said.
One disclaimer, should anyone be thinking about a duck for their next pet. Ducks cannot be house (or truck) broken. What they leave behind is not pleasant. But to Joe it's a small price to pay for Frank's companionship.
"Let's call it a day Frankie," said Mansheim as he pulls the truck into the driveway of the duplex he and Frank share in Columbia Heights. "We're home bud, what do you think of that?"
Good times can be had in a backyard too. Frank enjoys hassling the dog or taking a dip in a plastic wading pool.
However, each morning before sunrise, Frank waddles out toward the truck - an early bird, without a worm to be had.
"Alright, let's go to work, go make some more money," said Mansheim as they head down the road, to a mix of Frank quacking and the KQRS morning show.
A daffy little tale from the 'Land of 10,000 Stories' that could render obsolete an old saying, for who cares about the worth of a bird in a hand, once you've caught a glimpse of a duck in a truck.
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