Mailbox duck makes a fashion statement NORTHWEST/Taneytown * Union Bridge * New Windsor * Uniontown

November 26, 1992|By Traci A. Johnson | Traci A. Johnson,Staff Writer

When it comes to fashion, the traditional Thanksgiving turkey has nothing on Rosemarie Zimmer's duck.

But the duck doesn't look very appetizing in its dressing.

Sporting a black pilgrim's hat, a white dickie and turkey feathers on his tail, the painted wood mailbox ornament invites passing motorists to share in the spirit of the day, as it has done for every holiday since it was erected.

"That poor duck has been out there for about five or six years," said Mrs. Zimmer, the 58-year-old woman who painted the duck and acts as its fashion consultant. "This is a relaxing activity that reminds you how the simple things are the best things."

Mrs. Zimmer said the duck was an afterthought one day when she decided to paint and use it to decorate the mailbox in front of her Frizzellburg home.

Then she had an idea.

"I decorated the duck was as a little inside joke," Mrs. Zimmer said. "We had lived in Dundalk in Baltimore for 25 years, so when we moved out here, we were tickled about living out in the country.

"I just put a little straw hat on him to make him a farmer," she said. "Carroll County is farm country, you know."

Since then, the duck has rarely been seen without a garment to celebrate a holiday, denote the beginning of a season, or represent Mrs. Zimmer's whim for that period.

"I never throw away what he wears," said Mrs. Zimmer. "He's always dressed to the season."

Although Mrs. Zimmer often refers to the duck to as "he," its sex is variable depending on the event.

Last month, the duck was decked in plastic skull, bat's wings and a green, white and orange mask to celebrate Halloween. Some years, it has worn a witch's hat, Mrs. Zimmer said.

Other chapeaus in Mrs. Zimmer's growing collection include Easter bonnets, such as the pink hat with the white lace and green ribbons.

On its more carefree days, the duck -- always abiding by the law, says Mrs. Zimmer -- dons a motorcycle helmet.

In the spring, out comes the assortment of plumed hats, like the purple one made of some fuzzy material. The lazy days of summer find the duck topped in any of an assortment of straw hats and summer "bumming" attire like tank tops.

There are assorted lids for the holidays: A red-white-and-blue Uncle Sam hat and white beard for patriotic days such as the Fourth of July and Veteran's Day; a leprechaun's hat and matching attire for St. Patrick's day.

And of course, it has a Santa Claus hat and beard for Christmas.

"On the days when I am changing the hats, people will come out and tell me how much they enjoy the duck," Mrs. Zimmer said.

"A lady from Hampstead was driving by and stopped as I was changing the duck and she asked did I sell them. She wanted to buy one," she said. "I had to tell her it was just a joke kind of thing."

But the spirit behind the playfully dressed duck is very serious.

Mrs. Zimmer said raising a very close-knit family and becoming involved in the lives of her grandchildren have given her an

appreciation of life other people take for granted.

"My husband, Ed, and I moved to Maryland from Johnstown, Pa., and we didn't have much family here. When our children were born, we became a tight group," said Mrs. Zimmer, whose sons Eric, Art and Thom have since grown up. "Ed and I got involved in my sons' scout troops and worked with them with many hands-on projects that gave us a lot of time together."

"Now, when I baby-sit my grandchildren, I get to do these crafts and enjoy teaching them about simple, but creative things to do," said Mrs. Zimmer.

Recently, she and two of her grandchildren, Gabrielle, 7, and Zachary, 4, Thom's children, have made clothespin reindeer and angels in preparation for the holiday season.

"When things get tough and you are having trouble getting along, these crafts can get you going, cheer you up," Mrs. Zimmer said. "You have to have the right outlook about things."

These days Mrs. Zimmer's outlook is filled with the spirit of Thanksgiving. Grandson Zachary helped her decorate kitchen cabinets with Thanksgiving and fall scenes.

She also is in the mood for giving thanks for the newest addition to the family, Gunther Paul, who was born into the Zimmer clan Oct. 18.

"Most people are so busy worrying about money and paying the bills they don't take the time to be happy, or enjoy their lives," Mrs. Zimmer said. "I have my family, husband, children, grandchildren. I feel blessed. That's enough."

The duck sits on its post, decorated with a large orange ribbon and two ears of corn in honor of the season. Its hat sits slightly crooked on its head, blown a little off center by the chilly fall afternoon breeze.

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