On our recent trip between Dallas and Nashville, which included Oklahoma City, Hot Springs and Memphis, we liked Memphis the best.  In part this was because the Peabody, an historic hotel in Memphis, may very well be one of the nicest hotels we’ve ever been in.  The place was so comfortable that I wanted to spend time in the hotel, which is not like me.  The lobby usually had a live pianist.  And ducks.   They were known for ducks in their fountain.  The Peabody Ducks.  We didn’t know this when we arrived, but we read something about it online: “Don’t miss the ducks.”  So we asked, “What’s up with the ducks?”

The Story of the Ducks

The Peabody Lobby

It turns out that in 1933, the general manager went duck hunting with decoy ducks.  After a day of drinking, he brought the ducks back, put them in the fountain, and fell asleep.  Upon rising he recalled the error of his way.  He ran to the lobby expecting the ducks to have destroyed the place.  Instead he found that all the guests loved the live ducks in the fountain.  Ducks became a mainstay.  But these are no ordinary ducks.  These ducks live on the roof.  Every day at 11am they take the elevator down to the lobby, and walk the red carpet to the fountain.  At 5pm they return home.

Waiting for the Ducks

I wanted to see these ducks.  The hotel staff suggested I get to the lobby an hour early to beat the crowds that form to watch the duck parade.  The place fills up quick and some spots are designated for children—the typical population enticed by ducks.  Loving the lobby, I was happy to sit, write in my journal, sip tea, and listen to the piano.  Eager and early, I got the best seat I could.  It gave me a clear view of the last four feet of red carpet, the stairs up to the fountain, and the fountain.  The crowd filled in as the minutes ticked by.  Thirty minutes before the main event, the hotel duck master—a man in a red jacket with a duck cane—laid the red carpet and began explaining the history of the duck parade.

The ducks already in the fountain.

Ten minutes before, a child who has been pre-selected joined the duck master to help him with the ceremony.  And then, precisely at 11am, a voice boomed over the loud speaker, “Please turn your attention toward the elevator.”  I couldn’t see through the people to the elevator.  I tried peeking through legs to see when the ducks came off.  I envisioned five ducks walking slowly and deliberately single file to the fountain.  I couldn’t have been more wrong about how ducks walk a red carpet.  They were huddled and racing toward the water.  By the time I caught them out of the corner of my eye, my gaze still trying to figure out if the elevator had opened, they were in the fountain.  I’d waited an hour and I’d missed the damn ducks.

I suspect the cuteness factor for ducks on a red carpet is high, but never having seen it, I can’t say for sure.  What I can say, is that if you ever get a chance to stay at the Peabody, go.  It’s a little more pricey than the other hotels around, but worth it and well located.


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