The Life and Adventures of Collierville’s Post Office Duck

 In the 1930s, local postmaster Doug Hill owned a duck named Isidore. Isidore became known around town, so much so that articles about his life and adventures were regularly printed on the front page of The Collierville Herald, including an extensive obituary when he passed away in 1934.

According to The Herald, Isidore—also known as “Isidore the Erudite” and “Isidore the Irresistable”[sic]—was brought to Collierville with a dozen other ducks one day. “He arrived in Collierville in a parcel post mail box—one day old—and his personality was such that [Hill] was attracted to him at once.”

“He had that certain something that make all great men and ducks stand out from the crowd,” the Herald described, and Hill managed to persuade the consignee to part with Isidore, who soon became known as the post office mascot.

Even “at an early age it was apparent that Isidore was no ordinary duck…he was quick to realize [that] himself and soon began to comport himself with all the dignity of a government employee.” Hill was drawn to Isidore’s intelligence and taught him tricks, such as telling the difference between a new and canceled stamp, and Isidore was also known for taking strolls around the Square and being “the all time [sic] champion bug catcher of Collierville.”


“Learning” to Swim

Isidore could do many things… except for one: swim! Isidore had been raised at the post office after all, and one day, Hill realized that Isidore “had never seen a body of water larger than his drinking pan.”

So, on a Sunday in June, Hill and his post office staff took Isidore out to a lake: “When [Isidore] first saw the water he was dumbfounded.” Hill put Isidore in a boat, rowed out to the middle of the lake and, without notice, threw him overboard.

“Isidore cackled and floundered around in the water,” The Herald reported. “For a while it looked like he might drown. Then the old duck tradition came to the fore and Isidore began to swim. Not very expert, but well enough for a postoffice [sic] duck. By the end of the afternoon he was as good a swimmer as any ordinary duckpond duck.”


Isidora: Isidore’s Sweetheart

Isidore shared his adventures with his wife and companion, Isidora. One could reportedly hear Isidore and Isidora’s merry quacks around the post office, and they had three children together. Sadly, Isidora died eight months before Isidore. She was sick for a week before she passed, according to the paper’s “Sick List.” Local duck specialists were unable to fully diagnose her sickness, but “at a conference…amateur physicians pronounced her illness mortal.”

By Wednesday morning, “[Isidora’s] limp body was found in the rear of the post office yard.” Her cause of death was ultimately given as “lightning bug poisoning.” Isidora received a front-page obituary, and funeral services were reportedly scheduled to be held, “with only intimate friends present,” at the Hill residence on the Friday afternoon following her death. Pallbearers were said to be selected from the Collierville Unlimited Problem Solvers Association and a memorial was planned to be read.

Isidore was “plunged into the deepest melancholy and [would] hardly eat his favorite dishes.” He became “more or less disconsolate,” and so, a search for a new companion for Isidore began.


Finding a New Love

Hill, together with local aviation expert Warren Clay, brought in a Canadian duck for Isidore to meet and possibly marry. But it soon became apparent that finding a new love for Isidore wouldn’t be easy. The first meeting in the post office yard between Isidore and this new “unnamed Canadian duckess” was far from a success: “Isidore first tried to murder her. Then finding that impossible he treated her with silent contempt.” Hill quickly put the planned “international marriage” on hold while he researched the matter.

“I can’t say they get along so well,” Hill said. “And I don’t know that I blame Isidore. That Canadian duck looks too much like a buzzard.”

Townspeople speculated about why the two ducks didn’t get along, The Herald reporting that some questioned if this new companion was a Canadian duck or a different kind of duck. Hill even questioned if this new duck was a duck at all, saying that “she [walked] like a chicken and would rather roost than waddle,” later calling her “the ugliest piece of duckmeat [he’d] ever seen.”

The attempt at a second marriage for Isidore ultimately failed. The duckess was returned to Clay’s duckpen, and Isidore remained alone. While Hill remained on the lookout for a new wife for Isidore, he was firm that any new companion would have to be a Pekin duck like Isidore.

Isidore did find one new love in the meantime, however: expensive food. The Herald reported that “while preparing a recent oyster supper [Hill] treated Isidore to an oyster and since then molluscs [sic] [became] the duck’s favorite dish.” Hill said that he seemed to “like them best in cocktail sauce…served with a trifle of horseradish and garnished with parsley.’” However, The Herald was careful to point out that Isidore admittedly wasn’t too picky; he was also fond of a pile of lead pellets found in the post office yard, which he thought were worms.


Isidore Remembered

Known as “Doug Hill’s famous duck who could do everything but talk and work logarithms,” Isidore died on March 7, 1934 of “mental exertion and stomach ache.”

The Herald reported that “during a moment of acute mental strain, probably while studying the postal guide, Isidore was fed a few choice bugs by Henry Rutledge. The combination was too much; for Isidore’s vitality had been diverted to his brain and not his body, and the end came quickly.”

Isidore was remembered for his difficulties in learning to swim, his unique personality and ability to learn tricks, his marriage troubles, and his champion role as the “open and unlimited roach catcher of Collierville.”

“Isidore spent the summer cleaning out roaches and bugs along Main street and would follow [Hill] or [Rutledge] on nocturnal strolls around the square snapping at insects as he went along,” his obituary read. “He became a great favorite with members of the [Collierville] Unlimited Problem Solvers Association, who during warm weather, gather[ed] in the square, and sometimes accompanied Night Marshall Cole on his rounds.”

Funeral plans were undecided at the time Isidore’s obituary was published.


All quotes and images are from The Collierville Herald 1933-1934.

By  Alina Dorion, 2021 Morton Museum Volunteer