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June 11, 2013
Getting to the bottom of the swan’s tale
His name is not “Lucky” or “Fred,” as we have reported.
The Reporter stands corrected, and can now reveal the true name of the solo swan who has been swimming and stalking with some regularity through our website and across our pages.
His name is Zeke. Named by a famous American writer who once lived on Chase Creek, Zeke has become a beloved — if at times cranky — neighbor to an Island family.
To begin with our first encounter with Zeke: One day between Christmas and New Year’s, Shelter Island resident and Ohio college student Anya Duvivier came into the Reporter newsroom with a picture of a swan she named Lucky she had just snapped with Captain Chris Young of North Ferry. Ms. Duvivier figured Captain Young saved the bird from certain death when several drivers almost clipped him as he paraded on a ferry slip. (See http://shelterislandreporter.timesreview.com/2012/12/18427/tale-of-the-wayward-and-fearless-swan/)
Captain Young has had many encounters with the swan in his 11 years of working for North Ferry. More than once he thought the bird was going to try to board a boat. This time, though, he warned the swan that the ferry landing wasn’t safe. He then grabbed a slice of pizza and tossed it into the water where “Lucky” quickly claimed it.
About a week later our feathered and misnamed friend was seen sailing happily along during the recent flooding on Bridge Street. Willette Hoffmann said she’s always known the bird as “Fred.” (See http://shelterislandreporter.timesreview.com/2013/01/18494/water-water-everywhere-but-where-can-i-get-a-drink/)
But when Lois and Michel Kramer-Metraux saw the pictures of the swan and read the stories, they recognized him as their old pal, Zeke. Ms. Kramer-Metraux then wrote to us to tell the true tale of the swan, and included some pictures.
About five years ago, she and her husband Michel moved into a house once owned by the novelist Leon Uris, author of many bestsellers including “Exodus” and “Trinity.” Mr. Uris moved to the Island in 1993, telling a reporter that he came looking for a quiet place and found it, a refuge on Chase Creek “for my psyche. It’s like the calm waters after the rapids.”
He also found a swan (or the other way around) that he named Zeke and regularly fed. Why that name, with that spelling, was left unexplained at Mr. Uris death in 2003 at his home here.
But Ms. Kramer-Metraux’s son, C.G. O’Reilly said, “He was an author and probably had some imaginative reason.”
When the Kramer-Metraux family moved into the house they found a list of instructions left by the writer — that they framed — on how to care for the place.
“One of his instructions was ‘Feed Zeke the swan.’ Which we do with bread.”
Zeke has never been seen with a mate, which is unusual for swans, but like most of the breed can be aggressive, Ms. Kramer-Metraux said. She never lets her grandchildren, Elizabeth, 3, and Teddy, 9, feed Zeke without adult supervision.
Louie, Mr. O’Reilly’s dog is not on the best of terms with Zeke. “Louie’s very apprehensive around him,” Mr. O’Reilly said.
But, he added, everyone else in the family is very attached to Zeke, even if they’re a bit wary of him.
“We know this is really his territory,” Mr. O’Reilly said.