Bayou Vista boy parlays pet bird into a small business
On a Sunday morning at a farmers market in Galveston, a young boy stands behind a counter under a bright red tent. At age 7, he’s the youngest merchant there.
His wares? Duck eggs.
I ask him for the price. He opens his big, dark eyes wide and puts out his palm, telling me in a decisive voice, “$4 for six and $7 for a dozen.” The boy is Bayou Vista resident Mason Sollenberger, and the proud entrepreneur behind Mason’s Duck Eggs.
One thing strikes me when I open my newly acquired carton: no egg is the same color. There are white ones, yes, but the eggs are oddly shaped. Two eggs are pastel pink and one egg is green with black spots. Mason assures me they all taste pretty much the same, but are in general much richer than a chicken’s egg. If a recipe calls for two eggs, you might get away with using one, big duck egg instead, Mason said.
I try these eggs later at home. The yolks are a deep, orange color and the texture of each egg is dense, aromatic and filling. The color is simply a question of the specificity of enzymes and does not affect the taste.
I asked Mason how he came to be a farmer, of sorts. He explains that one day, a duck found its way to his family’s Bayou Vista home. He started to feed it and it became his pet. When he realized the duck laid eggs, he got more ducks from a friend, to have more eggs, Mason said. He’s now the proud owner of 16 ducks and one goose.
“I collect their eggs every morning, I feed them and shut the ducks away at night,” Mason said, bouncing up and down behind his stall.
“I keep 25 percent of my money and put it in my wallet; 50 percent I put in the bank. And then I pay my parents 25 percent, too.” After all, his parents foot the bill for feed and the water pump for Mason’s duck pond.
When I visit Mason’s Bayou Vista home, I’m welcomed by a chorus of chattering birds, some with flapping wings, others waddling back and forth under a swing set.
As Mason starts his daily duties and looks for eggs where the birds usually lay, some ducks fly up on the garden fence and commence to honk. Asked whether the neighbors minded the feathery friends, Mason assures me that all he needs to do is make sure their pen is not right under the neighbor’s window and everyone is happy.
“It’s Easter every day at my house,” Mason said, crawling under a plant where he finds a green, speckled egg.
Does he ever let the hens hatch any?
“Once in a while,” he said. “But when people come to buy ducklings, we always ask if it’s for pets, or if they just want them for the pot.” Because the latter is a no-go.
Mason currently sells his duck eggs exclusively at the Galveston’s Own Farmers Market, which begins 9 a.m. each Sunday morning at 2508 Postoffice St. in the island’s downtown.