Ruthie Moulon was a fancily and fancifully dressed street character, famous for ducks following her through the French Quarter. She was born on January 19, 1934 and grew up in the Vieux Carre district, never attending school past kindergarten. She launched her career as the “Duck Girl of New Orleans” in the mid 1950s, and continued until her mental and physical health deteriorated to the point where she was put in a nursing home in 1999. Ruthie passed away on September 6, 2008. 
    As an outsider from distant New Jersey, I never heard of Ruthie Moulon until John Reeks asked me to write a piece about her. I am very grateful for this excellent and insightful performance by Liz Argus and the musicians of Musaica.
    I was also touched by meeting some people who knew Ruthie. One was a policeman (whose name unfortunately I don’t know) who lost both his legs as the result of Hurricane Katrina, and knew Jimmy the cop that Ruthie had a crush on. The other was Carol Cunningham, who served as Ruthie’s guardian angel, putting up with her eccentricities and alcoholism: convincing her landlord not to evict her for leaving her gas stove on and buying her a microwave to replace it, persuading a hair salon to at least cut her hair and wear gloves because they were afraid of head lice, arranging to have Ruthie placed in a nursing home after she was found asleep on a street stairway with nothing but a coat on. There are people like Ruthie who like to be the center of attention. And there are people like Carol who give their attention to others. While music about the latter type might be less entertaining, it would be more deserving. Many people try to create characters for themselves, using the talents they’re given to that end. I was like that too. But I’m learning that I cannot, not I should not, but I CANNOT draw my identity from other people’s opinions of me. My identity is a gift from a Higher Source. To draw from that Source is to become the person I am intended to be, not just appear to be. 
	I’m not sure about having ducks follow you becoming your life’s work. But I am sympathetic to a person who like me was looking for identity. Ruthie was a colorful and unique person, but also a person to feel sympathy and even love for. She’s different than anyone of us. She’s like everyone of us. On the streets we walk, let’s not pass anyone by with just a chuckle.

Musaica with 2 friends.

Liz Argus

performed by Elizabeth Argus as “Ruthie”;

Yuki Tanaka, violin; Kate Withrow, violin; Bruce Owen, viola;

David Anderson, bass; John Reeks, clarinet; Stephanie Thompson, clarinet;

Cathy Anderson, harp; Yui Asano, piano; William Vollinger, “Interviewer”

words & music ©2009 by William Vollinger

Duck Girl is an imaginary interview with Ruthie Moulon, a New Orleans street character,

famous for having her ducks follow her through the French Quarter. It was commissioned

by the New Orleans ensemble Musaica, with soprano Liz Argus singing the role of Ruthie.

The video below (divided in two parts) was made at the Canal Street Presbyterian Church.

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