To Rob Long, a rubber duck means the world.
When he left work, he found it sitting on his Jeep, said Kimberly Long, his wife. From there, he went to see Long, and together they drove to Newberry to euthanize their rescue pit bull.
Even after he changed his Jeep, Kimberly Long said her husband still kept the duck.
“For whatever reason, sometimes these ducks just find their way into the hands of people who need them at that moment and that day,” said Kimberly Long, a Jeep Gladiator owner who works in Gainesville.
Duck Duck Jeep, an act of kindness where Jeep owners place rubber ducks on each other’s cars, was created by Allison Parliament in Ontario, Canada. Since its inception in 2020, the movement has taken hold of the United States. As of February 7, the Facebook group “Duck Duck Jeep – Florida” had approximately 16,900 members.
Melanie Reagan, a Jeeper from Palm Coast, Florida, said the Duck Duck Jeep is a phenomenon that makes people smile, especially after the challenges of COVID-19. Her jeep, named Ascender, is a tribute to her love of mountain climbing.
“When you go to your Jeep and see a duck, you feel good — even as an adult,” she said.
Jeep owners display their ducks in what Reagan calls the “duck pond,” the dashboard of the vehicle made for sunglasses—a daily reminder of how gifted they were with their rubber travelers.
Reagan’s favorite is her Elsa duck, which she got when she brought her granddaughter to her first charity event in Tennessee. “Frozen” is her favorite Disney movie, she said, and the item reminds her of time with her grandson.
“I felt like I was probably 5 again,” she said.
Even when she’s not in her car, Reagan has ducks in her purse for others, often trying to match the Jeep’s personality with her choices.
But Jeep culture extends beyond rubber ducks. The community has developed its own etiquette guidelines, charity events and clubs. In addition to ducking, Wrangler drivers are known for their infamous Jeep Wave, a two-finger signal similar to a peace sign directed at other passing Jeeps.
Rebecca Pratt, 52, a nurse at UF Health The Villages Hospital, said she finds herself waving to other Jeeps even while driving her husband’s truck.
“I have to watch myself,” she said, laughing.
For the past year, she has owned a 2002 burgundy, two-door Jeep named Sangria.
One night when she left her 12-hour shift, Pratt had her first duck, which sat waiting for her on Sangria’s doorknob. Suddenly she forgot all about her day, she said.
“I’m good; I’m alert, she said. “I have a duck.”
After receiving his third rubber duck, Pratt ordered 50 of his own on Amazon. Members of her range include a pink mohawk duck, one with sunglasses resting on its head, and another with a panda face.
“It gives me a lot of joy,” she said, adding that she felt compelled to pass the sentiment on.
The movement continues to get more and more creative, said Janelle Townsend, a Jeep owner from Holiday, Florida. She’s seen people get duck keychains and trinkets, as well as Jeep matchbox cars.
Townsend gave out about 80 ducks — some St. Patrick’s Day and Disney themed — between March and November. With the help of her 8-year-old, Townsend said they punch holes and write tags for the small acts of kindness. Each has her Jeep’s name and city clearly written on it.
Taking inspiration from Harry Potter’s pet owl, Townsend calls his Snazzberry Gladiator Jeep Hedwig. On the hood, a snowy owl decal can be seen next to the Jeep’s name printed in the series’ popular font.
“It was more stressful than naming my kids,” Townsend said.
Beyond the ducks and decorations, Townsend said owning a Jeep is about belonging to a community bigger than herself.
“You can own a Ford Mustang,” she said. “You can own a Hyundai, but that community isn’t doing anything remotely like the Jeep community is.”
Owning a Jeep gives John Chapman, a retired fire chief and current pastor of St. Augustine area, a sense of brotherhood. His Gator-blue Jeep named Andie, short for Star Trek’s Andorian, is his third Wrangler.
In November, Chapman and other “Duck Duck Jeep – Florida” members teamed up to send rubber ducks to group member Nicky Sorensen for her daughter, Dixie. Sorensen asked for the ducks in a post as a birthday present for the now 3-year-old, who has spina bifida and loves to duck Jeeps.
“That’s the kind of response you get in the Jeep community,” Chapman said.
Shannon Iglesias, who works at UF Health Labor & Delivery, said she is part of the Alachua County Jeepers and the Gainesville Jeepers, clubs where groups of owners go on hikes, have barbecues and socialize.
During the pandemic, Iglesias called on Jeepers to participate in a truck parade to celebrate a boy’s birthday. About 40 Jeeps participated in the event, Iglesias said. Duck Duck Jeep is just one aspect of owning the vehicles, she said.
“There’s just a lot of charity and a lot of parades that we do,” she said. “We will convoy and show our support for different things in the community.”
In November, Reagan participated in Krawl’n for the Fallen, an all-terrain four-wheel drive event in Starke, Fla., that raises money for families of fallen police officers. More than 700 Jeeps were on the trails, according to its Facebook page.
During the night’s “Remembrance of Our Heroes” ride, Reagan said they honored the fallen officers by driving down a path without any lights. Instead, they followed the blue glow sticks attached to the back of each Jeep and were guided by a path of light fixtures.
Coming down the hill of the trail, she could see officers and survivors on the other side; something Reagan said was both heartwarming and humbling. She left knowing they touched the lives of others and remembered the importance of belonging.
“There’s always hope out there for everyone to just get along,” she said. “Just one duck at a time.”