Liberty Street Memories | Jud Hale's Sons Share Their Recollections
Of course, when one thinks of waterfowl, the word “landing” is assumed. Ducks land with slightly extended webbed feet, and waterski gracefully to a sliding stop in the water. Turkeys do not possess the same water-friendly equipment. As we were soon to discover, when the turkey makes water landing, it is a large, abrupt splash.
It was time to take action. Running with my son Spencer, then eight years old, we reached our 12-foot aluminum boat named “Pudda,” a name I’d given it 35 years previously, and slid it off the end of the dock, making sure that we had put the bilge plug in. With the 4 hp engine bubbling away, we floored it and carved a slow arc away from the dock through the smooth waters that, on this side of the island, were still in the lee of the wind. Coming around the point, I told Spencer to hold on—the white caps and rollers were as tall as our boat. Spencer squealed with delight.
“Can you see it?” I asked. I honestly thought a turkey would sink like a rock. “Not yet, Dad,” said Spencer. Spray was now pounding off the front of the boat.
When I spied the bird in the distance, just its head and a long slender neck, it was not clear if it was struggling or sinking. Then I saw it: the telltale faint swirls, just behind its neck, of eddies in the water. The bird was moving forward with intention and purpose. “Well, I’ll be,” I thought, “This bird is swimming!”
As we approached, it dawned on me that I had no idea what I was doing. How, exactly, does one rescue a forty pound wild animal with a six foot wingspan? Do I grab it? Where exactly? Will a turkey placidly accept my good deed and acquiesce to my peaceful lifting into the boat? Or will I be pecked into a skeleton as in Alfred Hitchcock’s horror film The Birds? The latter seemed more likely.
“Hey, Spence,” I called out. “I think we’re just going to have to ride alongside him and guide him to shore.”
Clearly the bird was not sinking. And it was obvious, now, that it knew where its destination was and how to get there. As it approached the rocks where waves now crashed, we could see its head darting back and forth, searching.
Then, deftly, and with a skill I didn’t know turkeys had, it rode a wave onto a mossy spot between two rocks. There, it rested for about a minute while the water drained from its wings and feathers.
When we returned home, we were greeted by family on the dock, eager to hear the details of our heroism. “Did you save the bird?” “How’d you do it?”
It was difficult to explain that this time, we’d not well understood what was going on. The turkey clearly knew what it was doing and had planned the whole thing. It knew how far it could fly and it knew how far it could swim. Most importantly, it knew something about Rattlesnake Island and that a windy, wavy day was the best way to be lifted gently onto its shores.
Like so many times before, Lake Winnipesaukee chose to share something we couldn’t fully understand. But what a delightful memory.
Part III by J. D. Hale, Jr. (oldest son)
I remember doing two things that first summer at our new island lake place: trying to build a soccer/baseball field out of the woods, and getting my first summer job.
The summer job was as a stock boy/handyman at the Wise Owl grocery store in West Alton. Looking back, I know we didn’t get much grocery business since one of my jobs was “dusting” the canned foods on the shelves. I cleaned breakfast dishes, made beds in their 8 cabins, mowed, and fixed stuff (usually the dock). It was very exciting to have that first real job. I still tell folks at the store today that I worked here and now that it’s been more than 42 years ago, they don’t know the owner I reference.
The interesting part about building that “soccer field” was that my dad would come up on Fridays, and on each Sunday before he left I would give him an updated tour of the field. You see there were trees that needed to be taken out. And both my mom and dad hated ANY trees being touched. But he could see what I was up to, so he would say, “You can take this tree and this tree, but not these trees.” My job after work or early in the morning that week before he came back on Friday was to take them all! By the roots. Otherwise, he’d know I had taken it against his wishes. So I would chop the roots with an ax till the tree fell, and then drag that baby as deep into the inner part of the island as I could. Eventually, I had a “field” right there in the woods behind our bunkhouse. And soon I’d also built a soccer goal, a basketball net, a backboard and a “bang-board” to dribble a soccer ball against, or use as a whiffle ball backstop. I even built an obstacle course that started and finished on the “field.” It all worked, even with major granite rocks (that I could not move) popping up here or there—and it was used by my own kids about 25 years later.