Liberty Street Memories | Jud Hale's Sons Share Their Recollections
Also, getting to the Mt. Washington for a family birthday party just a little too late and watching it sail away without me.And camping out on the floor in front of the fireplace trying to stay warm in the winter.
Part II by Christopher Briggs-Hale (youngest son)
My mother knows when Lake Winnipesaukee has something to teach. She’s always been uniquely tuned in to the subtlest of changes. Something growing in the moss or the way the wind crisscrossed just before a strange gale. So, when she yelled that there was a turkey at the top of a tree, I reacted. I walked out the back door of our kitchen onto the porch. Surrounded by towering white pines that sway massively in the lake breeze, it is an unlikely spot to look for a turkey. But my mother had indeed found a turkey—perched high in the long, thick trunks.
At first, I saw nothing and then, to my disbelief, a turkey was plummeting into the yawning sky between the trees. Wings spread wide, it had made the lunge from the top of one of the trees and was headed, in a steeping descending parabola, over the near vertical embankment at the shore of Sleepers Island. It was rocketing toward the shores of Rattlesnake Island a half-mile away. My mother, ever the empathic one for the plight of any creature in distress yelled, “He’s not going to make it.” The turkey, flapping madly, had made it about halfway to its landing site across the water, but it was clear it was not maintaining altitude. More frantic flapping was doing little to keep this bird above the white-capped waves that were blowing in with the rainy southeasterly wind. “Oh no, oh no, oh no,” my mother whispered. A water landing was inevitable.
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.