Clocking the Turkey

From Gazette editions of August, 1934:

Bradlee Martin, sage of Tiah’s Cove, came into town on Tuesday, looking, as he said, “for a sight of them yatches.” “Big doin’s up around our way,” observed Bradlee. “I’ve always told Pashy not to set the alarm clock for earlier than 3 o’clock, and the other morning it went off and I jumped out of bed and had the milk pail on my arm before I noticed that the hands pointed to 1 a.m. I just grabbed the darned thing and hove it out the window. It hit a turkey, roosting on a clothespost, and let out a couple of rattles from the bell, besides scaring the turkey half to death. The doggoned fowl let out a squawk, flew off the post and lit right square on the back of my yearling heifer. The heifer turned loose with everything she had and, bawling and kicking, started across the fields toward my next door neighbor, a quarter mile off. When that bunch of noise sailed past his place, he thought someone was stealing poultry and let go with his goose gun out of the window. The charge of shot cut off his wife’s clothesline and dropped five sheets down on top of that turkey and heifer. I tell you something happened then!

“About noon we found the turkey and the calf, so wrapped up in sheets that we thought it must be another mystery murder, but neither one was hurt and the sheets weren’t torn much. But I’ll tell you there was some excitement around Tiah’s Cove for a while.”

The annual Indian powwow at Gay Head last week proved to be the largest and most successful event of its kind yet held by the last descendants of the Island Algonquins. Held on the Vanderhoop lot, almost opposite the lighthouse, the powwow transformed the old field as teepees and platforms, shelters and stockades were erected, giving an appearance such as the place may have had centuries ago. This effect was heightened by the presence of deerskin-clad figures, gaily bedecked with wampum and feathers, who stalked here and there, while squaws and papooses were seen on every hand.

Prominent among the visitors were Chief Blackhawk of the Powhatan Confederacy, and Chief Crazy Bull, grandson of Sitting Bull, a full-blooded Sioux from South Dakota, recalled for his skill with the Indian bow and arrow when he was here a year ago. Spectators had opportunity to purchase Indian beadwork, clay articles and many other examples of craftsmanship. Demonstrations with Indian weapons and implements, tribal dances, addresses by the various chiefs filled the daylight hours, while pageants from Hiawatha and Indian legends were given about the nightly campfires.

Up on the eastern slope of Abel’s Hill, Chilmark, John D. Bassett, founder of Bassetville, sits on his veranda and cogitates mightily on the ways and methods of nature. The Bassett estate, located near the marsh, has long been the scene of depredations by rats. Like the breed that infested Hamlin, they have “bit the dogs and killed the cats” and walked off with poisoned bait. They have gnawed their way into storehouses and carried off whole packages of arsenic, leaving notes of thanks for the contribution to the cause. Holes large enough to admit a yearling steer have been chewed in the sides of barns by the rodents, and in spite of thousands laid low by gun, trap and other means, there has seemed to be no decline in numbers. This is John’s story, and he stands back of every word of it.

But now there have been no rats for a year. The decline in the population began with the depression and has increased until now it is necessary to hunt with the greatest of diligence in order to find any trace of a rat.

The cause, as explained by the forefather of the budding hamlet, is the presence of one large, husky muskrat which has taken up its place of business beneath the Bassett family house. Operating from this snug and well protected base, the muskrat fares forth and either slays or puts to flight all ordinary rats on the estate. The muskrat is not entirely innocent of wrongdoing. The early rays of the rising sun frequently disclose trenches excavated during the hours of night, and when he sleeps his lusty snores echo through the dwelling.

“That muskrat may yet be the means of breaking up my family,” says John, “but I think a great deal of him.”

Anyway, the rats have gone.

Nelson Bryant of West Tisbury reports this one, which seems to rate honorable mention in the archives. Drailing for blues with a companion and employing the commercial outriggers attached to the side of the boat to carry the lines, the companion noticed the quiver of one of the projecting rods and reached for it. At that moment, the rod-rigger broke and swinging violently, struck the fisherman and knocked him unconscious. Bryant grabbed the line and landed a twenty-eight pound striped bass. Fish that knock out grown men are rare in these latitudes.

Compiled by Cynthia Meisner

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