Some time ago when I was just a boy, it was decided that we would spend the summer in Maine with our Uncle Walter. Uncle Walter was actually a great uncle or maybe even a great, great uncle but everyone, even the town-folk, referred to him as simply Uncle Walter. Uncle Walter was getting on in years so it was decided that we would spend the summer on the family farm with him and stay through Christmas and the start of the New Year.
Uncle Walter was somewhat of a local hero in town and a real jack-of-all-trades. In the summer, like most folks in Friendship, he would lobster. In the fall, he would split and haul wood and in the spring, he would do a little gardening. He was also a pretty fair woodworker and would usually build a few skiffs throughout the year along with the occasional cat boat. And, he always had a pretty steady stream of orders coming from the local funeral parlor for coffins. In fact one time, he had a rush job for a coffin that was needed by the next day. It was short notice for sure but Walter worked through the night and with a little help from a bottle of rum, got it finished just in time before the new resident was scheduled to move in. Only problem was that somewhere along the line, he must have forgotten whether he was building a cat boat or a coffin because the next morning when he walked into the barn, there stood that coffin with a rudder post and a centerboard trunk on it.
Soon after our arrival, Uncle Walter gave me a baby turkey to take care of. He told me it was my job to raise him and fatten him up for Christmas dinner. I loved him immediately and gave him the name of Henry. To this day I’m not sure why I picked the name Henry other than I liked the name and he sort of looked like a Henry. At the time I didn’t make the connection between what Henry had to do with Christmas dinner but be that as it may, Henry grew into a fine healthy gobbler and we became good friends. Then about a week before Christmas, Uncle Walter told me it was time to kill the bird. It was only then that it became clear that Henry was going to be the main course at the family dinner on Christmas day.
Uncle Walter was not a man to be reckoned with, so after dinner I did as I was told and went out to take care of Henry. I got out the axe, sharpened it up and gave Henry a good long look. Henry looked back at me. I looked some more at Henry and he looked some more at me. After awhile, I went back to the house and told Uncle Walter that I thought I would wait just a bit longer.
Well it was two days before Christmas and Uncle Walter said that it was time for me to kill the bird or he would. So after dinner I got out the axe and looked at Henry. Henry looked back at me and I looked back at Henry. I looked at the axe then at Henry. After several minutes I put the axe down and went back to the house and told Uncle Walter that I would take care of things after he went to bed. Somewhere around midnight, I went back to the barn, picked up the axe and again looked at Henry. Henry looked back at me. I just didn’t have the heart to kill him. Instead, I fed him whisky to the point where he couldn’t see straight and proceeded to pluck him clean. Next, I carried him up to the house and stuck him in the refrigerator. The next morning Uncle Walter came into my room first thing asking me if I’d taken care of the turkey. I said I had and that he was in the refrigerator. Uncle Walter turned on his heels and down the stairs he went to make sure I was telling the truth. Mother said that Uncle Walter nearly fell over dead when he opened the refrigerator door and out came Henry strutting all over the kitchen floor just as proud and naked as the day he was born. And you know we never did kill Henry, instead we spent the entire Christmas Day knitting him a sweater.
P.S. The theme of this story and many of the words are not mine but those of Maine humorists, Marshall Dodge and Robert Bryant, the creators of Bert and I. Enjoy!