I do a fabulous loon call.
The loons actually answer me. There are two loons on our tiny lake, nesting right in the wooded area at the shoreline in front of our house where the old tree fell ten years ago and was never removed.
Last summer, a good friend (who has studied loons more closely than I) informed me that my loon call was actually a loon distress signal. This caused me a great deal of consternation. The last thing I would ever want would be to distress the loons. My intention was simply to be friendly. So, for the most part, I have stopped doing my loon call, or at least I don’t do it as often or unless there is something real to distress them about (like the bald eagle who shows up on occasion, or maybe a flock of geese).
But, on the Fourth of July, I give myself permission to sound as many loon calls as I can, because, on the Fourth of July, a loon call means something entirely different on our tiny lake.
Though there are much better fireworks displays than our little show, no one would ever think of going to them. Sure their pyrotechnics are flamboyant, and their shows last more than ten minutes. But we have something much better on our tiny lake, we have Harry and Bill and the old raft. And as many fireworks as they can buy in Hampton Beach with the money they’ve been able to collect door to door.
And we have a special set of sound effects.
At approximately 9 PM, the lake begins to sound like a barnyard. Or a jungle. Or in our case, like the frogs and loons that inhabit the lake. Everyone sits on their little beaches. Protected by the anonymity of darkness, they not only imitate, but seem to become their favorite animals. We have whales, macaws, several roosters, cows, and what I can only descibe as an asthmatic hyena. We signal our approval after each launch of fireworks with calls that have gotten better over the years and that I can only assume have been practiced during the long New England winters. Every once in a while, someone yells “Good one Harry,” or “Way to go Bill,” but, for the most part we just cackle, crow, or moo.
Later in the summer when we see each other at the Lake Association meeting, we will try to match the voices to the sounds. As Mike stands up to register a complaint about impending milfoil, my husband will turn to me and mouth the question “Bantam rooster?” I am pretty certain that the eighty-year-old woman who lives two doors down and serves formal tea to her husband on the screened porch every afternoon is the macaw, but I’d never ask.
Last year, as I stood up to complain about the speed limit of motor boats on our lake, I am pretty sure I heard Harry turn to Bill and whisper, “Cue the loon.”
I am now working on my impression of a Norwegian harbor seal.