MY FRIENDS Sue Hodges and Jere Montague are wandering around in the wilds of British Columbia in their 30-foot Sundowner tug powerboat, Gold Star. The weather is unpredictable up there at the northern end of Vancouver Island, but they’re hoping for the best. And the best, I’ve assured them, is to be pooped on by a bald eagle in Bull Harbour. Rumor has it* that the weather always improves after that.
Bull Harbour, on remote Hope Island, is a mystic sort of place, inhabited only by a handful of First Nations people and an eagle with a devastatingly accurate aim. It’s a lovely landlocked little bay with good holding and trees along its fringes where eagles watch the comings and goings of boats that anchor there, waiting for the right weather conditions to cross Nahwitti Bar and round Cape Scott.
Once when I was there in my 25-foot Cape Dory sailboat I took the dinghy and sculled quietly around the edges of the little harbor. I love to do that in new harbors. The place where the land meets the sea is always fascinating. It’s one of the few places where the water is shallow enough for you to see what’s going on down there, but deep enough to shelter a host of marine life.
I noticed a bald eagle high up in one of the tall trees along the edge, and I presumed he would fly away as I passed underneath him. But no. Just as I was right below him, he let loose with a great curving splodge of white that landed squarely on my shoulder.
I couldn’t get mad at him. I have always admired the old western cowboys who sat in saloons and squirted their tobacco juice into spittoons with great accuracy and enough force to make them ring. Well, it seemed that Bull Harbour had bald eagles like that, only they neither squirted tobacco juice nor did they squirt it from the front end. Nevertheless, I had to admire their skill.
I noticed, too, that there was an immediate improvement in the weather. Fishing boats that had been bottled up in Bull Harbour for days started to weigh anchor and head out to sea. The scurrying clouds broke up into white blobs of cotton and the sun came peeking through eagerly.
We enjoyed good weather all the way down the west coast of Vancouver Island and toasted our feathered friend every evening. “Here’s to eagle poop” we’d say, lifting our glasses of port. “Long may it squirt.”
* I started it. The rumor, that is.
When thou seest an eagle, thou seest a portion of Genius; lift up thy head!
— William Blake, Proverbs of Hell
Only a few of us can learn from other people’s mistakes.
The rest of us have to be the other people.
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