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مجموعه: سهم من از کوهستان / کتاب: کوهستانِ شگفت انگیز / فصل 11

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متن انگلیسی فصل

IN WHICH The Kids Are Heard

For fifteen days Frightful, with Sam’s help, sat through the blasts of the jackhammers and the rumble of trucks. 426 bravely brought food to her at noon when the bridge was quiet, but he could not drive himself to take his turn brooding.

But he did not abandon his family. He watched Frightful during the day from the big sycamore tree on the river-bank and at night from the top of the bridge.

Frightful slowly adjusted to the noise of the jackhammers. Sam was nearby. She listened to his soft whistles and words when the noise was the worst. 426 was too terrified to come to the nest and feed her, but he dropped food onto the girder. Sam took his place and fed it to her.

Each day as she felt the chicks develop, Frightful heard less of the commotion.

On day eighteen of incubation, Joe Cassini looked up and noticed sticks and reeds where the fifth vertical met the bow.

“There’s that nest everyone’s so riled up about,” he said to Dan Martin, a Mohawk Indian whose balance and fearlessness on high girders made him one of the most valuable bridge workers. “Looks perfectly fine to me.” Dan studied the sticks.

“Yeah,” he said. “Messy bird.” Then he thought a minute. “I never knew peregrine falcons made nests. They like bare ground.” “I guess we learn something every day,” said Joe Cassini.

Dan Martin wasn’t convinced. He kept an eye on the nest as he carried lumber to the men who were building a form around the ravaged piling. As he worked, he wondered about a peregrine falcon and a stick nest.

On day twenty the jackhammers stopped. The cement mixer drove onto the bridge, and blasts were replaced by grinding and tumbling sounds. Frightful barely heard them. She could feel the chicks move inside the eggs. The yolks had transformed into embryos, complete with tiny blood vessels, and they had grown heavier. This sent her deeper into the incubation trance. Even a dynamite blast on day twenty-two did not frighten her.

With the jackhammers silent, 426 fed Frightful again and nervously sat down and brooded the eggs while she exercised. Sam watched, ready to help out if 426 became frightened again.

One day when the tiercel was brooding the eggs and Frightful was looping and gliding, she heard Sam whistle from the mountain that rose above the river. The three-note call had a new ending, a “yippee” note that said, “All is well.” Sam was in a lean-to he had constructed on the mountainside. It was eye level with Frightful’s aerie. Out from it he fished and gathered wild tubers and greens. After dinner he would lean back against the base of an old chestnut oak, put his hands under his head, and watch the aerie. Now and then he whistled to Frightful.

On this evening Frightful answered his call with “car-reet,” and he smiled and remembered how she had saved his life by catching food for him in the wilderness.

“We’ll get through this, too, old girl,” he said. “Only nine days to go.”

When the sun set that night, Sam cut one more notch in a stick to keep track of the thirty-one days of incubation. He wondered why Leon Longbridge had not been successful in stopping the repairs. Leon wondered why the birds had not deserted. Relentlessly, the bridge work went on.

Sam now went up the iron bowstring bridge to feed Frightful only if the equipment on the bridge indicated it was going to be another noisy day. 426 had not adjusted to that. On these days Sam climbed to Frightful before the kids came by on their way to school to check on the falcons. They would look, smile, and leave a little before the school bell rang and the work crew arrived. In this interval Sam had time to climb down the bridge and disappear without being seen.

One morning when Sam had finished feeding Frightful and was on his way down, Molly arrived. She saw him. Quickly he stepped to the horizontal girder and walked to the middle of the bridge, his orange vest catching the sunlight. He inspected the bolts in the web joints and made notes without pencil or paper. Then he turned and walked past the nest, grabbed the iron bow, and backed down to the bridge floor. With Molly still looking at him, he dropped over the bridge, grabbed the form around the piling, and climbed down to the river shore. He vanished in the cattails.

That day, as Sam had anticipated, was an extremely noisy one. 426 stayed away, and Sam didn’t get back to Frightful until after five. She was ravenously hungry. He fed her until her crop was full. Satisfied, she arose and turned the eggs.

The next morning just after Sam arrived, Frightful heard the voice of her winter friend, Jon Wood. He was on the bridge with Leon Longbridge. The two had been consulting about how to save the peregrines of the Delhi Bridge.

“We aren’t getting anywhere with the Department of Transportation,” Jon said. “They won’t stop the work for any reason at all. None.” “That’s what the Department of Wildlife Conservation is telling me, too,” said Leon Longbridge. “My boss has been trying to stop them; but the order is — make these bridges safe. The Feds don’t think it’s a problem yet.” “I had hoped the kids’ letters would get some action,” Jon said. “They got the utility company to fix several poles. Molly told me they’ve written the governor about the peregrines. He controls the Department of Transportation.” “Yeah,” said Leon Longbridge, “but they are only getting form letters back; ‘thank you, but…’ ” He studied the aerie.

“I think we ought to move the eggs,” Jon finally said. “She’s been incubating long enough to be so deeply attached to them that she’ll follow them anywhere. We can put a box in that sycamore tree by the river and transfer the eggs to it. She ought to go right to them.” “I know songbirds will go to nestlings when you move them,” Leon said. “But I’ve had no experience with moving eggs-” “Well,” said Jon, “sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Let’s give her a few more days. She seems to have adjusted.” “I just can’t believe the female didn’t leave the first day the work crew blasted off their jackhammers,” Leon said. “She had hardly finished laying. Most females would have deserted this nest and found another site. She had plenty of time to lay again.” “Something we don’t understand is holding her there,” Jon said.

When the first workers arrived, Jon and Leon left the bridge.

“I don’t get it,” Jon said, shaking his head. “Peregrine falcons—two of the mere thirty-four in the entire state— and the bureaucrats won’t stop this work for them.” “NASA held back on a rocket launch to save a nest of egrets,” said Leon. “But New York can’t save endangered falcons.” They walked to their cars in silence.

“By the way,” Leon said as he unlocked his door, “tomorrow before school the kids are going to hold a parade to save the falcons.” “That’s great,” Jon said. “But they’d be more effective in Albany.”

“I don’t think anything will change Albany,” Leon said. “The orders to go forward with the repairs are written in stone.” Jon looked up at the bridge.

“At least the jackhammers have stopped,” he said. “The Transportation Department said it would only take a few more days to finish pouring the cement for the pilings. Then we can relax if… if she’s still there.” “I think we ought try to move her,” said Leon. “I made a scrape—an open box with a narrow strip of wood to keep the eggs from rolling out. I’ll put sand on the bottom.” “Hmm,” said Jon, glancing up at the aerie.

“Can you help me put the box in that big sycamore?” Leon asked. “I think we ought to try something.”

Jon started his van. “I still can’t believe the female hasn’t deserted,” he said. “Only that serene falcon Susan named Destiny would put up with this.” Suddenly he jumped out of the van and lifted his binoculars to his eyes. “Hmm,” he said to himself. “She did fly toward Delhi. Hmm.” Leon studied the aerie again.

“There are sticks near the nest,” he said. “They’ve been there for about two weeks. What do you make of that?” “I have no idea,” Jon said. “Sometimes the tiercel will bring a stick or two to his mate out of love, but not that many—I don’t think. Still, there must be some explanation. There are a lot of mysterious things about that nest.“ He shook his head, got back into his car, and drove off.

Sam was stretched out on the wide girder, under the burlap camouflage. The cool air from the river had carried the voices of Jon and Leon to his ears.

He had not expected anyone to question the sticks and reeds. When he looked at them from the ground, he could believe that either a tiercel had brought them or maybe even an osprey. The big fish hawks put sticks in many places during the breeding season. Suddenly he was worried. Maybe, he thought, it really is time to move Frightful and her eggs. If they don’t, I will.

Belly flat on the girder, he watched the workers pick up their equipment and put on their hard hats. When they were busy, he slipped out from under the burlap and straightened his orange vest. He pulled himself to the bow and backed down to the bottom like a veteran engineer. No one paid any attention to him. He walked off to his lean-to and removed his vest and hard hat.

Before sunrise the next day, Sam hurried down-mountain to the big sycamore, jumped for the lowest limb, and swung hand over hand to the trunk. He climbed, examining limbs and forks. When he could go no farther he whistled to Frightful. They were about eye level.

“Creee, creee, creee, car-reet,” she answered wistfully, and stood up then, turned her eggs.

“How do you like this spot?” he asked. She was brooding again.

He was about to climb down when he saw kids gathering at the public library. They were waving handmade posters. Hughie Smith, the middle-school drummer, beat his drum, and the poster carriers strode down Elm Street, headed for the bridge.

PEREGRINES EAT RATS.

SAVE OUR TOWN.

PEREGRINES ARE NOBLE.

WAIT ONE MONTH TO REPAIR

THE BRIDGE.

IT TAKES ONLY THIRTY-ONE DAYS

FOR A BABY FALCON TO HATCH.

IT TOOK MILLIONS OF YEARS

TO MAKE THE FALCONS.

STOP THE BRIDGE REPAIRS.

SAVE THE PEREGRINES.

WE HAVEN’T FALLEN IN THE RIVER YET.

POSTPONE THE BRIDGE REPAIRS.

LET THE FALCONS RAISE THEIR YOUNG.

SAVE THE PEREGRINE. SAVE US.

WE ARE NATURE, TOO.

By the time the parade reached the Delhi Bridge, there were about thirty youngsters. Beaming parents and curious townspeople stood on the sidewalks, watching.

Joe Cassini had been warned about the parade and had come to work early. He stepped out to meet the protesters.

“Go on home or you’ll be arrested,” he said, shooing the kids away with gestures.

Molly stepped forward, trembling but determined.

“We just want you to stop repairing the bridge until the end of June,” she piped.

Jose was emboldened by her courage. “That’s all the time the falcons need to grow up and fly away.”

Hughie beat out a roll on the drum.

Cassini crossed his arms on his chest. “Go home,” he repeated.

“I can’t believe you don’t care,” said Molly, backing away. “These are endangered falcons. And they are going to have babies.” “It ain’t my decision,” the foreman stated firmly. “Orders come from Albany. Tell them.”

“We did,” said Maria Carlos, who was wearing a peregrine T-shirt she had designed. “They don’t see any problem.” “Neither do I,” said Cassini. “The bird is still up there, isn’t she? We haven’t scared her off. What’s the big deal? Now, get going.” He walked toward them.

“No,” said Molly.

Leon Longbridge came running up to her.

“Come on, Molly. This way, Hughie,” he said. “Let’s go into town. We’ll march down Main Street.”

Glad for the suggestion, the kids turned around and walked up Elm Street to Main. Cars slowed; pedestrians stopped. Parents confessed to strangers and each other that they never had the least interest in falcons until their children told them about the peregrines of the Delhi Bridge. They were furious that the state wouldn’t stop work until the little birds got on wing. The crowd wasn’t large, but the police chief recognized an awakening “situation” when he saw one. He called for more officers.

Then he led the parade to the park in front of the courthouse and let the falcon lovers wave their signs at passing cars.

“Save the peregrines,” shouted Jose. A TV cameraman and a newswoman jumped out of a van, looked over the kids, and walked up to Jose.

“What is your name?” the newswoman asked, holding the mike close to his face.

“Jose Cruz, first baseman on the school team. I am ten years old and I am in the fifth grade. I want to grow up and become a falconer.” “Thank you. You’ve answered the first question fully. Now the big one.”

“What is it?”

“Do you think it’s more important to save a peregrine falcon nest or mend a dangerous bridge?”

“Save the peregrine falcons,” Jose answered clearly. “Save the peregrine falcons!” a cluster of nearby kids echoed.

“But what about people? Aren’t they important?”

“They have a detour,” Jose said. “Save the peregrine falcons,” he repeated. The other kids cheered and stuck their posters in front of the camera.

“Thank you very much,” said the interviewer and turned to a jackhammer operator who had come to the park to fill his water bottle.

“How do you feel about this problem?” she asked.

“Save the peregrine falcons,” he said in a loud, clear voice.

A gleeful roar went up from the poster wavers. Cars coming off the detour slowed and stopped. Horns blasted.

“What’s going on?” an out-of-town driver asked.

“Keep moving, keep moving,” ordered a police officer, stepping into the road and waving the car on. “You’re backing up traffic. Keep moving.” The courthouse clock struck 8:30 A.M.

“School,” said Molly. “Let’s go.” Hughie Smith rolled his drum, and the police officers stopped traffic to let the kids cross Main Street.

Sam, who was watching from the sycamore tree, decided this was a good time to feed Frightful. She hadn’t eaten this morning.

He was pulling on his orange vest when 426 dropped out of the sky and lit on the aerie near the scrape. He bowed to Frightful and called the note that broke the incubation trance. She got off the eggs. He took her place— and brooded.

“Wow, good,” Sam exclaimed. “We may get little chicks yet.”

Sam returned to his mountainside camp and ate a breakfast of nuts and dried apples from his root cellar on the mountaintop.

Things continued to go well the next few days. The cement pouring ended. After that the noise level dropped to tolerable. A few days later Molly borrowed a spotting scope from the Audubon Club, and she and her friends set it up in her room with its perfect view of the nest. Frightful and the scrape filled the lens.

“They’ll be hatching soon,” Molly said, and let Hughie Smith take a look.

“It seems,” he said with a wistful smile, “that despite everything, the peregrines of Delhi are going to have chicks.” He turned and looked at Molly. “The mom is fidgety like a hen hatching eggs.” At that moment Frightful heard the chicks cheeping inside their shells. She listened, not hearing the workers below or Sam Gribley, who was creeping along the girder to her.

“Frightful,” he said, disbelief in his voice. “Now they’re going to paint the bridge!”

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