It was a typical October night. You could feel the cold in the air but there was no wind. Darkness had fallen over Forked Lake but it had little effect.
The fall sky held two layers of clouds. The layer closest to the earth blocked out the lower half of a new moon. The upper layer of clouds was mottled. There must have been a wind up high. The mottled clouds were moving quite rapidly. They were heading east to meet the ocean. I wondered how long it would take them to get there.
The scene was eerie in a nice sort of way. It was peaceful with the moon and the clouds playing tricks on each other. In another way it did not rest well within my soul. I sat there for quite some time thinking about everything and nothing. I pulled my well-worn jacket up around my nape and buttoned it at the front to ward off a breeze that was beginning to stir.
I heard voices – – – or was that a pack of dogs working a raccoon’s trail? The sounds came and went for several seconds before my eyes locked on what may have been the source of the voices. There was a small formation of geese high in the sky. The longer I watched the geese the more apparent it became that they were the source of the sounds.
Two shotgun blasts broke my mood. The sound came from behind me. As I turned I could see two figures leaping over broken limbs lying about. I knew immediately that it was the Burkoff boys. No one could leap like a deer, see at night like a deer and avoid tripping like a deer except for the two Burkoff brothers. They stopped a short distance from me and began searching. Soon, one of them held up a large raccoon by its tail.
My mood was broken so I ambled over to where they were.
“Evenin’ Tahauwas” said Burky, the older one.
“Good evenin’ to you also Burky” I responded. “And to you also Epinetus” I continued.
“Good evenin’ to you Tahauwas” answered Epinetus, the younger brother.
“Were you afraid we was gonna shoot ya?” asked Burky.
“No, I know you boys have good night eyes” I answered. “The minute I saw you chasin’ down the coon I knew who it was. But your shootin’ did scare the hell out of me. I was watchin’ the geese and thought I was alone.”
“You know we are all over” said Epinetus. “No moss growin’ on our moccasins.”
I smiled at his joke and repeated “Nope, no moss on you Eppy.”
The two boys called their dogs in and we stood there without saying anything.
Burky asked if they could join me to see if any more geese came along.
We found a nice long log and the three of us sat down. Eppy and I lit up a pipeful. Burky didn’t smoke. The dogs sat in front of us waiting to get scratched behind the ears.
As we sat in silence a flock of around fifty geese flew southward.
“Our father will miss the geese this year” offered Eppy.
“Yep, he sure loved those geese a flyin’ overhead” added Burky.
Their father had been crushed to death tending to a log jam on the Raquette River that spring. It had been some time since that occurred and I was not sure whether I should say anything. It appeared as though they were slowly getting over his death.
We sat there quietly until our smoking pipes were done.
The Burkoff boys got up, silently waved goodbye, gathered their dogs and went home to care for their mother.
It was a different night.