Thomas Doty – Storyteller
The Few Geese Left
Just before sunrise on a fall day, a few geese float the ripples of the Columbia River. These are all that remain of thousands of geese that spent the warmer months here.
I watched them fly in last spring. It had been a cold winter and I'd heard there were places the river froze all the way across for the first time in over a hundred years.
Near dusk the sky was purple and orange. There was no wind to bend the reeds on the riverbanks. Geese sat on the frozen river, melting holes in the ice. They were as large as seals or so they looked from the rimrock above the river.
For a week the ice had been breaking up. Cracks ran for miles, widening and lengthening with a sound that imitated the vibrating zing of a snare drum. The zing built to a roar, swelling the cliffs of the gorge like a freight train.
Geese flew in scattered formations. Their barking was deafening. Their wings made a wind.
The sky paled. The first stars shivered, their reflections drilling holes in the ice that reached for the warmer depths of the river. In sheltered nooks and crannies along the edge of the ice, the geese settled in for the night.
Now, before sunrise on a fall day, the few geese left float in arrows on the water as if ready to take flight and head south at any moment.
Across the river a freight train roars down the gorge from somewhere, heading somewhere else.