(I wrote, but never published, this essay in January 1997.)
When I was in my late teens and early 20s, I used to pal around with two guys I went to school with. Klingaman and Kistler.
We were all a little different and although we didn’t know it at the time all headed for separate lives. But in those days we hung out together, drank together, hiked together. Whatever.
Kistler, whom we called "Bud," was a very good outdoorsman. He knew his way around the woods and used to joke that he was going to abandon me in the woods one day to see if I could find my way out.
I remember one day we were in the woods and I heard a bird. It sounded like "woodle, woodle."
"What’s that?" I asked.
"A woodle bird," Bud said.
I heard it again. I didn’t know birds from birds, but for the rest of the day I could always distinguish the sound of a woodle bird.
We split. Bud joined the Navy, then I joined the Navy. He got out, married, and moved to away. Klinks stayed in the old town. I eventually ended up at Penn State.
Saw Klinks a few times. Never saw Bud. I wrote to him once when his mother died. She was a second mother to us. Used to make fabulous venison dinners and stuff us with food.
In October, Bud’s wife was in the laundry room when she heard a noise in the family room. She discovered Bud on the floor. She knelt over him.
He smiled. He sighed. And then he died.
The woodle bird was gone.