Squire gave me early warning of their return by pricking his ears and then cocking his head the way dogs do when they are homing in something still not identified. He took a few moments to verify his irst impression. "Yep, it must be them," his quick jump to attention seemed to say, then he darted over to the door to take a peek beneath it. It was not until after Squire was well-established at his post did I begin to hear the sound of laughing conversation nearing. A handful of heavy footsteps preceded the sudden opening of the front door.
"Hey, lad!" Almost in unison, the Padre and Granddad greeted me, both hlding their smokes in their fingers, hand-rolled cigarettes of Players' tobacco. I had never seen Granddad smoke a cigarette before, he was a pipe man, with only an occasional cigar when Uncle Charley would bring them by for Christmas. As they closed the door they finished off the laughter left over from the last story they must have told before they had entered. Then the Padre asked with an exceptionally boisterous tone, "Lad, how about some breakfast!"
I was up and going, Squire right at my heels. But as we were leaving, the Padre's eyes took one last look at his locker followed by a look at me, then pulled the door behind us.
A good number of the loggers had already been and gone by the time we rolled in, but a few of the men were still working on their second cups of coffee. We headed over to the fireplace and loaded up with the breakfast that was left, the last few flapjacks were poured onto the griddle, the now rather over-crispy bacon was slid off the skillet, and the last three biscuits. This morning there were bowls of marmalade on the table. Granddad always loved marmalade, especially that orange marmalade that got shipped over from England.
As the Padre fixed up his plate, I overheard him tell the cook to prepare three packs of provisions. I gave a glance over at Granddad and he answered a question I hadn't asked but I sure was thinking, "We're heading north, lad, to a place called Laughing Waters. It is just beyond a Blackfoot village called Old Harmony."
"Why are we going there?"
"We're going fishing."
"This time of year?"
"Yep, especially this time of year."
The Padre grinned and then leaned over to say, "Red over there is going to lend ya his fishing gear." Then he grinned some more, almost chuckling. "Yep, we are going fishing. You best borrow an extra blanket or two."
Granddad gave me a wink and then the Padre a knowing grin. I had been a kid long enough to know that something was going on.
I suppose it took a good hour before we were on our way, Each of us was lugging a backpack, each with different something tied to them. My pack had a keyhole saw and a bundle of sticks tied to it; Granddad's some cooking gear; the Padre's, an axe and a coil of rope. Even the dog was loaded up, pulling his share. Squire had been rigged up with one of those Indian trail sleds, filled with blankets, tarps and firewood.
It was a long trek, but not too long. Through open woods along a well-traveled trail. We ended up at the shore of a fair sized lake, followed the shoreline until we camp to the Indian village. I was a bit surprised. I was expecting wigwams or tee pees, but the village was about twenty tar paper shacks, a dock, several canoes, a big stone well, a large tractor shed holding two rusty Massey-Fergusen tractors and an even rustier Jeep Willys truck, an what appeared to be a pole barn chapel, pews, altar, metal roof, everything except walls. but one thing was missing ... not a human soul around. Two Maine Coon cats were coming in and out of the tractor shed and some chickens were scrounging for food here and there. No people. No smoke coming out of the chimney pipes. Just the remainder of what once was a village, or so it seemed.
It all felt mighty creepy to me, but it didn't seem to bother the Padre and Granddad. We just kept walking on, through the village, almost in a quickened pace, like we thought it wise now to spend more time needed there.
It was not until we had been a good ways beyond the village that I finally asked the obvious. "Granddad, where did the people go?"
He seemed a bit slow to answer, but he did, "We don't know. They just go off somewhere every now and then. They just go off somewhere.'
My Granddad then asked the Padre to tell his story to me. And so he did. He told of how he had been left at the Abbey by someone, a scared mother he thought must have been. Reared there by the Friars and the Sisters, all his life. And though he never felt especially called to holy vocation, he grew into the order. Lived there, prayed there, worked there, studied there. He became a holy man, the other brothers thought him specially graced by God, but then on one especially holy night, a Christmas Eve in fact, he just left. He heard the howls in the moonlight and left. He said that he never felt that he had run away from anything, even God and the holy life. He simply felt called to distant woods, the realm on the far side of holy. He thought it somehow divinely meant to be. Not long after he left, he got word that the last Greyfriar had died in the fever.