(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Les, the forty-one-year-old narrator, looks back to 1961, when he was sixteen and still living with his mother in a house left by his late father. His mother, Aileen, was a part-time waitress in the nearby town of Great Falls, where she met Glen Baxter, a self-proclaimed labor organizer and communist who had seen a side of the world that Les could then only imagine. A transplanted Westerner, Baxter was a drifter who “stayed out of work winters and in the bars drinking with women like my mother, who had work and some money”—a common way of life in Montana. All of this is merely the backdrop. The real story that Les wants to tell happened in November of that year: a single day that he would forever remember as a turning point, his rite of passage into awareness, when life as he knew it would never again be the same.

Although two months pass during which Aileen does not see Glen Baxter, she is not pleased when he shows up from out of nowhere and wants to take Les hunting for snow geese. Unlike his mother, Les is pleased by Baxter’s sudden reappearance and he enthusiastically accepts Baxter’s invitation. Aileen strongly disapproves of senseless bloodletting—as well as the attempt at male bonding between her son and the man who has deserted her. Eventually, however, Baxter and Les prevail and Aileen rides with them into the Montana prairieland that appears to lack any sign of wildlife.

Baxter, however, knows that the snow geese are...

(The entire section is 556 words.)