JOHNSBURG As day fades gently into twilight, and the sun slips behind Ross Mountain overlooking Garnet Lake, Leon Borden walks to the front porch of his camp, horn in hand. Raising it to his lips, he sounds the first notes of Taps, with its sweet, melancholy words: Day is done, gone the sun/From the hills, from the lake, from the sky
Borden, 84, has performed this nightly ritual for 22 summers, on every clear evening when he can see the sun go down. I have to be certain it really is setting, he says, smiling. If its obscured, and I cant see it, then I dont play.
As the strains of his music echo across the lake and down, families emerge from their cottages to listen, in quiet appreciation. Most of the neighbors are accustomed to it and will be anticipating it, says Borden, an off-season resident of Frederick, Maryland. They know what time its going to happen, and theres usually a round of applause. A few times, folks have come by and said, So youre the guy who plays Taps!
One dear friend and neighbor, the late Ed Stewart, used to stroll down in the evenings to listen and then, tongue-in-cheek, give Borden a grade on how well he had done. Now I picture Ed standing there when I play, says Borden, who also played Taps at a 2002 memorial service for Stewart, held on the shore of the lake.
An engineer by training, who spent more than 43 years working on large-scale computers for IBM in Poughkeepsie, Borden began the tradition after his 1985 retirement when he and his wife, June, could spend all of July and August at their lakeside cabin. He is not sure any more why he started but it somehow seemed an appropriate response to the beauty of Adirondack sunsets.