It was just past noon when we got back to the farm and started getting ready to leave. The sky was blue without a cloud. The fire was out and dad picked up the grill from the rocks and leaned it against the rocks that surrounded the pile of ashes. Glenn carried the blue ice chest to the van and Tammy gathered the cooking utensils, the iron skillet, coffee pot and orange plastic jug of water. Alice and I went to the cabin to get our sleeping bags. Alice was quiet. Just as we opened the cabin door, Alice turned and watched everyone loading Glenn's bus.
"I wish we could stay here. I really do." She looked around.
"I know you do, but we can’t. The others have to get back. My dad has clients and there’s no way they would let us stay by ourselves."
"I guess, you’re right and my mom would send the State Police looking for me."
"Come on, we better get back. Glenn wants to get on the road."
While walking back to the van, we stopped and looked at the woods. "Do you think if we stayed, Morning Star would help us, or is that asking too much?" Alice asked.
"I don’t know what she would do. We’d be here for a whole week before the others came back. It’s putting her in a funny position. We don’t have any food or stuff."
"I know. It’s just a thought," she said and sighed, then we walked back to the others. Glenn looked up at the sun getting higher above us, while Tammy rearranged things in the back of the van. My dad looked around and I knew he was imagining what his plans would look like here.
Alice looked up at the hillside, glanced at me, took a deep breath and spoke to my dad. "I think we should stay here and not leave."
"Are you serious? We’re out of supplies," .
"So what, we can get more in town."
Glenn heard Alice. "Why do you think we should stay? What good would that do?"
"I think it would show White Elk you’re serious about your idea."
"I think he believes I’m serious. Anyway, I want to bring my mother back here next week. I think that will help. She hasn’t been here since my grandfather died. I also want to get the deed and tear it up in front of White Elk and the others."
"I was surprised when I heard you say that," my dad said. "Also, I wonder who owns the land they’re living on. I didn’t see a farmhouse or anything, but it must belong to someone."
"That’s right," Glenn said. "They were my grandfather’s neighbors. I remember them. They raised sheep. I think their name was Kirkpatrick and they had two kids. I wonder what happened to them."
"That’s a good question," my dad said, looking at the hill. We could barely see the broken stonewall on the hillside covered by the high grass and trees. "So the hill would be their property and your land goes from there to that hill on the other side. If you own forty two acres, I bet the Kirkpatrick’s farm is at least as big. That’s a lot of land if we joined properties."
"How can White Elk and his people be living on that land?" I asked. "If it belongs to someone else and they’ve been there for eight years, how could they do that?"
"I don’t know anything about that land. Maybe the Kirkpatrick’s still own it, or maybe they sold it, who knows?" Glenn said.
"I bet no one knows they’re there," my dad said. "I think they’re squatting."
"Squatting?" Alice asked. "What’s squatting? I never heard of that."
"It means they’re just living on it and don’t legally own it, but they’ve been there for eight years. It’s hard to believe no one knows they’re there."
"So they just moved there from Canada," I asked. "Somehow, they knew their burial grounds were there, so it must have been their land a long time ago. I wonder how they knew."
"All of this land was their land," my dad said. "White Elk and his people are taking it back, but they’re keeping it quiet. That may be why they’re so upset that we're here."
"And that’s why Sun Dancer, Wolf and Strong Eagle were so upset when they saw our fire," Tammy said. "They wanted to be left alone and not be discovered."
"Right,"my dad said. "If they were discovered living here, they could be arrested and forced to leave."
"But what about White Elk’s vision that we need each other because of what's happening to the climate?" Alice asked.
"I don’t know. I was surprised to hear him say that," my dad said. "I’d think he wouldn’t want us here. And I know Grey Fox doesn’t want us here."
For a minute, we didn’t say anything and just thought about the situation. I thought about White Elk bringing his people to this land eight years ago and how they were trying to live the old ways rather than the way they were living in Canada. It seemed risky and brave, and here we were possibly ruining their dream.
"Well, let’s get on the road," Glenn said. "We have a long trip ahead of us."
I slid open the side door of the bus and Tammy got in. I waited for Alice to move, but she kept looking out at the hill and had that intense look she gets when she's thinking. She glanced at me, then back at the hill and I knew what she was thinking.
"You want to stay, don’t you?" I asked.
Alice nodded, "Yes, I wish we could stay. I really feel we should stay."
I knew she was torn by the way she closed her eyes and took a deep, resigned breath, then got into the bus. When we buckled our seat belts, Glenn started up the bus and while we drove down the long lane, both of us looked out the back window at the barn and farmhouse and then it was gone.
"I still wish we could have stayed longer," Alice said to everyone.
Glenn glanced at her in the rear view mirror. My dad turned and nodded, acknowledging her, but didn't say any thing.
"We’ll be back here next Saturday," Tammy said. "And Glenn's mother will be with us."
"We’ll stop at the market in Chimney Corner and get some food and snacks for the trip back," Glenn said. "If the real estate office is open, I might ask about the farm next door and see if it’s on the market or what the story is."
"Good idea, but just ask, don’t let them know what’s happening on that land," my dad said.
"Don’t worry, I won’t. I won’t even tell them about my farm. I’ll just ask if there are any old farms for sale in the area and see if it’s listed. I don’t want them to know about me."
I was puzzled when Glenn said that and wondered why he wanted to be so secretive. He had a legal right to his farm. He had a deed. Why didn’t he want to introduce himself?
"Why don’t you want them to know who you are?" I asked.
"I don’t want them to know what I’m doing yet," he said.
"Are you being watched?" my dad asked.
“Yes, I think so, ever since Occupy Wall Street and then working on the relief after Hurricane Sandy, the FBI has been watching me. Not just me, but lots of the others from Occupy. Even before it began, the banks and the Wall Street tycoons got nervous and we know they infiltrated, watched everything and took videos. There was no way to escape. That’s one reason I want out and want to move to the farm. I hated being spied on." He turned around and looked at Alice and me, "Sorry to burst your bubble, but the land of the free is no longer the land of the free."
I didn’t say anything, but listened and understood how important his farm was to him, why starting a colony was like a dream, something he had to do because he was so angry at the government for spying and how the police were becoming like the military. I thought about the Bendula and what happened to Atlantis. But now my dad was being hired to design the buildings and make a plan for the land and wondered if he would be watched, also.
"Eric, could you get in trouble?" Alice asked, as if she had read my mind.
"I don’t know," my dad answered. "I didn’t know the FBI has been watching Glenn. It’s hard to know if you’re being watched. I should have the right to have Glenn as a client. I have a right to make a living and though I’m interested in this project, very interested, it could be risky."
"Wow, I had no idea this was happening," I said. "It’s worst than the Bendula on Atlantis."
"It is the Bendula," Alice said. "Remember what Elizabeth said the other night at the library."
"Do you really believe all of this is connected to Atlantis," my dad asked, turning to face us. "Do you really believe there was an Atlantis? I know you loved those books, but they’re fiction."
"I don’t know what to think," I said. "But that old woman said she had memories and that Atlantis was real. She says the Bendula are here, and they’re afraid of the old ways. They know about the memories."
"The memories?" Tammy asked. "What memories?"
"The memories of the old ways," Alice answered. "It’s like what White Elk said. He's trying to hold on to the old ways of his people before it's all lost."
"What does that have to do with the Bendula?" Tammy asked. "Whatever that is?"
"It’s hard to explain, but in the books we read, they described the way people lived for thousands of years before the Bendula took over Atlantis. People shared everything. There was no greed like there is today. Everybody had what they needed and no one was rich and no one was poor. They lived like the Abeneki are trying to live now."
"Right," I said, nodding. "I think we should do everything we can to keep how they’re living a secret, otherwise, they'll get kicked off the land and forced to go back to Canada or live in the town like everyone else."
"That is if they don’t get arrested," my dad said.
The town was just ahead of us and we looked for the market. "Well, Here we are, Chimney Corner, small town USA," Glenn said, driving down the main street. A few stores were boarded up, but there was a McDonalds with its Golden Arch just on the edge of town and a sign that said, "Coming Soon: Rite Aid."
"These national corporations are everywhere," Glenn said. "The last time I traveled cross country all the towns started looking alike. If there wasn’t a Dunkin Donuts, or a Burger King or a Rite Aid, there was a Wendy’s or some other franchise. Mom and Pop restaurants are a thing of the past. That’s probably why Martha’s never reopened."
"Remember Dylan’s song from the Sixties, 'Times they are a changing,'" my dad said, "and that was written over fifty years ago."
"That was prophetic," Glenn said. "Someone sang that in the park at the Occupy Wall Street and everyone sang it with the guy."
I remembered my dad playing Dylan when we went on camping trips and remembered that song, but at the time it didn’t really make sense to me. But when my dad mentioned the song, suddenly, I knew what it was about.
When we pulled into the parking lot of the market, Glenn asked Tammy and Alice to go and do the shopping, and he was going to go the real estate office he noticed up the street. I didn’t want to go to the market and wanted to go with Glenn and my dad to find out about the property next door to Glenn’s. I followed him up the street and looked into a few of the windows along the way. We stopped in front of the office and looked in the window at pictures of houses for sale. The sign above the door said, "Morgan’s Properties." When we walked in a chubby woman with gray hair tied in a bun and horn rimmed glasses looked up and asked if she could help us.
"Is Mr. Morgan in?" Glenn asked. "I want to see if there are any farms for sale in the area."
"Mr. Morgan stepped out for a few minutes," she said, "but he will be back shortly."
"We don’t have a lot of time," Glenn said. "We’re just passing though."
"I see. Well, make yourself comfortable. I have a folder of what’s available I could let you see while you’re waiting." She opened a filing cabinet drawer and handed Glenn the folder.
"Thank you," Glenn said and we sat down on wooden chairs across from her and looked though the thick folder. Each page had a picture of a house or open land with a short description and price. I had no way of knowing if the prices were high or low, but there was nothing listed that wasn’t at least two hundred thousand. Even a small house on less than an acre seemed high to me, but I didn’t know much about real estate. Still, there were a lot of properties for sale.
"Looks like it’s a buyer’s market," my dad said. "Lots for sale around here but doesn’t look like much is selling."
When the front door opened, a tall man with gray, thinning hair, wearing tan khaki pants and blue windbreaker jacket with Morgan Realtors on it entered and seemed surprised to see us looking through the folder. "Well, gentlemen, what can I do for you? I’m Pete Morgan."
"Glad to meet you," Glenn said. "We’re just passing through and wanted to know if there are any farms available in the area."
"Farms?" He shook his head. "Nope...used to be but no more. I had a few, but people turned them into bed and breakfasts for tourists, or got them subdivided and made into little developments. People buy them for summer homes and some retire up here, you know; people from Boston or New York."
"Well, I was just curious. I thought there used to be a lot of farms around here," Glenn asked.
"That’s true but not for the last twenty or thirty years. It’s too hard to make a living these days unless you're big enough to get one of those farm subsidies the government gives out, but they didn’t go to the small farmers around here."
Glenn stood up and handed back the folder. "Well, thank you for your time. I guess we’ll be on our way."
"Hold on a minute," he said, rubbing his chin. "There’s an old farm about ten miles the other side of town that never came on the market when the man died. It was a dairy farm. I don’t know why it never came on the market, and it’s been sitting there for over fifteen or so years. It’s a mystery and now it’s just falling apart, valuable land, over forty acres just sitting there. I heard it got left to a grandson, but no one has seen hide or hair of him around here. Maybe if we knew where he was we could make a deal."
"Maybe," Glenn said, nodding. "Thanks for your time." He opened the front door. "I don’t have time to try to find this grandson."
"Wait a minute," the realtor said. "There’s the Kirkpatrick place right next to that farm. It’s just land because of the fire that burned down the house and barn. They put it on the market about ten or so years ago, but no one wanted it. Too hilly, one person said who looked at it. They raised sheep, but as far as I know it’s still on the market, but, like I said there’s no house or barn. I could look into it if you want. Other than those two places. All the other farms got bought up."
Before we left, the realtor stopped us and went to his desk, "Hold on a minute," he said, picking up a piece of paper and moved his finger down, then stopped. "You might be in luck," he said, looking up and coming around his desk towards us. "They owe back taxes on that land and it looks like the county is taking it back. It’s going to come up for sheriff’s sale sometime soon. They'll auction it off."
"Really," Glenn said, surprised, then glanced at my dad. "That’s interesting."
"Yes, if that happens, you could buy it for a song," the realtor said. "That could be your lucky day. If you’re interested, I could take you out there for a look."
"Thanks, Mr. Morgan," Glenn said, "Give me your card and I’ll think about it."
When we left and walked up the street to the market, Alice and Tammy were waiting alongside of the bus."I got us some sandwiches made on whole wheat bread and some fruit and some salsa and chips," Tammy said.
"What did you find out about the farms?" Alice asked.
"The realtor remembered that my grandfather’s farm was left to an heir but didn’t know much about that, but then we found out that the other farm owes back taxes and is going to be taken back by the county and auctioned off or sold for the best offer."
"Wow. What would happen if someone showed up and wanted to buy it?" Alice asked. "Then they would find the Indians living there."
"Right, that could happen," my dad said. "They’re taking a chance squatting there."
"And no one would believe them if they said it was their land, would they?" I said.
"Right, it’s two completely different philosophies of owning land," my dad said.
"That would be horrible if they got discovered. What can be done?" I asked.
"I don’t know. Maybe the Kirkpatrick family will pay the back taxes, but who knows if they’re even alive or care," my dad said.
We stood by the van for a few minutes thinking about the situation. Glenn rubbed his chin and looked back towards the real estate office, then moved to the driver’s door. "Well, let’s get on the road."
Once we were settled and drove out of the parking lot, we were all quiet, thinking about all that was happening. "I wonder what the council will think of White Elk’s vision," Alice said.
"I don’t know," Glenn said, "but I don’t think Grey Fox trusts that I will tear up my deed and take my name off the tax records."
"Glenn, they won’t let you do that. You have to pay the taxes," my dad said. "And it will ring alarms. If you stop paying taxes, the same thing will happen to you; the county will eventually put it up for auction or Sheriff’s Sale."
"You might be right," Glenn said, nodding, then sighed.
"That would be terrible," my dad said. "And now the Indians could be discovered and they would be evicted and probably arrested. It’s good we found out about this situation."
"Right and I bet White Elk and his people have no idea what's happening," Glenn said.
While we drove, we were all quiet. I looked out at Lake Champlain and saw how huge it was and wondered what it must have been like here before the area was settled by the English and French. It must have been all forest with no towns or bridges, no mills or factories, no streets or street lights, just forest. They must have hunted and fished all over the area for many years before people from Europe came. My dad told me how they brought disease and how many Indians died from small pox and other diseases. About three hundred years ago, they traded fur for musket rifles and steel bladed knives. They no longer used bow and arrows for hunting. Some learned to speak French and English, but my dad said, there was so much that could not be communicated. In one of the books he read, he said there was a lot that the natives did not share because they didn’t have the words to express what they knew. What they did talk about was about trade and land, but not about the ways of nature and how to live on the land. The Europeans built log and stone houses and tried to live the way they did in Europe. They did not feed the soil the way the natives had for many years and so they always wanted more land. They cut down trees and took their land. That’s when the Abenekis were forced to move to Canada, their children sent to orphanages. So many treaties were broken and that’s why he was surprised that White Elk was willing to meet with Glenn. My dad knew we didn’t deserve to be trusted.
About an hour or so later, we stopped at the huge Mapleland Truck Stop for gas and we all went in to go to the bathroom room. A whole section of the parking lot was for big trailer trucks. Like I said before, the place was like a mall and it had several fast food restaurants that you could choose from. They had a Roy Rogers that had sandwiches and fried chicken, Wendy’s and a Papa John pizza place. They even had a Chinese restaurant called Won Ton. Alice and I decided to split a small pizza and my dad had pasta with meatballs. Glenn had a sandwich and bottled water and Tammy had a salad. It was crowded and noisy and I was amazed how many people were on the road. It felt good to stop and stretch, but I knew Glenn was anxious to get on the road. We had a six hour trip ahead of us.
"I hope my mom is well enough to come with us next week," Glenn said. "She hasn’t been to the farm since her father died fifteen years ago. We left when I was twelve though I came back in the summer. I loved it there when I was a kid and my grandfather told great stories."
"What do you think your mom will think about wanting to share the land with the Abeneki Indians?" my dad asked.
"I’m not sure," Glenn said. "She likes the idea of me wanting to make something special happen. She knows that’s what my grandfather wanted and that’s why she wants to help, but I think mostly she wants to feel she’s coming home."
We all knew she was not well and what Glenn meant, but we just listened and didn’t say anything.
Just as we were getting ready to leave, Alice’s cell phone bleeped. While we were at Glenn’s we couldn’t get reception, and actually it was nice not to have it ringing. "It’s from Tim," she said, moving her finger and reading the message.
She sent a message back then said, "Guess what, both Tim and Gabe just finished reading Daughters of Atlas and they can’t wait to talk to us about it and Tim said he saw Lou the other day outside of school and he said, Elizabeth wants to meet us again."
"I wonder why," I said.
"We’ll find out," Alice answered.