Continued from http://gulahiyi.blogspot.com/p/owassee-prophecy.html
The Owassee Prophecy
by E. G. Paine
The story, all names, characters and incidents portrayed in this work are fictitious. No identification with actual persons, places, buildings and products is intended or should be inferred.
As soon as news of the proposed motorsports park got out, the controversy snow-balled. People who knew about Lola and Winona’s camp – and especially the volunteers and donors who were making it happen – were outraged that there was nothing to prevent something as disruptive as a race track.
They contacted every environmental agency they could think of, in hopes of finding some law on some level to halt work on the track. They even tried to get a court order to stop construction, but none of their strategies were panning out. When the sisters and their friends approached the individual board members, the officials were sympathetic and promised nothing.
Even before the race track issue came up, the board had been considering a high-impact development ordinance for Owassee County. It had been getting to the point where, almost every year, a group of “Concerned Citizens” in one part of the county or another would coalesce to fend off new and incompatible enterprises (in the order they appeared on the scene):
Abattoir and rendering plant
After the quiet neighborhoods of several elected officials were threatened by a couple of these projects, the board of supervisors warmed up to the idea of an ordinance. But such things happen slowly. If the race track was going to be stopped, time was of the essence. So, track opponents convinced the board to consider a moratorium on high-impact development pending adoption of a new ordinance.
It was a long shot, but Lola and Winona thought it was their best hope. The county attorney drafted a moratorium and it was set for a public hearing, a prerequisite to the board’s vote at a subsequent meeting.
Meanwhile, the story had been front page news in the Owassee Sentinel every week. A batch of impassioned letters to the editor protested plans for the motorsports park on Mulberry Creek and endorsed the efforts to establish a therapeutic equestrian center.
A week before the hearing, the Fallingwaters’ mailbox was smashed and they found roofing nails scattered along the end of their driveway. On the morning of November 16, Lola got a phone call informing her that the public hearing, set for 6:00 that evening, was being moved from the courthouse to the Owassee High gymnasium two blocks down River Street.
The updates trickled in all day. Apparently, Pam Jackson and Dewaine Dewitt were giving most of their employees the afternoon off with the understanding that they would show up for the public hearing prepared to raise hell.
At 5:30, the gym was filling quickly. The atmosphere was as boisterous as it might be if the Owassee Warhawks were going up against arch-rivals in a playoff game. After Lola and Winona arrived and put their names on the sign-up sheet to speak, Lola whispered, “This is not going to be pretty.”
Daniel came in and sat next to Lola. A couple of minutes later, Vee Nikopoulos joined them. By 6:00, the gym was packed. A couple of rebel flags waved and somebody kept bumping the trigger of an air horn. It was like a pep rally. A very tense pep rally.
The county board of supervisors filed in and chairman Mitch Ryan gaveled the hearing to order. He spelled out the rules for the evening:
“Speakers will be called in the order they signed up. You will have two minutes apiece to make your comments. The board of supervisors will take your concerns into consideration and we will vote on the proposed moratorium at our next regular meeting on November 30.
Ryan called the first name on the list, “Jim Winston.”
When Winston stepped to the microphone, he announced “I’m yielding my time to a special guest who has to get back to Franklin, Tennessee tonight.”
With that, he turned toward the entrance of the gym and nodded.
In walked three-time Nascar champion (and Daytona 500 winner!) Darrell Waltrip. A deafening roar shook the gym. You’d think Elvis was in the building.
Waltrip grinned like the cat that ate the canary, strutted to the podium and motioned an end to the ovation.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I’ll keep it short. I just came here tonight to tell y’all one thing.”
He leaned back from the microphone, raised his arms, pumped his fists, and issued a guttural scream, “BOOGITY. BOOGITY. BOOGITY. LET’S…GO…RACIN’!”
Then DW strode toward the exit, grinning even wider, while saluting the crowd and giving everybody the thumbs up. The gymnasium went berserk. People jumped to their feet and hooted, rebel flags waved furiously, cow bells clanged and air horns honked. From one corner, a chant started and rolled through the crowd:
“Let’s go racin’…Let’s go racin’…Let’s go racin’…”
Ryan’s attempt to gavel the meeting to order went unheeded. When the cacophony finally started to fade, he called the next speaker, “Sergeant Rick Swain of the Owassee County Sheriff’s Department.”
“As many of you know, I run the DARE program here in our county. Sometimes, it seems like we’re fighting a losing battle in the war on drugs. But we can’t stop now. We need to do everything we can to keep our kids off dope. They say there ain’t nothin’ to do around here, and maybe they’re right. A race track is just what we need more of, a positive thing for the whole family and especially our young people. If it’ll keep one kid from getting’ hooked on that ol’ dope, then I say full speed ahead with the race track.”
Dewaine Dewitt’s turn came. With a raspy growl, he explained:
“I know this thing’s done got blowed all outer proportion. So I’m gonna set the record straight. We intend to be good neighbors. This’ll be good for Mulberry Creek. This’ll be good for the whole county. This’ll means jobs. This’ll mean lots of jobs. Provided the county don’t pull the rug out from under us. Far as them varnmeddlists who claim we’re gonna muddy up the creek, y’all don’t understand that we’ve got engineers to make sure everything is done right. This’ll be world-class.” Dewaine concluded triumphantly, “They ain’t gonna be no varnmeddle impact. So let’s get on with it.”
The next speaker on the list was Rev. John Donne. A rotund fellow in a white linen suit, the venerable old preacher shuffled to the microphone and addressed the crowd in lugubrious tones:
“Precious brothers and sisters, my heart is heavy tonight. Just look at what is happening in our blessed community. The spirit of contention, which comes from Satan himself, has been unleashed upon Owassee County. We must stand firm in unity and brotherhood. I pray that the people demanding this moratorium will reflect on how their actions are affecting our dear little town. I pray that those who are fighting against this motorsports park will place the peace and harmony of our dear little community above their personal, even selfish, desires to prevent the race track. To them I say: Turn the other cheek. Let us move beyond the rancor and the discord.”
Before leaving the podium, Rev. Donne pulled out a handkerchief and dabbed away tears before blowing his nose. Then he turned and shuffled back to his seat. The crowd responded with a solid round of applause and a smattering of “amens” and “hell yeahs.”
Other speakers were less conciliatory in their calls for surrender. Take Randy Barlowe:
“Them girls up on Mulberry Creek act like these good folks that plan to build the track need to bow down and get their permission to do what they want to do on their own land. Pardon my language, but that’s a load of horse hockey. If you’ll notice, them girls didn’t ask nobody’s permission to set up that camp, or whatever it is.” He pointed at Lola and Winona, “You people move here and want to turn this into Roosha or sumpn’. Well I got news for you. This is still the greatest country in the world because we still have our freedom. And when it gets to the point a man can’t do what he wants on his own property, then we ain’t no better off than them Rooshans or them Red Chinese. I got one word for you girls if you don’t want to live next to a race track. It’s real simple, folks…MOVE!…MOVE!”
In the course of the evening, quite a few speakers did stand up to support the moratorium and they received their share of catcalls, but nothing like the torrent unleashed when Lola’s turn came. While making her case, she mentioned the great breakthroughs she had witnessed in children attending a similar camp in Georgia.
At that point, she was interrupted by one shrill voice, “Then why don’t you go back to GEORGIA, bitch?”
Lola tried to ignore the woman and continue with her comments. Then, someone directly behind Daniel bellowed an especially vile remark, the kindest words in it being “squaws” and “retards.”
Daniel snapped. He jumped to his feet and faced the heckler. “What did you say/”
“You deaf, boy? You heard exactly what I said. But if I need to say it louder, then I reckon I will.”
Daniel was irate and closed in on the man, “Lola and Winona are good people trying to do a good thing. You’d better apologize right now.”
The man laughed derisively, “Get outta my face.” He grabbed Daniel by the shoulders, shoved hard and sent him tumbling. While Daniel was trying to disentangle himself from the bleachers, Vee aimed a solid punch at the heckler’s gut, doubling him over.
Pandemonium exploded throughout the gym. Deputies tried to break up the scuffles, but the scene deteriorated to complete bedlam within seconds.
The board members looked at one another in shock. The vice-chairman caught Mitch Ryan’s attention and dragged his finger across his throat. Ryan nodded, declared the meeting adjourned, banged his gavel and led a hasty retreat from the building.
Daniel stopped by the Stokley Library to pick up some books he’d ordered on interlibrary loan. “Good afternoon, Vee. How’s your hand?”
“My hand?” Vee raised his hand and examined it. “Oh, are you referring to the swing I took at that crank? It’s not like I was connecting with rock-hard abs. My hand is doing just fine, thank you. After that hearing went haywire, I was glad to get out of town for a couple of days. A bunch of us went spelunking near Tellico Plains. We camped out in the caves. It was incredible, man, incredible.”
“I’m sure it was.” Daniel handed Vee a postcard. “I got this notice saying some books had come in. Can you check?”
“Sure. They’re right here.” Vee looked at the books. “Quantum physics? Hindu scriptures?”
“Just trying to expand my horizons.”
“Go for it, man. But I’ll expect reviews when you turn in the books. Say, we’re still sorting through those old photographs. Do you have a few minutes to look through the ones we haven’t been able to identify?”
“I’m in no hurry. Anyhow, it is the least I can do to repay you for watching my back at the hearing. What a circus that turned out to be.”
“Have you talked to Lola and Winona.”
“Just for a minute. They’re still really worried about the race track, but they’re hoping for the best. I wouldn’t place any wagers on how the county board will vote next week, though.”
“If you go, don’t pick any more fights, Danny Boy. I might not be there to look out for you.”
“Here are the mystery photos. Take a look and let me know if anything is familiar to you.”
“Alright. Hmm... I like these rodeo pictures. Actually, they might have been taken at the old fairgrounds. My dad used to tell me that when he was a boy, the rodeo came through town every year. They had bull riders, bronco busters, trick shots and cowboy movie stars like Lash LaRue and Sunset Carson. That would be my best guess.”
“Very good.” Vee shuffled through some more photographs and offered a couple to Daniel, “How about the beekeeper in this picture?”
“I don’t know. Too long before my time. But wait, isn’t that the same man in this other picture: holding a fiddle and standing next to the lady of the porch. His wife, maybe?”
“Looks like it could be.”
Daniel studied the photos until a smile of recognition came across his face. “I think I recognize these people. But I knew them when they were much older. Clyde and Bessie Gibson had a farm near where the airport was built. I spent some time with them in their later years. Clyde was a beekeeper and he sold sourwood honey. They raised apples, too. At one time, the orchard was pretty big, and it must have been their main source of income. Every fall, people would go to the Gibson Orchard to buy apples. They’d set up the cider mill, press the apples and put the cider into gallon jugs. You can’t buy cider like that anymore. It was delicious. And, oh, I heard Clyde play that fiddle more than a few times.”
Daniel continued, “By the time I knew Clyde and Bessie, they must have been pushing eighty. For a while. I’d go there after school and help with odd jobs around the place. It was a lot for them to keep up with. They raised most of their own food, plus maintaining the orchard. I saw Bessie take an axe after a chicken more than once.”
“I’ll bet they fed you well.”
“They sure did. They always insisted on my staying for supper, and Bessie was a great cook. Fried chicken, biscuits from scratch, apple butter, homemade hominy, turnip greens, chow-chow. And Bessie was the only person I ever knew to bake strawberry rhubarb pie. After we’d finish eating, Clyde and I would play Fox and Geese. It was a little like Chinese checkers, except you’d move kernels of dried corn on an old board with lines drawn on it. They’d tell me stories from when they were growing up in the late 1800s. Clyde always had jokes to tell. I still remember some of those”
“Then let’s hear one, Daniel.”
“OK. Hmm… Let me think. Ah, here’s one…”
A father and his young son went out fishing in their boat.
The boy suddenly became very curious about world around him. He asked, “Papa, how does this boat float?”
The father replied, “Don’t rightly know, son.”
A few minutes later, the little boy asked, “Papa, how do the fish breathe underwater?’
Again, the father said, “Don’t rightly know, son.”
Then, a little while later, the boy asked his father, “Papa, why is the sky blue?”
Once again, the father answered, “Don’t rightly know, son.”
Finally, the little boy asked, “Papa, do you mind me asking you all these questions?”
The father reassured him, “Of course not, son. If you don’t ask questions, you won't never learn nothin’.”
With that, a peal of laughter thundered from the librarian and he pounded the desk. “Oh, that’s a good one.” He continued taking notes to accompany the photos. "What ever happened to Clyde and Bessie? You said their last name was Gibson?"
“That’s right. They never wanted to leave the farm. Clyde was 94 and out hoeing corn when he died of a heart attack. That next winter, Bessie broke her hip and went into a nursing home, but she didn’t last there three months. I learned a lot from them. I’m thankful they let me into their world for a while. I don’t know where you’d find anyone like them today.”
The day of decision arrived. Lola and Winona Fallingwater arrived early for the county board of supervisors meeting. Some friends and supporters were already there, anticipating the scheduled vote on a moratorium that would halt the race track.
Inexplicably, the rowdy gang of track proponents that dominated the public hearing was nowhere to be seen.
At the appointed hour, the supervisors took their seats. Chairman Mitch Ryan called the meeting to order. After some preliminary business, the chairman announced that he needed to read a letter that he had received earlier in the afternoon. It was from Pam Jackson on behalf of the Thunder Holler Partners, LLC.
The gist of the letter was that the race track developers had determined the Mulberry Creek site to be inadequate for their proposed motorsports park and that their option to purchase the property would be allowed to expire at the end of the year.
After some discussion of the situation, the board members saw no need to vote on a moratorium.
Given such a dramatic buildup, including the debacle in the Owassee High School gymnasium, the denouement was unexpectedly anticlimactic. The sisters and their friends looked at one another in equal measures of relief and apprehension.
But the threat of a race track next door really was a thing of the past. Lola and Winona returned to the farm with a renewed sense of hope and excitement.
The weeks passed and at last it was the year 2000. The Y2K disasters never materialized, leaving a few people to wonder what they would do with the barrels full of potable water, 50-pound sacks of beans and rice, and enough first-aid supplies to treat Napoleon’s army.
In May of 2000, the first group of kids with autism came to the farm. It was a joyous and rewarding time for everybody who had been involved in making it happen.
Vee Nikopoulos continued to spend his days away from the library pursuing outdoor adventures. He had already scheduled a weekend to go sky-diving.
Daniel Hart was busier than every with his carving and didn’t find much time to search for the long-forgotten archaeological sites of Owassee County.
Woody Landers took the short drive to Owassee State University for a private meeting at the office of President Charles Bouchard. With his ambitious vision for the future of OSU, President Bouchard recognized the benefits of having a go-getter like Woody Landers on board. Over some well-aged Chivas Regal Premium, the two men compared notes. Landers revisited the disastrous handling of the Owassee Motorsports Park fiasco.
“The next time I work with Pam and Dewaine on a project, if there is a next time, you can believe I’ll keep them on a short leash. If they hadn’t gone out of control on us, we’d have that whole valley locked up by now. We’d already heard that some of the neighbors were willing to unload large tracts of land cheap. Just as we expected, all the talk about a race track really got people scared. Besides the two hundred acres for that race track charade, we could have put together almost 1000 acres surrounding it for less than $3,000,000.”
“But you are looking at alternate locations, aren’t you, Woody?”
“Yes, but I’m still sore from missing out on Mulberry Creek. We’ll never find another place to string together that much property that cheap. We could have dozed all that mess at the old dairy farm, put a clubhouse on the knoll, and run the golf course from there onto the race track property. But if we hadn’t pulled the plug on that project when we did, the damned county supervisors might have enacted a high-impact development ordinance, and I didn’t want to take the risk of us getting hamstrung by that.”
“I completely understand the dilemma and I think you did the right thing. But we need to get something in the works to make this community more appealing to the people we want to attract. “Largest Auto Salvage Yard in the Southeast” indeed. The OSU of tomorrow is not the OSU of yesterday. I know you grasp that concept. Far too few people in Owassee County do, even here on campus. I want, I need, to attract the best and the brightest, but there’s not a fit place for them to build homes, not a fit place for them to go out for a nice dinner, within fifty miles of here. I’m counting on you to come through with this. Furthermore, the higher education bond package puts us in line for more than $100,000,000 in new construction. I know you want a piece of that.”
“Absolutely, Mr. President. I’m getting my ducks in a row. I have a contract on some land less than three miles from campus for a quarry. We will be ready. And as far as a classy gated community, I’m talking to a couple of guys from South Carolina who’ve done some successful projects there. They’re working with eight different lenders ready to invest in the right project, in a big way. They’re trying to get Tiger Woods involved in the design of the course, put his name on the course, that is. That would be huge: having Tiger on the marquee.”
“That is gratifying news, and none too soon. I am impressed. Keep in mind that the university would be eager to host a research institute on turf-grass management for golf courses. BASF Chemicals would subsidize it generously if we could get at least one local golf course to buy in: a collaborative partnership between OSU, BASF and your Tiger people is exactly the sort of thing I’m looking for.”
After a couple of drinks, Charles Bouchard was even more forthcoming about his philosophy of higher education.
“Sadly, some of our faculty still thinks we’re running a school here. That, my friend, is antiquated thinking. It is time we embrace a new paradigm in the 21st century. The university must become an integral cog, a driving wheel, in the machinery of American free enterprise. It must be run like any other business, like the complex corporation it is, to deliver our unique product to the customer. And in a profitable manner, so to speak. You will hear a great deal about “Academic Entrepreneurship” in the years ahead. Simply put, I am recruiting net-producers, high-performers, who can conduct the research and development, not to mention a myriad of other consulting services, that the rest of the corporate world demands or, at the very least, what the corporate world will demand, once they recognize our capacity to meet those needs. It is in every sense a win-win for the university and for our partners from private enterprise. And through this synergy, originating on the campus of Owassee State, we will shape the economy of the entire region. No, the university of tomorrow is not the university of yesterday. We can deliver a higher quality of R&D at less cost to business than if they try to conduct it in-house. In return, we will use the infusion of revenue to maintain and expand our programs and build the prestige of the university on the regional, nay, the national level. It is nothing less than a complete re-branding of the OSU product in the global marketplace of knowledge.
“Are you encountering much resistance to your plans?”
“Good God, Landers, this university has more dinosaurs than Jurassic Park. As you might expect, entrenched interests on the faculty cling to the status quo. Thankfully, many of them will be retiring within the next five years. As far as I am concerned, their departures will not come soon enough. In the interim, I have almost doubled the number of faculty committees and task forces. The more I can keep them occupied in pointless and interminable meetings, the less I have to overcome their interference with the real work ahead. Their committee reports cross my desk and I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. In a sense, committee work is like urinating on oneself while wearing black pants: one gets a warm feeling but nobody notices. Nevertheless, out with the old, in with the new. We can, we must, achieve greater efficiencies, like any other business. There is no reason to pay tenured faculty $100,000 a year to teach four to six classes when we can hire adjunct faculty and graduate instructors for $3000 to $5000 per class.”
“I see what you mean. That’s a huge cost difference.”
“And with no discernable erosion of instructional quality. Indeed, our monitoring indicates that the quality of adjuncts is comparable or, in many cases, superior to tenured faculty. Presently, I chair the advisory panel of the Learning Infrastructure Initiative, established by an academic/corporate consortium called Educom. It is no exaggeration to say that LII will revolutionize higher education in the United States. We are engaged in a detailed study of what professors do, breaking the faculty job down in classic Tayloristic fashion into specific tasks, and determining what parts can be automated or outsourced. Educom believes that course design, lectures, and even evaluation can all be standardized, mechanized and consigned to outside commercial vendors. I am thrilled to be a part of it. Landers, I am sharing all this because I recognize that you are a man of vision, a man who does not wait for opportunity to come knocking, but is ahead of the crowd in ferreting out opportunity. You know our Congressman Ray Quigley, Jr?”
“Yes, I do. As a matter of fact I hosted a fund raiser for Little Ray during the 2000 campaign.”
“Excellent. I thought so. Going forward, this university has no better friend than Congressman Quigley, and he, no better friend than the university. Quid pro quo, as I like to say. Little Ray has an inside track with Vice-President Cheney. Consequently, bright days are ahead for defense contractors in our congressional district. With the cooperation of our congressman I have positioned OSU to be the linchpin of this growth. We have already been contracting for research at the tracking station through a classified program with the Department of Defense. The beauty of it is that revenues from these contracts are kept under the radar, so to speak, allowing us to avoid the outrage of knee-jerk liberal professors who take great delight in protesting such partnerships. In the process, we are investing the discrete revenue stream to foster expanded public/private partnerships in conjunction with the DOD. Of course, I expect you to keep that to yourself. I mention it only to let you know that opportunities will be mushrooming over the next several years. You do understand what this means.”
“I can read between the lines and I like it.”
“As we grow the university, we must grow the entire infrastructure that accompanies a university. Consider the tasteful golf course community that we so greatly need as just one rung on the ladder. Climb with me, Landers, all the way to the top. New apartments, condos, commercial and retail development: all of it essential to the future of Owassee State University. This university can get better and better but only if it gets bigger and bigger. And it will get bigger with someone like you on the team. As go the fortunes of Owassee State University, so go your own. Quid pro quo. Are you in?”
Woody Landers raised a glass and vowed, “I’m your man, Dr. Bouchard. Let’s get down to business.”
Daniel Hart returned to the rockhouse campsite for a few days of carving, reading and meditating. For Daniel, streams and rivers spoke of time and timelessness. As he listened to the waterfall, he knew its song began long before he was born and would continue long after he was gone.
Through gaps in the trees, he caught a glimpse of the Owassee River far below. Compared to that old river, the works of men were fleeting things. But he was not prepared for something he read in a commentary on the ancient Vedic texts of India. The Sarasvati River was one river celebrated in the hymns of the Rig Veda:
This stream Sarasvati with fostering current comes forth, our sure defence, our fort of iron.
As on a chariot, the flood flows on, surpassing in majesty and might all other waters.
Pure in her course from mountains to the ocean, alone of streams Sarasvati hath listened.
Thinking of wealth and the great world of creatures, she poured for Nahusa her milk and fatness
A great civilization arose on the fertile, green valley of the Sarasvati. And the same civilization collapsed when the river ceased to flow. The entire lifespan of the Sarasvati was within the realm of human memory. Glaciers had covered the Himalayas during Pleistocene times. When the glaciers melted during the Holocene, beginning 12,000 years ago, the Sarasvati was one of seven divine rivers that came to life, cutting through Rajasthan on its way to the Arabian Sea. But 5000 years ago, tectonic activity and massive landslides blocked the supply of glacial melt, and the river dwindled to oblivion. The once-fertile valley became a barren desert. The thriving culture of the Sarasvati Valley disintegrated and vanished.
Daniel considered the lush green of summer that surrounded him. He listened to the singing of the birds. Then, he tried to imagine this familiar valley without the Owassee River. Could this place, too, become a desert? This was a different perspective for Daniel – to see the river’s existence as something less than permanent, almost as transient as his own. He read from Chatterji’s 1930 book, The Wisdom of the Vedas:
In this mighty living organism that is the Universe there is nothing really dead or absolutely unconscious. On the contrary, like every cell in a living, healthy body, every part and every thing in the universe is alive. What appears as dead and unconscious has the universal life and awareness in it as its innermost core – buried deep and as if in sound, dreamless sleep. There is thus the Being of life, feeling and awareness, even in the most unfeeling stone, as in every single ion, in each electron.
Daniel closed the book and gazed at the valley below, where it seemed that everything was disposable in the pursuit of profit and pleasure. He wondered how much longer this campsite refuge would provide escape from the madness surrounding him.
September 12, 2001
The events of 9/11 affected Owassee County as they affected all of America. The response was swift.
On the day after the attacks, Pam Jackson was in the phone with her suppliers, ordering batches of patriotic t-shirts, ball caps and bumper stickers to sell in her convenience stores.
“’Fear No Evil’? With the flag and an eagle? That sounds good. I’ll take six dozen of those in XXX-Large, four dozen large, one dozen medium. What was that new bumper sticker? ‘If you know how many guns you own, you don’t own enough guns.’ If that's how it goes, I’ll take two hundred of those. And I’ll take a hundred of the ‘9/11 Never Forget Never Forgive’ ball caps.”
At Owassee State University, President Charles Bouchard reached Congressman Ray Quigley, Jr. to remind him that the university was well-positioned to address the terror threat. President Bouchard outlined plans for a symposium on national security. “We must strike while proverbial iron is hot. We are assembling a panel of speakers, experts in the field of intelligence, international affairs and communications technology. Of course, we would want you on the panel as well, Congressman. We would all benefit from the publicity generated by the symposium.”
Meanwhile, at the tracking station, one researcher was more vigilant than ever in her examination of unusual phenomena in the skies over Owassee County. Chinese-born Hi Lo was a woman of prodigious intellectual ability. She was thought to be the only person in the world to have earned doctorates in astrophysics and cell biology by the age of 20. Hi Lo had been conducting advanced, top-secret research on behalf of several government agencies and private corporations for several years. The monitoring equipment connected to the station’s array of satellite dishes and specialized antennae was so sensitive that it was installed forty feet underground to avoid interference from ambient radio waves and other atmospheric radiation. With literally dozens of gauges and screens and digital read-outs displaying great volumes of data, Hi Lo seldom left her workspace far underground. She even slept there so she could study the data between naps.
On September 12, with most air traffic grounded except for military flights and private jets evacuating members of the Saudi royal family, Hi Lo seized the opportunity to examine a much less cluttered sky, free of the usual distractions that made her work even more challenging that it already was.
One of her research projects was contracted by the Air Force, which had reason to believe that some unidentified entity was conducting experiments in a rudimentary type of teleportation. Their concern was that biological agents useful in germ warfare could be deconstructed, so to speak, and beamed via satellite to specific targets where the pathogens would be reconstituted in lethal form.
Eventually, the Air Force declassified a summary of a related research project, “Teleportation Physics Report, AFRL-PR-ED-TR-2003-0034.” However, the content of that report was largely theoretical, and did not hint at the work conducted by Hi Lo at the tracking station in Owassee County. Because she was investigating what appeared to be teleportation originating from unknown, and possibly hostile, sources, her research has remained classified, even to this day.
Daniel dropped by the Stokley Memorial Library to get some tax forms and look for a couple of books. Vasilis Nikopoulos stopped pounding on his computer keyboard and called out, “Danny Boy!”
“Hello, Vee. What’s new with you?”
“Oh, several buddies and I just got back from backpacking in the Smokies. We were inspired by Harry Middleton, a great writer, and went fly-fishing on Hazel Creek. It was incredible, man, incredible.”
“Fly fishing? That sounds a little tame for somebody as adventurous as you.”
Vee scanned the library and lowered his voice. “Do some ‘shrooms first and it becomes more than an adventure. We had a blast!”
“So did you catch your limit?”
“No. Actually, we didn’t catch any,” Vee continued in conspiratorial tones. “But that didn’t bother us in the least. Harry Middleton said that fishing is the simply the best excuse for spending as much time as possible in the mountains. You’ve got to read his book, On the Spine of Time.”
“OK, I will.”
“He talked about hearing bagpipes on hazel Creek. And you know what? We heard them, too.”
“Really? Bagpipes? Why am I not surprised by that?”
“Say, remember that archaeological report I gave you a couple of years ago? Did you ever have any luck finding those places?”
“I’m glad you reminded me. I’ve been meaning to look at that again. One mound was wiped out by the college a long time ago. We already knew that. And I might have just missed the mound on Mulberry Creek. They bulldozed that whole area for the race track before we could check it out. Another one on the list was probably near the tracking station, but access is so tight there. And if there was a mound on Owl Creek, northwest of town, it's been turned into the Largest Auto Salvage Yard in the Southeast. I’m afraid that time has not been kind to our archaeological heritage.”
“But there were other sites on the list, right?”
“Sure. Who knows, something might have survived. I want to look into it again and see if I can come up with anything. I’ll let you know as soon as I do.”
Clayton Thorpe squared up and sent his tee shot rocketing down the middle of the fairway.
Woody Landers shook his head, “Damn, Tonto, you must have had an extra bowl of Wheaties this morning.”
“I feel good today, Woody. Tribal Council met yesterday and we heard a report on the casino revenues. It’s doing well, even better than we expected. We’re just about ready to go ahead with a major expansion – a new hotel tower and a luxury spa on the property.”
“Tell me this, Thorpe. How could a paleface like me get in on some of that action?”
“You want to invest on the rez? I can’t see that happening. That's not how business is done.”
“Hell, my money’s as green as the next guy’s. Hear me out, Thorpe. One of my old friends in Florida was a founding partner of the Universal Studios theme park. He has connections. Remember that movie, American Graffiti?”
“I guess so. Fifties shit?”
“Nostalgia. It’s hot these days. We’ve been talking about doing an American Graffiti theme development. My friend has contacts in Hollywood. He could get us the rights if we decide to do this.”
“American Graffiti, huh? Olivia Newton-John was in that movie, right? Man, she was…”
“No, no, you’re thinking of Grease. We checked on getting the rights to Grease, but they want way too much money. Happy Days. Now, that’s still a possibility if American Graffiti falls through. Either way, it would be a great fit with the reservation.”
“I don’t know. I just can’t see it.”
“Come on, Thorpe. Are you kidding me? Look at what you have down there now. That strip of t-shirt shops and bear zoos makes Pigeon Forge look like frickin’ Vegas. You’re talking about spending all that money on the casino, while everything else on the strip is a dump.”
“Maybe so, but we want to do a facelift on the shops, too.”
“Then this would be ideal. You slap fifties facades on those shops, make it all consistent, with glass bricks, neon lights, you know the look, jukeboxes, poodle skirts. Bring in a bunch of classic cars and park them all over the place. Hell, you have all those chiefs in their war-bonnets posing for pictures with the tourists. Put the chief behind the wheel of a red-and-white ’57 Chevy Bel Air convertible, and tourists would line up to take pictures and leave tips. I know what I’m talking about.”
“Your people need to spice it up if you want to keep selling rubber tomahawks and boiled peanuts. Tourists are more demanding than they used to be.”
“And you’re looking for a piece of the action, right, Woody?”
“Damn right I am. I could build it closer to the university. They’d love it. Bouchard was salivating when I told him about it. But I think it’s a natural for the reservation. Right there where you take the exit from the interstate, we could build a fifties drive-in, carhops on roller skates, the whole nine yards, and then continue that theme all the way to the casino. It would be fantastic. Tourists would eat it up.”
“I tell you what. If you win this round, I’ll run it by council. I can’t promise you anything, but I can do that much. That is, if you win.”
“Thorpe, you’ve got a deal.”
[to be continued]
From The Owasssee Prophecy, copyright 2010, 2011, by E. G. Paine
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