The Owassee Prophecy E-Book, 1-15

Updated 12/31/2010

Chapters 1-15 are on this page.  For 16 and following,
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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.

"When the Yogi has full power over his body
composed of the elements of
earth, water, fire, air, and ether,
then he obtains a new body of spiritual fire
which is beyond illness, old age, and death."
Krishna Yajur Veda,
Svetasvatara Upanishad 2.12

The Prophecy

When it all came to an end that November afternoon, most people were caught by surprise. But as devoted students of history might have known, the signs pointed to this day of reckonming.

An article in the July 1873 issue of the Journal of Antiquities told of a manuscript discovered by a researcher at the Universitat de Barcelona. Dr. Ramón Menéndez had been examining the papers of a solitary Spanish mining expert, Diego Castillo, who spent the better part of the 1580s prospecting for gold and other precious metals in what is now eastern Tennessee. Most of Castillo’s work was confined to the valleys of the Owassee River and its tributaries, an area occupied by the native Anawaya people.

The Castillo diarios were mundane accounts of petty disputes with native leaders, complaints of recurrent bouts of intestinal ailments, veiled references to sexual favors bestowed by Anawaya maidens, and various hypotheses for locating the rich veins of ore he felt certain the Owassee Mountains would yield.

In his article, Dr. Menendez published a translation of one particularly enigmatic entry left by Castillo. Although he would be excluded from the ceremony itself, Castillo witnessed the preparations leading up to the installation of an inscribed stone upon a sacred mound near the forks of the northern and southern branches of the Owassee River. After the ceremony, several Anawaya elders were the only people allowed to enter the small thatched shelter constructed over the stone, so the Spanish prospector never saw it for himself.

However, his friends among the Anawaya did provide a sketchy description of the stone and its meaning. It was, apparently, a large chunk of soapstone, oval in shape and about four feet wide across its longest axis. The markings inscribed on the stone did not resemble any alphabetic characters but were a jumble of symbols, suggesting the sun, the moon, lightning, serpents, etc. Somehow, these chaotic scratchings on the rock revealed a prophecy regarding the future of the Anawaya homeland.

The mound was the seventh, and final, mound constructed during a span of several centuries. The other six mounds outlined a great hexagon many miles across. Lines drawn from the opposite corners of that hexagon crossed at the exact point of the seventh mound and the prophetic stone, marking the geographic and spiritual center of the Anawaya world.

So long as all the mounds were revered and treated with due respect, the Anawaya would enjoy the benefit of an unseen protective force. But, should the sanctity of the mounds be violated, the Anawaya would be subject to ever-increasing hardships. And, if the vile corruption extended to all seven mounds, a terrible day of total destruction would surely follow.

On that day, a great eagle would swoop down from the sky, bringing the light of a hundred suns and the roaring tumult of a thousand tornadoes. The force of its tremendous wings would upend the mountains and send a great wave across the homeland, sweeping away everything in its path.

Dr. Menendez consulted the most able Anawaya scholars of his day to get their insight into the seven mounds, the inscribed stone, and the apocalyptic promise. Neither the prophecy, nor the arrangement of mounds accorded with anything they knew of the Anawaya and so the Castillo account was summarily dismissed. Either Castillo fabricated the tale or, more likely, he was the victim of a tongue-in-cheek hoax perpetrated by his native friends.

Lacking any support from the academies, the minor excitement stirred by the Menendez article and the Castillo manuscript soon faded away. By the turn of the twenty-first century, the Owassee prophecy was forgotten by all but the occasional curious scholar perusing dusty volumes of the Journal of Antiquities.

Chapter One

November 2011


On a warm and breezy autumn afternoon a large crowd assembled at the steps of the Owassee County Courthouse. All up and down both sides of West River Street the flags flew for Veterans Day. Four-year-old Madison Worley was wowing the audience with her rendition of "God Bless the USA." She was cute as a button, but people found it a bit disconcerting to hear that foghorn of a voice emerging from such a cherubic face.

Behind the flag-festooned stage, Pam Jackson huddled with some cronies, and finished telling one of her signature filthy jokes, so full of sexual, scatological and racist references it would make a sailor blush. After delivering the punch line, she flipped the stub of her cigarette aside and waited for little Madison Worley to belt out the last lines of the song:

And I gladly stand up next to you
and defend her still today,
'Cause there ain't no doubt I love this land
God Bless the U.S.A.

One year before, Jackson had led a successful ouster of the county board of supervisors. From senator all the way to dogcatcher, it was a year the voters demanded change. During the campaign, Jackson promised to “let business do business.” In her case, business was a chain of convenience stores scattered across several counties. Nobody had to tell her that people were sick and tired. She knew.

It didn’t help matters that a bunch of environmentalists had stalled the permit process on some major construction projects. The local university was eager to complete a gigantic bridge across the North Fork of the Owassee, at the new main entrance to the campus. The university president called it the “Bridge to the Future” and in the artist’s rendering it looked like a scaled-down replica of the landmark Ravenel Bridge in Charleston, South Carolina.

Downriver a few miles, several old farms had been condemned to expand the jetport adjacent to the Anawaya Casino and Resort. The bridge, the jetport, and a bunch of other projects had been idled for way too long. But this was why Jackson ran. Government needed to get out of the way. And the sooner ground broke on those projects, the sooner people could get back to work. Her campaign slogan, short and sweet, struck a chord with the electorate:


A year after the election, you still saw the bumper stickers on half the cars in town. At every stoplight you'd be reminded:


A few months after taking office, the new supervisors brushed aside the last obstacles holding up the construction projects, much to the chagrin of the tree-huggers who had called Jackson’s victory an uprising of the militantly ignorant. Thanks in no small part to Pam Jackson, every bulldozer in Owassee County was pushing dirt again. Dammit, she was glad to stand up and defend the land she loved. God bless the USA!

Jackson strode defiantly to the podium and prepared to introduce the featured speaker. Marvin York was born and raised in Owassee County, veteran of the Korean War and third cousin to Tennessee’s legendary Sergeant Alvin York. Marvin sustained a war injury, but not in the heat of battle. Truth is, one evening in camp, the lanky young soldier was showing off, juggling what he thought were dummy grenades. He was mistaken. Marvin York lost his right arm in Korea, but none of his swagger. Marvin York was full of piss and vinegar and he could still fire up any gathering of patriots. He was smacking his lips, chomping at the bit to tell these people a thing or two and wake a slumbering nation before it was too late.

The ovation for little Madison subsided. Pam Jackson was about to greet the audience. But just then...she noticed odd shadows on the distant mountains.

Woody and Clayton

Meanwhile, down at the Owassee Hills Country Club, the tension was thick as two men prepared to play the final hole of some high stakes golf. Woody Landers was a big-time developer who’d made his fortune in Florida and never stopped to rest after he moved to Tennessee in 1995. The locals loved to say that Woody Landers was “swimming in shitloads of cash.” He very quickly earned a reputation as the most ambitious man anyone had ever seen in Owassee, which was saying a lot. Among his many projects, Landers had a replica of Dodge City on the drawing board, a tourist trap to help fill up those new hotels he was building.

Clayton Thorpe, a member of the Anawaya tribe, was six foot three, and even at the age of 71 he stood straight as an arrow. Back in the early 60s, he’d spent a couple of years in Hollywood playing bit parts on TV westerns. He was in the habit of over-dressing for every occasion. Those who knew his tics could catch Thorpe stealing glimpses of himself in any available mirror. The snickers never bothered him, though, and he wasn’t about to stop treating himself to a facial and a manicure every couple of weeks.

While firmly ensconced on the Tribal Council, Thorpe had diverted millions of federal dollars to various businesses run by his relatives. The way he saw things it was just a drop in the bucket toward making up for what the white man had robbed from the Anawaya people. Thorpe was out to right old wrongs, and he knew that a seat on the state roads board was one way to exact his form of vengeance. When he secured the seat by contributing $175,000 to the re-election campaign of the Tennessee governor, it turned out to be the best investment he’d ever made.

Thorpe stepped to the 18th tee and Landers taunted him, "Steady now, Tonto, don’t forget our agreement. If I win, you promised to run that new four-lane right past Dodge City. If I lose, you’ll get the deed to that riverfront lot you’ve begged for. But this is not your day, Tonto."

It was on this same golf course that Landers had won a similar wager to get a highway interchange tied in to his rock crusher. This was the sport he loved. The mere game of golf was not enough to hold his interest unless something big was on the line.

Thorpe simply shrugged, squared his shoulders and drove a shot straight down the fairway. As the golfers traced the ball's flight, the sun became so bright...they had to avert their stares.

Dr. Bouchard

Over at Owassee State University, Dr. Charles Bouchard was unwinding in the President’s Residence. He had worked hard to transform the college since taking the helm almost two decades before. Back then, "Podunk U" was a weak link in the Tennessee higher education system. Bouchard had pushed it, screaming and kicking, into the modern world. And he pushed just as hard to make the trustees provide a residence befitting a man of his station. They came through with an opulent new mansion on a hill overlooking the campus.

Bouchard was a man of regal taste and prodigious appetites, savoring the finer things in life. The president was a connoisseur of French cuisine, had a cellar full of vintage wines and adorned every wall of the mansion with his collection of contemporary art.

He rewarded his intense work ethic with an equally intense pursuit of pleasure and that was his intention for the afternoon. He had submerged his 330-pound girth into the hot-tub, and there was still plenty of room for his latest mistress, a lithe young professor from the school of business. Just as she slipped off her robe and joined him, his cell phone chirped. He paused, resisting the interruption, and then relented.

"President Bouchard," he answered smoothly.

He listened to the voice on the other end and a sly smile came over his face. "That is delightful news, indeed. As Owassee State University assumes a greater role in transforming the region, we recognize our responsibility to provide this unique opportunity for the leaders of tomorrow. I thank you again.”

After the call, he switched off the phone. "My dear, that was the Ayn Rand Institute. Since we’re the first university in the nation to offer a major in Objectivism, we shall receive the prestigious John Galt Prize at their annual convention. I’d say this calls for a celebration. If you please,” Bouchard pointed to a piece of modernistic furniture, “second drawer from the top."

With a lascivious nod, he admired the sleek curves of his companion as she retrieved a mirror and a small vial from the drawer. First one line. And another. And then Bouchard slumped back, sighed, and announced, “Life is gooooood."

At that moment, they felt a shaking…and watched the collection of contemporary art tumbling from the walls of the mansion.

As their lives replayed before them, Pam Jackson, Woody Landers, Clayton Thorpe and Dr. Charles Bouchard each flashed back on their grandiose plans for Owassee County. They never imagined their schemes would lead to this.

Chapter Two

April 1999

Daniel Hart listened to the ticking of the clock on his mantel, the very same clock that had kept time for his grandparents. When he was a little boy spending the night at their house, he'd hear that ticking while he drifted off to sleep.

"Well," he thought, "even if all the dire predictions about Y2K come to pass, this old Seth Thomas won't miss a beat."

Daniel closed the door of his sparsely furnished cabin, sat down on the front steps and retied the laces of his boots. He stood, checked the sky for rain clouds, stretched, grabbed his favorite walking stick and followed a well-worn path leading through the woods behind the house.

For almost three miles, the trail snaked up the side of the mountain toward the Tower, a natural rock formation overlooking a vast stretch of the valley, all the way from Owassee State University to the Anawaya Reservation.

Along the trail, he observed the many signs of spring's arrival. Some were as humble as the tiny white blooms of the trailing arbutus, barely visible in the forest duff. Others, like the clusters of painted trillium, were more extravagant.

An hour after leaving the house, he scrambled up the Tower to a familiar vantage point. He examined the patches of soft green spreading from the river toward the ridge tops. Daniel had been coming here for as long as he could remember. He considered the changes he had witnessed with the passage of thirty years. From the Tower, the works of men used to appear small and insignificant. Over time, development crept across more and more of the valley. In the 1990s, the process had been accelerating wildly. Every time he came up here, there was some new blotch on the landscape, whether it was a big box store near the river or a golf course stuck on the side of a mountain.

With each visit, the tranquility he'd always found in this place was harder to come by, stolen by the inescapable progress of the valley. He figured a Y2K catastrophe might not be such a bad thing. Maybe it would force people to get back to basics and away from the commercialism overtaking Owassee County.

He was better situated than most to survive the collapse of modern infrastructure. His home was supplied with gravity-flow spring water, he had plenty of wood for the stove, and he was already in the habit of foraging fresh food from the forest surrounding his place.

He imagined the raw sores on the land beginning to heal, becoming verdant once again. He pictured the valley as it must have looked when John Muir came through on his thousand-mile walk to the Gulf in 1867. Daniel had just read the book with Muir’s description of highway robbers in the valley:

[September 11] I saw at once that it was useless to attempt to avoid them, for the ground thereabout was quite open. I knew that there was nothing for it but to face them fearlessly, without showing the slightest suspicion of foul play. Therefore, without halting even for a moment, I advanced rapidly with long strides as though I intended to walk through the midst of them. When I got within a rod or so I looked up in their faces and smilingly bade them "Howdy." Stopping never an instant, I turned to one side and walked around them to get on the road again, and kept on without venturing to look back or to betray the slightest fear of being robbed.

After I had gone about one hundred or one hundred and fifty yards, I ventured a quick glance back, without stopping, and saw in this flash of an eye that all the ten had turned their horses toward me and were evidently talking about me; supposedly, with reference to what my object was, where I was going, and whether it would be worth while to rob me. They all were mounted on rather scrawny horses, and all wore long hair hanging down on their shoulders. Evidently they belonged to the most irreclaimable of the guerrilla bands who, long accustomed to plunder, deplored the coming of peace. I was not followed, however, probably because the plants projecting from my plant press made them believe that I was a poor herb doctor, a common occupation in these mountain regions.

Now, the same trail traveled by the wary Scotsman had become a four-lane highway clogged with traffic. Seen from the Tower, though, the cars and semis in the far distance were tiny glittering baubles, as innocuous as beads on a string.

Chapter Three

He could shatter anyone’s staid notions of a librarian.

He was big. He was loud. An outdoor sports guy. Not one to fade into the ornate woodwork of the Stokley Memorial Public Library.

The first time he’d meet you it was, “Nikopoulos, Visilis Nikopoulos, but you can call me Vee.”

One evening at the library, Vee was pounding away on a computer keyboard when he saw a familiar face at the entrance. The library patron, books in hand, was a highly accomplished wood carver, whose works were making their way into museums all across the United States.

Vee launched into an off-key song of welcome, “Oh Danny Boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling."

The carver winced, “Shush, Vee, this is supposed to be a library.”

Vee scanned the titles of the books that Daniel Hart brought back, “So how was the merchandise? The Thousand Mile Walk? Let’s hear a review.”

Daniel was still picturing John Muir and his encounter with the highway robbers. “I don’t know. The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

“Hmmm. You call that a review? What else...Autobiography of a Yogi?”

“I’ll need to renew that. It’s a long book.”

“I figured you’d already found your guru on the mountaintop, as much time as you spend in the woods.”

Daniel was known for leaving home on a moment's notice and staying out in the woods for three or four days at a time, beyond the end of the trail. “Sometimes I just need a quiet place to get recharged.”

“Seems like you’d get enough quiet at that cabin of yours. Are you turning your back on civilization, Danny?”

"I’m trying,” Daniel chuckled. “Say, is the library ready for Y2K? Think your computers can handle it?”

“We’ll find out soon. We’d better hope so, since the old card catalog is gone, but I think we’re alright. Need some bookmarks?” Vee pointed to a stack of cards on the desk, “There’s what’s left of the catalog.”

“Have you been on any of your adventures lately, Vee?”

“I have. I spent last weekend hanging out with the biologists, mapping old growth forest.”

“Really? Where was that, Citico Creek? Slick Rock?

“No. Obed River Gorge, up at Big South Fork.”

“I didn’t know of much old growth there.”

“On the face of the rock cliffs. It’s a whole different ecosystem on those cliffs. One of the only places you’ll find northern white cedar this far south. The trees are stunted, but they’re ancient. One was almost six hundred years old, but only a few feet tall. Three of us climbers went to help the biologists rappel down the rock face to see what’s really there. It is a new frontier for them.”

“Those are some high cliffs. You must have been three hundred feet above the river.”

“That’s right! Just us and the peregrines. Incredible, man, incredible.”

“Uh-huh. It sounds fantastic, but I’ll pass on the rock-climbing.” Daniel checked his watch, “I know the library’s about to close. I need to renew this.” Paramahansa Yogananda gazed serenely from the cover of the book as it slid across the circulation desk.

“There you go. That’ll be due May 4th. The next time you’re here, I have a box of old photos we just received and I need some help identifying the scenes. You know this place like the back of your hand. You could tell me where the pictures were taken.”

“OK, I’ll try. And if I can’t tell you, I’ll find someone who can. Maybe next week?”

“I’ll be here. Oh...I almost forgot. We’re having a special program at the library next month…here's a flyer. Hope you can make it.”

After he got back home, Daniel unfolded the page:

The Quantum Shift
Personal and Planetary Transformation in the New Millennium
An Evening with Winona Fallingwater
Author of the best-seller “Echoes of Our Mothers
Stokley Library
Owassee, TN
7:30 PM - Thursday, May 20, 1999

Chapter Four

When Daniel was working with wood, he lost all sense of time. Stepping back from the workbench, he was surprised to see the sun dropping so low in the west. Normally, he would start early and finish early, but not today. A run to Rob Seiler’s sawmill had interrupted his usual schedule. Rob set aside any chunks of wood he thought a carver could use, pieces he couldn’t mill. Daniel came away from the sawmill with a pickup load of black walnut, butternut, buckeye, and more.

Back home, he took a long time studying each piece – viewing it from every angle. If he had a secret to his artistry it was this: he could look at a rough piece of wood and see what was hidden within. His most successful carvings came when he yielded his own ideas and allowed the wood to instruct him. The carvings were not simply likenesses in wood. They possessed life. Daniel heard as much from people who admired his carvings: “That heron looks like it’s about to open its wings and fly,” they’d exclaim, or “If I didn’t know better, I’d think that frog was watching me. How do you do that?”

He would respond with a modest smile and think about Michelangelo’s statement, “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.”

Of course, Daniel made crucial decisions as he carved but he tried to stay true to the will of the wood. Each carving was a collaboration between the raw material (albeit raw material imbued with some unfathomable essence) and his own vision and experience. Sometimes, he could see right away what the wood wanted to be. Other times, he needed months to discern the latent form, waiting to be set free. The most important work came before, rather than after, he picked up a knife.

Daniel took a minute to straighten up his workbench, then shut the studio door and stepped into the kitchen. He still had vegetable soup left over from the night before. He mixed some cornbread batter and poured it into a cast-iron skillet. While that baked he went out under the fading light of day and found enough wild greens for a salad.

When everything was ready to eat, he took the food to the front porch and watched the sky go dark. It was comfortable outside, so he waited for the appearance of Mars, the red planet on the eastern horizon. He saw the dim lights of stars forming in the dark sky: tiny specks, hundreds of light years away.

Eventually, he went back inside and found his library book. He still wasn’t sure why he’d checked out Autobiography of a Yogi. Something about Yogananda’s Mona Lisa smile had drawn him to the book, and it was turning out to be pretty good. Once he started reading, he wanted to find out what happened next, although there were times he had to shut the book and absorb what he had just read. Tonight, he encountered another one of those passages, where Lahiri Mahasaya was initiated into Kriya Yoga:

“The rites were completed in the early dawn. I felt no need for sleep in my ecstatic state, and wandered around the palace, filled on all sides with treasures and priceless objets d'art. Descending to the gorgeous gardens, I noticed, near-by, the same caves and barren mountain ledges which yesterday had boasted no adjacency to palace or flowered terrace.

"Reentering the palace, fabulously glistening in the cold Himalayan sunlight, I sought the presence of my master. He was still enthroned, surrounded by many quiet disciples.

"'Lahiri, you are hungry.' Babaji added, 'Close your eyes.'

"When I reopened them, the enchanting palace and its picturesque gardens had disappeared. My own body and the forms of Babaji and the cluster of chelas were all now seated on the bare ground at the exact site of the vanished palace, not far from the sunlit entrances of the rocky grottos. I recalled that my guide had remarked that the palace would be dematerialized, its captive atoms released into the thought-essence from which it had sprung. Although stunned, I looked trustingly at my guru. I knew not what to expect next on this day of miracles.

"'The purpose for which the palace was created has now been served,' Babaji explained. He lifted an earthen vessel from the ground. 'Put your hand there and receive whatever food you desire.'

Daniel re-read the page and then put the Autobiography back on the table. Feeling drowsy, he retired to bed, but it was a long restless time before he could fall asleep.

Chapter Five

For all her success, Winona Fallingwater was ready to escape the treadmill that her career had become. Her life changed overnight when “Echoes of Our Mothers’ was featured by Oprah’s Book Club. The inspirational, yet practical, guide for living drew from many wisdom traditions including Winona’s own Anawaya heritage.

Within a month after Oprah announced its selection, “Echoes of Our Mothers” had sold almost 300,000 copies, and Winona was set to headline conferences alongside speakers like Wayne Dyer and Eckhart Tolle. With her flowing silk dresses and turquoise jewelry she looked the part of a New Age Diva, but the role didn’t suit her. The metaphysical circuit didn’t necessarily provide respite from malignant egos, broken marriages and addictions of all stripes. After three years of travel, interviews and book deals, she had come back to Owassee.

Twenty years earlier, Winona’s older sisters were on the verge of fame themselves. Lola, Tallulah and Delilah Fallingwater formed a singing trio called LTD and recorded a well-received album in Nashville, but a contract dispute and creative differences derailed the act before it took off.

Winona was happy to be back home for a while. One afternoon she went into town to run some errands, and was walking along River Street, where the weeping cherries line the sidewalk. Every spring breeze that brushed the trees stirred a blizzard of pink petals. Captivated by the beauty of the moment, she almost failed to notice a man approaching her on the sidewalk.

A quizzical look came upon his face as they passed. Then he turned and called out, “Excuse me, aren’t you Winona Fallingwater?”

“Yes, I am.”

“Well, I thought so. I’m Daniel Hart and I was in high school with your sister, Lola.”

“I remember you now. You came to our house a couple of times before we moved to Chattanooga.”

“So congratulations on your books. You’re quite a world traveler these days. How do you find time for Owassee?”

“For now I’m on sabbatical. Lola has come back here, too. She’s determined to establish a therapeutic equestrian camp. And I’ve agreed to help her.”

“Have you found a location for it?”

“She bought what was left of the old Charlie Craddock dairy farm, out on Mulberry Creek.”

“I know that place well. It was in rough shape the last time I saw it.”

“It still is. We have our work cut out for us. But, please, drop by and inspect what we’ve done so far. I’m sure Lola would love to see you.”

Chapter Six

Daniel braced himself for the inevitable as he walked into the Stokley Memorial Public Library.

The off-key baritone of Vee Nikopoulos reverberated through the building, “Oh, Danny Boy…”

He raised an index finger to his lips and shook his head “no” in a futile attempt to silence the librarian. Then he interrupted the musical greeting by asking, “Had any big adventures lately, Vee?”

“Just Saturday, several of us took our kayaks to the Ocoee. They were releasing water from the Number 3 dam and the river was running strong. A wild ride. Incredible, man, incredible.”

“Best of all, you lived to tell about it.”

“Hey! Those old photos I told you about – they’re back in the work room if you have time to look.”

“Sure. How did you get these photos?”

“One of our board members snagged two boxes of them at a yard sale for almost nothing, and thought we should have them.” Vee pointed to a table covered with stacks of old photos, some bearing sticky notes with captions scribbled in pencil.

“Quite a collection! It looks like most of these are from the 1920s? The 1930s?”

“That’s my guess. We’ve started sorting them. Here are pictures of old buildings around town, shots of the river, a logging train and a lumber mill…”

“This is some good stuff.” Daniel was flipping through the stacks of photos, “Wait a minute. Would you look at that? It was definitely taken here. On that ridge in the background you can see the Tower. There’s no mistaking that.” The photograph showed an open field with a slight rise of earth in the foreground. Off to one side, two men with shovels stood knee-deep in a square pit. At the center of the photo, a dark-eyed man with a handlebar mustache and a long overcoat was facing the camera. Beside him was a large, egg-shaped rock. When Daniel squinted through the magnifying glass he could see distinctive markings on the stone. “How about that.”

“Do you recognize it?”

“I’d always heard rumors, but I’d never seen it before. This must be the mound that was in the way of some dormitories the college was planning to build in the 1920s.”

“I didn’t know we had any mounds around here.”

“I understand. It’s odd how the archaeology of this valley has been wiped out and forgotten, even with the Anawaya still here. You can blame it on one weird turn after another. I’ve heard stories. Back in the 1880s, the Valentine brothers came here from Richmond, Virginia. They traveled all through the South looking for old mounds and artifacts. They didn’t observe any archaeological protocol. They were just collecting objects – pots, stone tools, beads, skulls – to take back to their museum. The Valentines could only do so much themselves, so they started paying bounties for artifacts brought to their agent here.”

“So, lots of pieces got hauled away from Owassee.”

“That’s not the half of it. People liked the money they got for arrowheads and carved stone pipes. They figured, ‘If the Valentines want to buy this stuff, we’ll sell them all they want.’ And some folks got really good at counterfeiting ancient artifacts. They were pretty sophisticated in how they aged the pieces to make them look authentic, or at least authentic enough to convince the purchasing agent.”

“What a scam!”

“When the Valentines finally caught on, it tainted the identification of everything that had been taken from here. The Smithsonian published a report about the fake artifacts and it caused quite a stir. After all that, archaeologists steered clear of the Owassee Valley for a long time. Of course, farmers would turn up arrowheads on their fields all the time, but the professionals didn’t pay much attention to what was still here, after the Valentines had plundered some of the best sites.”

Vee picked up the photo of the man and the rock, “But what about this?”

“That’s a strange story, too, what I know of it. Around 1920, the college was getting ready to construct a bunch of new buildings. About the same time, a man showed up from the Museum of Natural History in New York. He offered to conduct some salvage excavations before the new buildings went up. He even convinced the college to assign students to help with the digs, and they got to work on the bottomlands next to the North Fork.”

“Did they turn up much?”

“Hard to say. They’d gotten pretty far along when the rain started…it was about this time of year. They got heavy spring rains for almost a week. The river flooded and everything they’d started in that field got washed away. After the flood, nobody saw the archaeologist again. Supposedly, he’d been diddling the dean’s wife. Some people were convinced that when the dean found out, he murdered him and tossed his body in the floodwaters. Other people think he skipped town before the dean got hold of him. When the college contacted the Museum of Natural History, they said they’d never heard of him. The whole situation was such an embarrassment that the college tried to act like it never happened. You won’t find it written up in “The History of Owassee County,” that’s for sure.”

Vee pointed to the man in the overcoat, “So for all we know, that’s the guy.”

“Quite possibly. I’ve told you just about everything I heard about it growing up. The rumor was that some mysterious inscribed rock had been uncovered on campus during all that. But I had my doubts. I never talked to anyone who had actually seen it. I never saw a picture of it.”

“Until now?” The librarian took the magnifying glass and studied the photo. “Danny Boy, I think we found your stone.”

Chapter Seven

Pam Jackson would forgive you for calling her “The Pig Lady.” Especially now that her office was full of pigs. She’d run out of room at home.

Pam collected pigs of all kinds and pigs of all sizes. Porcelain pigs and crocheted pigs. Pig pillows and pig salt-and-pepper shakers. Piggy-bank pigs and BBQ pigs. Pig coffee mugs and pig ashtrays. Porky Pig and Miss Piggy.

Dewaine Dewitt almost knocked over a cut-glass pig when he got up and opened the door to leave Pam’s smoke-filled office. “Okay, Darlin’, huh huh huh,” his wheezy laugh turned into a phlegm-rattling coughing attack. He recovered and vowed, “I’ll jump on it like a duck on a junebug. Now, you heard what I told you: Leonard worked for Darrell Waltrip for years and years, and he knows everybody in the business. We get Leonard on board and we’ll do this thing right.”

Dewaine’s claim to fame came from owning and operating “The Largest Auto Salvage Yard in the Southeast.” A string of gaudy billboards reminded you of it constantly. And he had diversified into HUD trailers after one of his bass-fishing buddies, Bradley Ogle, landed a job as public housing director for Owassee County.

Brad promised him, “Uncle Sam’ll send you a rent check every month, guaranteed, $400 a trailer. They have some minimum hability standards, but don’t you worry about that. You get them trailers set up and I’ll make sure they pass inspection.”

He started hauling in broken down single-wides and cramming them onto any open land he could buy cheap. Brad would issue HUD vouchers to people who qualified. They’d move into one of Dewaine’s trailers, and the federal government would pay the rent, in full, on time. Why, it wasn’t long before he was grossing almost $65,000 a month.

But one day, the empire almost came crashing down. First, the sheriff had raided a meth lab in one of the trailer parks. Then, Brad found out that Dewaine had turned around and moved a single mom with three rug rats and a HUD voucher into that very trailer, just two days after the former tenants had been dragged off to jail.

Brad read him the riot act. “When they cook that shit, it gets all over the upholstery and the walls and the carpet. It’s poison. Bad stuff. You can’t stick that girl and her babies in there. You need to bring in a haz-mat team to deconaminate it like it orter be.”

“Haz-mat? HAZ-mat? What do you mean, HAZ-MAT?” came the raspy bellow. “How much you reckon that’d cost? Here I’ve gone and spent my money to get all this mess set up and you’re startin’ in’ to nit-pickin’ me. Ain’t nothin’ wrong with the trailer. You set on your ass in that office of yours in the courthouse and you think it gives you the right to act like some little tinhorn dictator tryin’ to push me around tellin’ me how to run my business like you know anything about it well you can just take that trailer and shove it…”

Brad endured the escalating tirade for ten more minutes. He got an earful about all the damned Government Employees, Democrats, Women, Blacks, Native Americans, Hispanics, Arabs, Jews and Yankees. Brad gave up trying to explain anything and went back to his office in the courthouse.

Once he had a little time to consider the situation, Dewaine knew he had to do the right thing. The next day, he moved the mom and her brood into another trailer and rented out the onetime meth lab to six Mexicans, cash only, no HUD. It was enough to get Brad off his back. And nobody expressed any objections to the arrangement.

He could always figure an angle. If you were looking for good workers cheap, he could fix you right up. Just be ready to pay cash, to Dewaine, at the end of the day and he’d settle up with the labor…after a cut for himself.

People always gossiped about Dewaine Dewitt and Pam Jackson but there was nothing going on between them. In her high heels, too-tight blue jeans, lacy white blouse, teased-out jet black hair and flashy Nascar jacket, she invited exactly the kind of flirting that Dewaine was good for. It didn’t mean a damned thing.

Chapter Eight

"If you go around the world and listen to the keepers of ancient wisdom, they will tell you this: the signs all point to the days in which we live as a time of great change, unlike any other time in human history. If you look at what’s happening around you, if read the newspapers or watch the news, then you know this to be true. We will face great challenges that could destroy us. The tides of war, pollution, and poverty are on the rise. But the mystics and seers of old looked ahead to these days with the knowledge that every crisis presents an opportunity. For those brave ones among you who choose to face the future with clear vision, the new millennium offers you the chance to attain your full potential.”

Daniel glanced around the crowded auditorium and saw many of his neighbors nodding in agreement with Winona Fallingwater. He had not read her book, yet, but he was curious enough to come down from the cabin and see what the buzz was all about.

Winona talked about the Aquarian Age. She talked about a tumultuous period of transition for the planet and humanity. And she challenged her listeners to embrace the process of transformation in their lives.

At first, it was all a bit much for Daniel, Winona’s amorphous exhortations to her minions. He tried to keep an open mind, though, and as she peppered her lecture with references from anthropology, mythology, poetry and science, he found himself listening closer.

She quoted the nuclear physicist Robert Oppenheimer:

“The general notions about human understanding… which are illustrated by discoveries in atomic physics are not in the nature of things wholly unfamiliar, wholly unheard of or new. Even in our own culture they have a history, and in Buddhist and Hindu thought a more considerable and central place. What we shall find [in modern physics] is an exemplification, an encouragement, and a refinement of old wisdom."

She spoke about the reality beyond the reality we perceive with our senses. In our narrow view of things we see a world composed of earth, air, fire and water, but there is a fifth essence, the quintessence, the ether that pervades all and is the unifying factor of all creation. Winona shared a passage from “The Life of Apollonius of Tyana" written by Philostratus in 220AD:

And they allowed Apollonius to ask questions; and he asked them of what they thought the cosmos was composed; but they replied:

"Of elements."

"Are there then four" he asked.

"Not four," said Iarchas, "but five."

"And how can there be a fifth," said Apollonius, "alongside of water and air and earth and fire ?"

"There is the ether", replied the other, "which we must regard as the stuff of which gods are made; for just as all mortal creatures inhale the air, so do immortal and divine natures inhale the ether."

Apollonius again asked which was the first of the elements, and Iarchas answered:

"All are simultaneous, for a living creature is not born bit by bit."

"Am I," said Apollonius, "to regard the universe as a living creature?"

"Yes," said the other, "if you have a sound knowledge of it, for it engenders all living things."
Winona talked about quantum physics and how the discoveries of modern science had confirmed much of what the ancients had said about our existence in the universe and the illusory nature of the material world.

“Consider the wooden armrest that separates your seat in this auditorium from the person next to you. That piece of wood feels solid, but what is it…actually? If you were to look at the wood under a microscope you could the fibers of cellulose. If you had a microscope with enough power, you could observe the individual cellulose molecules and the atoms that make up those molecules. If you could zoom in to the subatomic level. You would see 99.9999 percent empty space with only a tiny fraction of pure energy in the form of subatomic particles. Scaled to size, the electrons are farther from the nucleus of the atom than the earth is from the sun. Those bits of energy, in a dance of Chaos and Order, define the atoms that define the molecules that define the cells that define the wood – the wood that we perceive as solid, at least in our old way of thinking. That seemingly solid piece of wood is, in fact, mostly nothing - except for the vibrational energy that holds it all together.

“When you go out tonight look into the sky and consider the stars. Think of the vast distances, hundreds of light years of empty space, between the stars, between the galaxies. You are looking at a macro-model of the subatomic structure that lies within everything we perceive as matter.

“On the brink of a new millennium, we are dwellers on the threshold, between the seen and the unseen. As a human being you are a place where the invisible becomes visible. Teilhard de Chardin put it this way: “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience, but spiritual beings having a human experience.”

“As we move forward into the future, we can shed our illusions, our old ways of thinking, and attain the higher consciousness that is our birthright and our destiny.

Daniel considered what he had just heard from Winona. For someone who made his living from carving wood, it was something to think about.

Chapter Nine

One afternoon in late May, Daniel drove to Mulberry Creek to pick up a flat of heirloom tomato plants that a green-thumbed friend had offered him. Now, he could start counting the days until the first homegrown tomato sandwich, one of summer’s sublime pleasures.

He was curious to see what was happening on the old Charlie Craddock dairy farm and it was only another mile-and-a-half up Mulberry Creek Road, so he decided to drive past before going back home.

Although the long-abandoned farm still looked ragged, he could see that some work had been underway. For the first time in a long time, the fences were free of tangled, choking vines. The lower pasture was no longer dotted with multiflora rose. And the big barn sported fresh boards and a newly painted roof. When he neared the entrance to the farm, he saw a woman setting out flowers at the base of a small sign.

He pulled into the driveway and got out of the truck.

“Hi, Lola. Winona said I’d find you out here.”

“Hello, stranger. It’s been a long time.”

“I didn’t even know you had moved back to Owassee. How have you been?”

“I feel like I’ve jumped into the deep end of the pool. We have a big group of volunteers coming out tomorrow to work on the barn and I want to make sure they can find us.”

“So what possessed you to take on this old farm?”

“That’s a long story. Are you sure you have the time?”

“Of course I do.”

“Then come on up to the house. You look like you could use a glass of iced tea.”

They sat on the porch and caught up on what had happened in their lives. Lola talked about some rocky years, a brief marriage, a difficult divorce and then a return to school in Georgia where she started working with kids. Lola spent five years on a therapeutic equestrian center for young people with autism. Then she thought it was time to come back to Owassee to start something similar.

“Winona got excited about it, too. The stars aligned to make this happen here. We already have six horses in the upper pasture and we’re remodeling some of the old outbuildings as bunkhouses. By this time next year, we should be up and running.”

“I went to hear Winona at the library last week. I admit I haven’t read her books yet, but I enjoyed her lecture.”

“Winona has a gift, alright. She’s trying to slow down, though, and she really needs to. But she’s in Knoxville today, meeting with her agent about a new DVD.”

“This is a fine thing you’re doing here. I’m sure Charlie Craddock would be pleased, if he were still with us.”

“Danny, are you OK? You’ve been rubbing your eyes.”

“Oh, have I? If I’m a little bleary, it’s just that I haven’t been sleeping well lately. I don’t know why.”

“I can tell you exactly what you need for that. Do you know the wild plant, skullcap?

“Sure I do. There’s some growing near my cabin.”

“Good. Take the leaves and steep them in hot water to make a tea. Drink a cup of warm skullcap tea before bedtime and you’ll sleep well.”

“And where did you pick up that valuable prescription?”

“That was a favorite remedy from my grandmother - my mother’s mother. She was an herb doctor. Some of the Anawaya wisdom survives,” Lola laughed, “although you wouldn’t know it from the Anawaya Casino and the all those souvenir shops.”

“No, but that’s progress. I’m surprised you recognized the valley when you came back.” He glanced at his watch, “I’d better go now. I know you have to get ready for tomorrow, and I have tomato plants to put in the ground. I’ll bring you some tomatoes when they get ripe! Good to see you again, Lola. Best of luck with this place.”

Chapter Ten

Daniel took off for the woods again. His destination was up the mountain about five miles from his cabin, next to an unnamed waterfall surrounded by a laurel thicket. Few people knew about the place because it was far from any of the well-worn forest service trails. On previous trips, he had cut a discrete discreet trail through the thicket, commencing at a point that most people walk right past. The place was his own secret and he intended to keep it that way.

As he hiked up the mountain, Daniel saw that it would be a good year for blueberries. The fruit was still green, but the plants were loaded with berries. He would be sure to return when they ripened. By mid-morning, he arrived at what had become his favorite campsite. It was what the old-timers called a “rockhouse,” a large overhanging rock that created a sheltered space as much as twenty feet high and running for almost 100 feet along the face of the mountain. A small stream plunged over the edge of the overhang, fanning out to form an elegant waterfall.

At the opposite end of the long rockhouse, a sheltered flat spot about ten feet wide offered a tremendous view of the Owassee valley. On this terrace, he could work or read or sleep in comfort, protected from any sudden showers.

A couple of months earlier, he has stashed a pile of kindling in the dry, but since the day was clear he gathered more wood to supplement what he’d already collected. A campfire was good for cooking supper and even better for providing companionship to a solitary camper.

He felt at home here, more so than any place he knew. In the past ten years he had lost his grandmother (the last of her generation), he had lost his parent, and he had lost several aunts and uncles he had been close to. He thought about the times his family had been together, and how he would never return to that place of love and comfort and acceptance, except in memory.

Life was different now. He thought about Michelangelo’s explanation, “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.” He imagined his own life as a block of stone. Was there an angel, or anything, waiting to be freed? But envisioning what could emerge from the raw material of his own life was more difficult, much more difficult, than seeing what could emerge from a gnarled chunk of wood.

After he had settled in his camp, he unpacked a sandwich and savored it as he relaxed and enjoyed the summer day. He saw chipmunks close by and tossed crusts of bread where they might retrieve them. As the chipmunks approached, he studied them intently, burning their image onto his memory. He had never carved a chipmunk, but he would like to someday. He did spend the early afternoon on several small carvings he had brought along. He made some finishing touches and then sanded and polished until they shone like glass.

His mind drifted to Lola and Winona. The skullcap prescription was helping. Ever since he started drinking a cup of the tea at night, he was sleeping much better. He had even started to remember bits and pieces of his dreams, and it had been years since he had remembered any dreams.

Daniel had been reading about dreams and realized that the dreams had been there every night, whether he remembered them or not upon awakening. It was almost inconceivable, that such an integral part of his life could remain so hidden from himself. In a book on dreams, he found a statement from Heraclitus, in the fourth century BC:

Suddenly, I was asleep. I had fallen into that deep slumber in which are opened to us the transmigration of the soul, the evolving of the dead, all those mysteries which we imagine ourselves not to know and into which we are in reality initiated almost every night.

He thought about the quantum shift of Winona’s lecture. He remembered the old Chinese story that she shared:

Once upon a time, I, Chuang Chou, dreamt I was a butterfly, fluttering hither and thither, to all intents and purposes a butterfly. I was conscious only of my happiness as a butterfly, unaware that I was Chou. Soon I awaked, and there I was, veritably myself again. Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly, dreaming I am a man. But there must be some difference between them! This is what is meant by the transformation of things.

Daniel reminded himself to keep a notebook and pencil on the nightstand at the cabin. He'd heard that writing down dreams immediately upon waking helps with the remembering. He wondered just what he might find within the secret life he led at night.

Chapter Eleven

On a blistering hot afternoon, Daniel was in town to pay bills and mail a carving to a collector in Chicago. With those errands completed, he grabbed an overdue book from the seat of his truck and walked down the block to the Stokley Library.

Vee Nikopoulos was not at the desk, but Daniel heard him before he saw him, helping to disassemble a puppet stage in the children’s section.

“Danny Boy! You missed it. We had a party to wrap up the summer reading program and the Green Apple Puppeteers put on a show for the kiddies – Pinocchio.” He appraised Daniel, “Hmmm, maybe we should start calling you Mister Geppetto.”

“No, I think not. I have talked to some of my carvings, but none of them have talked back yet. I just came by to return a book.”

“Good, you’re just the person I wanted to see, Mister Geppetto. I’m still working on those old photographs, and your story about the picture of mound and the stone got me curious about local archaeology. So I’ve been using some online databases to see if I could find more.”

“Any luck?”

“Well, you were right. There isn’t much out there. I did find one report, though, written by Cyrus Thomas in 1894. He catalogued all the mounds and other archaeological sites he could find in Tennessee.” Vee went to his desk and retrieved the pages he had copied from “Report on the Mound Explorations of the Bureau of Ethnology.”
Daniel scanned the list of sites and shrugged, “There’s nothing here for Owassee County”

“Astute observation, Mister Geppetto. You need to turn to the last page. A year after the original report, Thomas published an addendum. I had to dig deep to find that.”

Sure enough, the addendum included Owassee County, and listed a dozen sites, more than Daniel had ever known about. “How about that!”

“That’s your copy. Enjoy.” Vee added, “I expect this will keep you out of trouble for a while.”

When Daniel got back to the cabin, he studied the list of Owassee County archaeological sites compiled by Cyrus Thomas:

Large mound on south bank of North Fork, one-half mile above junction with South Fork, near Owassee Normal School

Mound on the G. Griggs farm, 9 mi. northeast of Owassee Town.

Cemetery containing stone graves, between Owl Creek and Owassee River

Mound on east bank of Bear Creek, above junction with South Fork

Cairn at Indian Grave Gap, east of Tower Ridge, reportd by J. M. Pierson

Mound on south bank of Mill Creek one mile above junction with Cockrills Creek

Mound on southwest bank of Blount Creek, below junction with Persimmon Branch

Cairn on Brushy Mountain, near headwaters of Blount Creek, explored by C. D. Nelson

Mound near west bank of Owl Creek, 1 mi. above junction with Potato Creek

A burial cave at the western end of Tower Ridge, reported by J. M. Pierson

Mound near southeast bank of Mulberry Creek, 3 miles above Caney River

Stone cairns reported by Arthur P. Yates, approx 2 mi. north of South Fork, 5 mi. above junction with Bear Creek

Chapter Twelve

The weather had been ideal for Daniel’s tomato plants and he was finally reaping the ruby-red bounty. In a concession to nostalgia for comfort food, this was the one time each year he would buy a loaf of white bread. He’d slather it with Duke’s mayonnaise and pile on the juicy slices of homegrown tomato along with fresh leaves of basil pinched from his garden.

He had not forgotten his promise to take some tomatoes to Lola and Winona, so while he was running other errands he drove up Mulberry Creek Road. When he arrived at the old dairy farm, he could hardly believe the changes since the last time he saw the place. The fences looked secure. A new riding ring was in place near the big barn, which sported a fresh coat of paint.

When he pulled into the driveway, he saw Lola and Winona working with a landscape crew. The farm was coming back into its own. Daniel called from the truck, “Hello, ladies. Could you use some fresh tomatoes?”

“What do you think?” Lola answered. “I hope you have the time for us to show you around.”

“I sure do. This place has never looked so good. Winona, I was wanting to tell you how much I enjoyed your lecture. You gave me food for thought. And, Lola, the skullcap tea is working. I’ve been sleeping much better.”

The three of them ambled the farm, catching up on the news of the busy summer. Winona asked Daniel if he had seen the survey markers alongside the bridge over Mulberry Creek. She joked that it was nice of the state to construct a big new bridge to accommodate the traffic that would be coming to the farm.

Daniel had his doubts. “You know and I know the old bridge is just fine. Now that he’s been on the roads board, Clayton Thorpe is ordering up all kinds of highway projects we don’t need. And then he always makes sure there’s something in it for his cronies.”

“Clayton is on the roads board now?” Winona asked. “I didn’t know that.”

Lola added, “Every woman on the reservation…almost every woman on the reservation…would hide if she saw Clayton coming. He thought he was a big-time ladies’ man. He’d always try to get you to go out on his boat with him.”

“So I wonder what’s on his agenda now, besides that. Why in the world would he want a big new bridge over Mulberry Creek? I’m sorry, enough of my conspiracy theories… It looks like you have more horses than last time.”

“We do,” said Winona. “We have three new quarter horses of our own, and they’re as gentle as can be.”

“And we’re boarding four others. It’s helping to cover some of the cost of maintaining the farm. We still plan to have the first groups of kids out here next spring. It has been so much work, and we have so much to do to get ready. A lot of wonderful people have been involved to make it possible,”

“I’m glad to hear that. I admire your dedication.” They turned back to the house and Daniel recalled, “There’s something I’ve wanted to ask. I’ve been looking into the archaeology of this valley and thought you might help me solve some mysteries.”

“If you’ve studied it at all, you probably know more than we do,” replied Winona.

“I have an old archaeological report, and it lists a dozen sites in Owassee County. According to the report there was a mound three miles up Mulberry Creek.”

“It’s the first I ever heard of it,” Lola said, “but if that’s true, it would be close to us here.”

“I was thinking the same thing.”

Winona offered one possibility, “That’s a big tract of forest across the road from us. At one time, though, it was all open land and pasture. That’s what we’ve been told. The way it flattens out between here and the creek, I wouldn’t be surprised if it had been an Anawaya settlement at one time.”

“I tell you what,” Lola said, “ we’ve been wanting to have you here for supper. If you could come by next week, we’ll take a walk over there to see if we find anything like a mound. Then we could have some supper. Winona is a fantastic cook. Would Tuesday work for you? Around 5?”

“I believe I can fit that into my busy social calendar. I’ll bring you a copy of the report and maybe we can figure it out together. Thanks for the invitation. I’ll see you Tuesday and we’ll go explore.”

Chapter Thirteen

It is a cold and stormy winter night. I am driving on Tennessee 68, watching for patches of ice on the pavement. Up ahead, on the left shoulder of the road, a pair of eyes reflects back at me. I slow down. When I get within about a hundred feet, the animal leaps across the road. I have no doubt it is a panther.

Instead of disappearing into the woods to the right, it pauses by the edge of the road and watches me approach. I stop the truck and wait to see what the panther will do.

The big cat approaches the side of the truck and sniffs cautiously. Then he jumps into the bed of the truck and stares straight ahead. I start the truck and continue on my way. After about a mile, I hear a voice from the back of the truck:

“There’s a road ahead on the right. Turn there.”

We reach the road and I do as told. After the first hundred feet, it is just an old logging road that is barely passable. But we get to the end, where there is a small turnaround and a hillside rising on the left. I stop. The panther vaults from the bed of the truck and speaks:

“Come with me.”

I get out, and follow the panther up a small branch flowing along the base of the hill. In a few yards we near a spring emerging from the ground. As we draw closer the spring becomes a door opening into the earth. Following the panther, I duck down and pass through. The panther and I are in a shadowy anteroom and I can see other figures moving in and out of the darkness.

Just beyond the first room is a very large dance floor. I hear strange loud voices and the thumping rhythms of many drums. Dozens of panthers dance around a big fire in the middle of the floor.

“Dance with us.”

I join in and dance several rounds with the group, relaxing more with each dance. The fire blazes high and crackles. The faces of the panthers glow in the light of the fire as they spin and turn. The movement, the sound and the flickering lights are almost hypnotic, and I dance and dance with the panthers. But then I begin to feel anxious and tell my host I need to go home.

“If you must.”

I find my way to the door and go outside. It is bitterly cold and I remember that I’d left my jacket inside. I turn to go back, but all I can see is the spring, and no entrance to the panthers’ den.

I walk back down the branch until I can see my truck. It is covered with a thick layer of snow, and behind it a car idles with headlights on and a light bar across the roof. A deputy sees me and reaches for his service revolver:

“We’ve been looking for you the past four days.”

I try to explain I just stopped for a few minutes to look around in the woods, and that everything is fine. No problem.

Just then, I feel a swelling in my arms, and see thick tufts sprouting from my wrists. I feel long whiskers on my face. When I reach to loosen the top button of my shirt, I feel lush fur growing from my neck.

The deputy screams at me:

“Hold it right there.”

He steps behind the open door of his car, raises the revolver and points it straight at me.

And then I wake up.

-From Daniel Hart’s dream journal, August 28, 1999.

Chapter Fourteen

Daniel made sure he had picked up an extra copy of the archaeological site report and set off for Mulberry Creek. He had always been fond of Lola, and he could tell that Winona had survived fame and fortune remarkably well, so he looked forward to the walk and dinner. He was bringing a bottle of wine and, as a housewarming gift, two carvings he had just completed: a pair of chipmunks.

He arrived at 5:04, just as Jamie Olson was leaving. Jamie was the reporter for the Owassee Sentinel and had written an article several weeks earlier about the sisters’ plans to establish a therapeutic equestrian camp for children with autism. The story was done well and featured several local parents who talked about what a difference it could make for their children.

Daniel collected the items he’d brought and got out of the truck. When Lola stepped from the porch he could see she was distraught.

“Bad news, Daniel. You will not believe what’s happening across the road.”

Winona suggested, “We can walk over there and you’ll see what they’ve done so far.”

The three of them walked up Mulberry Creek Road and around a sharp bend. Daniel was shocked. It looked like a bomb had been dropped. Jagged, broken trees were strewn in every direction along a rough path dozed deep into the woods.

“Are they starting to log this land?”

“If only,” Lola said ruefully.

Winona pointed to a big sign just up the road:

Future Site Owassee Motorsports Park
Thunder Holler Partners, LLC
Opening Summer 2001

Winona continued, “The dozers showed up yesterday morning and they’ve been going non-stop. We had no idea anyone had plans for something like this.”

Daniel shook his head. “That explains the new bridge. Now it adds us.”

Lola agreed, “You were right about Clayton Thorpe. We called Jamie Olson as soon as we saw the sign and he’s been asking lots of questions. Thunder Holler Partners has an option to purchase the land if it’s suitable for a track. They're digging around to see how much rock is in the way. They want to build an oval speedway for the cars and a several other tracks for dirt-bikes.”

“This is terrible. Horses don’t do well with all that noise and commotion, do they?”

“Not at all,” said Winona. “If these people come in and do what they’re talking about, there’s no way we could run a camp here.”

“After all the hard work you’ve put into the old farm. Tell me, who’s behind this? Thunder Holler Partners? Who’s that?”

Lola said, “Jamie found out that it’s Dewaine Dewitt, Pam Jackson and at least one other partner from out-of-town: Leonard Reynolds. Apparently, Reynolds has all kinds of connections in the racing business, grew up with the Waltrips, that kind of thing.”

Winona added, “They have until the end of the year to complete the purchase. There’s a chance they could run into rock, and the site preparation would become so expensive that they’d just walk away from the deal. But they wouldn’t be spending all this money unless they were fairly certain it would work out.”

“We’ve already talked to some of the people who’ve been helping us with the farm. They’re organizing a meeting next week and looking into the possibility of a court injunction or environmental regs we could use to stop this.”

Daniel thought for a minute. “There aren’t any county restrictions against race tracks, I assume. I know those folks on Sweetwater Branch couldn’t stop the asphalt plant from setting up shop in their neighborhood back in ’95.”

Winona broke in, “That’s all we know so far. Let’s go back to the house and enjoy our supper. I’ve been cooking all afternoon, and it won’t take me much longer to have everything ready.”

Chapter Fifteen

Daniel was frustrated in his efforts to locate the archaeological sites listed in the Cyrus Thomas report. He did know of one mound that had been destroyed: the one on the campus of Owassee State University, the one excavated by the mustachioed man whose photograph was at the library.

During a time of expansion in the 1920s, the college planned to build dormitories on the ancient site. But after the devastating flood, the plans changed and the area was graded for athletic fields. Questions still nagged at Daniel, “What happened to the inscribed stone in the photograph? Had it been washed away by the floodwaters? Did the archaeologist haul it away in the middle of the night?”

The Mulberry Creek mound had been a more promising possibility, if only he had been out to explore before the dozers scalped the area for a racetrack. Now it was probably too late. And the mound was a small concern compared with what Lola and Winona stood to lose from a race track across the road. He wonderd how people like Pam Jackson and Dewaine Dewitt could sleep at night.

Daniel had a detailed topo map of the Owassee Valley and studied how Cyrus Thomas’s descriptions corresponded to features on the modern map. He knew that some of the place names had changed. Besides that, some of the listings were too vague to be of much help. A few were relatively easy to pinpoint. For instance:

Mound on south bank of Mill Creek one mile above junction with Cockrills Creek

He found it on the map, but he knew he couldn’t go there. Several hundred acres deep in the hills east of town were enclosed by a ten-foot-tall razor wire fence, securing a facility developed during the Cold War. The satellite tracking station was a world unto itself, surrounded by national forest. For Congressman Ray Quigley, Sr. (Big Ray) this was a pork project during the glory years of NASA in the 1960s. Later it was transferred to the National Security Agency for reasons never disclosed, but easily surmised.

Although several rows of enormous satellite dishes were the most visible feature of the tracking station, the primary operational center extended at least seven stories underground. A series of tunnels connected the operational center with other auxiliary units underground. Onsite housing and a small commissary and recreation centers served the technicians and researchers at the facility.

The only reason Daniel knew this much was because his uncle was employed during the construction of the station. Since it had opened, people needed proper security clearance to get waved through the gate without proper security clearance. Hospitality was not a hallmark of the station. Hunters who had lingered too close to the fences reported that armed security guards would appear out of nowhere and tell them to move on.

The Mill Creek vicinity had achieved some notoriety long before the tracking station was constructed there. For many years, people had reported hearing a buzzing or humming sound, similar to the sound heard near high-voltage power lines. However, the noise was present long before rural electrification reached Owassee County. In fact, mysterious low-frequency hums have been reported at many locations around the world. The seaside town of Puponga on the northwest tip of New Zealand's south island is one example. Closer to Owasse County, strange buzzing sounds have been heard in Rabun County, Georgia and Roan Mountain, Tennessee.

Travel writer Henry Colton wrote about his investigation of the Roan Mountain hum in 1878:

Several of the cattle tenders on the mountain and also General Wilder had spoken to us about what they called Mountain Music. One evening they said it was sounding loud, and Dr. D. P. Boynton, of Knoxville, Hon. J. M. Thornburg, and myself accompanied General Wilder to the glen to hear it. The sound was very plain to the ear, and was not at all as described – like the humming of thousands of bees – but like the incessant, continuous and combined snap of two Leyden jars positively and negatively charged.

I tried to account for it on the theory of bees or flies but the mountain people said it frequently occurred after the bees or flies had gone to their winter homes or before they came out. It was always loudest and most prolonged just before there would be a thunderstorm in either valley, or one passing over the mountain.

I used every argument I could to persuade myself that it was simply a result of some common cause and to shake the faith of the country people in its mysterious origin but I only convinced myself that it was the result from two currents of air meeting each other in the suck between the two peaks where there was no obstruction of trees, once containing a greater, the other a less amount of electricity, or that the two currents coming together in the open plateau on the high elevation, by their friction and being of different temperatures, generated electricity.

The ‘mountain music’ was simply the snapping caused by this friction and this generation of electricity. Many have noted the peculiar snapping hum to be observed in great auroral displays, particularly those of September, 1859 and February, 1872.

As the amount of electricity in the air currents became equalized or surcharged, they, descending to the other side caused the thunder storm daily in the valleys near the mountain and sometimes immediately on the edge of the timber surrounding the great bald top. The air currents of the Western North Carolina mountains and the East Tennessee valley form an aerial tide, ebbing and flowing.

The heated air of the valley rises from nine in the morning until three or four in the afternoon, making a slight easterly wind up and over Roan Mountain. As night comes on the current turns back into the valley, almost invariably producing a very brisk gale by three or four o’clock in the morning which, in its turn, dies down to a calm by seven and commences to reverse by nine o’clock. This continual change of currents of air makes it an impossibility for any great malarial scourge to exist in the East Tennessee valley, especially its northeastern end.

And with that definitive answer from Henry Colton, the people of East Tennessee could rest easy in knowing they had nothing to fear from low-frequency humming sounds…or malaria.

In the 1990s, the feds prepared to abandon the tracking station. By then, Ray Quigley, Jr. (Little Ray) was serving in Congress, having inherited the seat once held by Big Ray. Thanks to Little Ray, a private consortium took possession of the facility and continued to operate it under the strictest security. Local folks still had no idea what sort of research was being conducted there.

Daniel wondered if the Mill Creek mound remained intact, but he knew there was no chance of his hiking around to investigate. So far, he wasn’t having much luck finding traces of the archaeological sites cataloged by Cyrus Thomas.


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From The Owasssee Prophecy, copyright 2010, 2011, by E. G. Paine