November, like spring, brings green to the hills and life to my flowers. But, unlike the first of the year, the last of the year is a time for story telling. Basking next to stove with most of the chores done, neighbors tend to tell stories. Stories that may or may not be actually true but that have a truth to them.
Twenty-five—thirty years ago there were 3 neighbors. It would be hard to find three more different types of people. Yet, a grassy path curved between the properties. In one house, coke trails left powdery smudges on every slick surface and beer cans littered the hillside around the yard. Yet, if the owner of that house wandered outside and followed the path through a hundred acres of woodland and meadow, he came to a carefully created and thoughtfully planned farmyard that belonged to a hardworking homesteading family. They milked their goats and feed their poultry with the help of a third neighbor, a somewhat hapless good natured man and his wife. For the sake of the story and to keep a little privacy let us call them Tom, Dick, and Harry.
November, like spring, brings green to the hills but not all of that color is natural. Some of it comes in large bundles of bills as a result of illegal activities. Tom had grown the green weed (as had the other neighboring houses) and with the help of Harry garnered a goodly reward. But money gotten in this manner can’t be deposited safely in banks so he took a shovel, dug a hole and buried thirty thousand dollars in a backpack deep in the dirt.
Two days later, after a rain, Tom stumbled out to find a gaping hole where his stash had been. He knew the culprit was Harry and he drove furiously over to confront him and his wife. Tom took along some guns and friends so the young couple must have been terrified. Eventually, Tom left but not before demanding the return of his money or else.
Harry’s wife went weeping to Dick and family. They brought her in to sit by the fire and comforted her with herbal tea and homemade soup. She told them the story of the missing money. Frightened, she trembled as she told of the threats. Eventually, though, she gathered her courage and headed to Tom’s house hoping to make peace because she didn’t have any money to give.
Barely had she gone, when she ran back. She dragged the family out as witnesses. There, just off the path, was the backpack–ripped open with soggy hundred dollar bills plastered to rocks, clinging to trees, and scattered all over the meadow. One of Tom’s many dogs had obviously dug up the stash, chewed on it for a while, and then discarded it.
The family squatted as caretakers while she and the homesteader’s wife hurried down to get Tom. Imagine his foolish face as he gathered the money with the aid of the wife and the whole homesteading family. Imagine his stammered apologies. Of course, not all the money was recovered. In fact, less than twenty thousand dollars. But, still Tom was pleased to have gotten any back and too embarrassed at his folly to bemoan his fate too loudly.
November, like spring, brings green to these hills. And the story goes that it brought green to the Homesteading family too. Seems like early that morning, so many years ago, on that long path through the woods, one of the daughters found ten thousand dollars neatly bound in rubber bands.
Of course, they didn’t mention it. Not even when their dear friend was trembling and crying. Some neighbors aren’t that neighborly even in the hills.