The Granger Gold
“Not unless we can pay the tax in hay and horses. And even then, I doubt Eli would do it.”
“Can’t give away the stock if they want a better year next year,” I agreed.
We shook our heads and I thought about how lucky I was to be getting any money at all for my work, when it seemed lately that all Northwind had to offer was the food it could grow and the shelter it could provide. And even the shelter was starting to look questionable. Lee had run out of nails and metal reinforcements for ceiling joints for the new barn, and Eli had no money for more. Instead he had put the farm children to scavenging old nails and scrap from an overgrown field where some outbuildings had once stood before the resource wars.
“What we need,” Lee said, “Is one really rich patron.”
“Either that or a whole lot of poor ones.”
I was thinking of Patrick when I said this. When I had told him of our dilemma, he told some of his school friends and collected almost five dollars. But that was just a drop in the bucket of what we needed. Heck, it was less than a drop. It was one of those molecule things that maybe if it could find more molecules to join with might someday be a drop.
“I wonder if the church would let us pass a plate,” Lee said.
It was worth a try. But when we talked to the preacher a few days later, he had a very different view on the matter.
“I’m afraid I can’t condone using God’s house for the collection of money to be put to worldly purposes."
It crossed my mind to ask what he did with the Sunday collection money, if not such worldly things as pay his salary and hire workers to maintain the church and grounds. Instead I pointed out that communication could have Godly purposes just as easily as worldly ones. “You can spread God’s word over the phone, can’t you? And phones can be used to keep people safe and warn them of danger.”
“And feed the hungry,” Lee added, “You can use it to tell people where to send food to people who need it.”
The preacher smiled. “I know all that. I’m not as young as I look. But I don’t want to cause controversy among the congregation, and many of our faithful believe technology is at the root of the sinful ways that led to resource wars. They say telephones would lead us back down the path toward evil.”
Lee and I argued our case as best we could, and to his credit, I don’t think the preacher really believed that telephones are the first step on the road to Hell. But enough people in the congregation believed it that he didn’t dare support our efforts in a public way.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “I believe your motives are good, but this is the wrong place to look for assistance.”
I mentioned this to Patrick tonight as we did our lessons after supper. A group of us were in the dining room working on various projects, since it's starting to be too cold at night to sit outdoors.
“I don’t know why your preacher indulges those Luddites,” Patrick said.
“Actually, they’re Nuvo-Presbyterians.”
He looked at me like I was stupid, and I bent back over my book.
As if to cover for my embarrassment, Sabine sighed. “Too bad money doesn’t grow on trees.” She dropped a stitch on her knitting and fumbled with the yarn and needles.
“You need to find that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow,” Erica teased. She was crocheting another of her fancy sweaters that I so wished I could make. “That’ll solve all your problems.”
“Find a treasure map,” someone else said.
“Treasure map, hell,” Sven muttered, from where he was mending a boot near the heating stove. “What you need is to find the Granger Gold.”
“What's the Granger Gold?” I asked.
“A local fairy story,” Lee said.
“You never know,” Erica told him. “It could’ve happened.”
“Wouldn’t surprise me a bit," Sabine added.
“Me, either.” Sven stabbed an awl into the sole of his boot. He wasn’t doing a very good job. “I looked for it once. Didn’t find so much as an old paper dollar. But that don’t mean it isn’t real, only that I didn’t find it.” He tried again with the awl, pierced his finger instead and cursed.
“The children!” Sabine reminded him, waving a hand toward the group of kids doing their lessons at the other end of the table.
“What’s wrong with a little vocabulary lesson?” He grinned at the children and they giggled.
The conversation veered off into mundane matters after that, but later I took Patrick aside. “What’s this Granger Gold they were talking about?”
His eyes lit up as if he had been hoping I would ask. “Don’t believe everything they tell you. It’s real.”
“Okay. But what is it?”
He told me a rambling story about a rich local family who had bought gold before the attack on Iran. When the old dollar collapsed and the price of gold quadrupled, the feds came nosing around, trying to enforce their anti-hoarding laws. According to legend, the Grangers hid their valuables somewhere on the property.
“But the two boys were killed in the war, the old man died of a heart attack, the mother died during a yellow fever epidemic, and when the only person who knew where the gold was hidden came to get it, the house caught fire.”
Patrick nodded, enjoying his tale. “They found a body in the house, but it was so burnt up we don’t know if it was the cousin who came for the gold, or someone else entirely.”
“I’m guessing no one ever found the gold.”
He shook his head. “Lots of people looked for it at first, but then they gave up. Now they say there was never any gold at all.”
“Well,” I said, “It certainly makes for a good story.”
Patrick drew himself up as tall as a thirteen year-old can manage. “It’s no story. It’s real. And I think we should look for it.”
I shook my head. “No goose chases for me, thanks. I have a real problem and it needs a real solution.”
“But I’m telling you—
I looked at his eager face. Poor kid. Ever since the night at the scrap yard, Patrick has been confident in things besides just his intellect, but in a way that borders on foolishness. “Maybe as a summer project,” I told him. “But for now—
He turned from me in disgust. “Fine. Sell your horse or hunt up the Frankfort mafia for your money. See if I care.” He picked up his books and stomped out the door.
I tried to study some more in my room tonight, but didn’t get very far. I know it’s silly, but it sure would be nice if the Granger Gold were real and I could find it. People did hide valuables during the resource wars. And some people died and never retrieved them. So it’s certainly possible that there’s a hidden treasure on an abandoned property nearby.
But of course if this particular treasure were real, someone would’ve found it by now. It’s just a fairy story, like Lee said. But what a nice little dream it is!