Dalena has carved along the crown of the mountain some lively vegetable and acrylic looking flower gardens that dot the land like a vivid cut-up quilt. She definitely has a green thumb. Fake brown pots and real ceramic ones hold herbs and flowers that are scattered around strategically, shimmed to the hill so they don’t topple over. Once we get to the huge white grow house, to see a bunch of Marijuana plants rising high in a chorus of green isn’t that so surprising. It isn’t that dramatic. It just feels like another crop being grown on the farm.
“This is where I have my Twenty-five.” Dalena says referring to the twenty-five plants that she is legally allowed to grow with her card.
“Can I ask how much weight you can get from twenty-five plants?”
“Roughly about twenty-five pounds. Give or take…”
“You really get the sense that you’re alone out here. Is your crop safe?” I wasn’t even sure what town I was in officially. I only saw maybe thirty homes in the last couple of hours of driving.
“I feel very safe here. There are about eighty-six families that live here. Only but two grow. It is us growers that make everything happen. Always has been.” She says somewhat disgustedly. This is when I see the political Dalena that I’ve heard so much about. If there is a political committee or action group, Dalena is either in it or leads it. She has been one of the major players in the North Country for many years now. For the past two years, the Emerald Triangle has been holding townhall meetings concerning Life after Legalization. Dalena has been the chairperson for most of them in this part of the woods.
“Let me show you this…”
Now we were going to the opposite of the mountain. We’re following irrigation lines and partially buried hoses and tubes down a steep hill. After about thirty minutes of wedging my boots into the side of the hill so I don’t slide, we come to a slice of sunshine beaming through the tall trees.
“Here, this is where much of our community derides its financial backing,” Dalena says as she moves effortlessly through the woods like a mommy-deer on the unbeaten path.
Coming into the blinding rays of light there are twenty foot square plots, raging with rows of WEED growing tall along side of the redwoods.
“This is called the ‘Pencil Patch.’ Over here is the ‘Civic Duty.’”
“H’uh?” I say slack-jawed like a city boy.
“Oh…this Pencil Patch supplies the schools with teachers and equipment. Y’know and all the rest like paper, pencils and glue. Civic Duty sponsors the town with buildings, roads and other needs of a small town,” she says as she cleans the patch removing debris and generally tending to her children.
“Do you ever think of growing a big plot for the town to have to invest with? Like a cannabis mutual fund. Only you take the money from the sold pot and invest that in a mutual fund for the town. As an investment,” I inquire. I would.
“You mean in case Legalization doesn’t go our way,” Dalena says in a manner that I hadn’t seen yet. She said it almost nervously. Like she wasn’t sure what was going to happen.
“What do you think is going to happen in November?”
“I don’t know. People think that we’re selfish up here, in the Triangle. By the way, it was the Feds that gave us that name. We don’t really use it. At least we didn’t before. After Legalization, we may need to use it for branding purposes.” Dalena sighs as she untangles some tubing.
“People in the Bay Area think that because we’re not getting what we used to monetarily for a pound that’s reason we are whining. What they don’t realize is when the price goes down; we are getting less for our schools. There’s less to give to our local municipalities and even to our police. Marijuana is what has kept this area above water while some towns are literally going out of business. They can’t pay their people. The garbage men. The Fire department. You name it. Whatever keeps a town running, they can’t afford it. We’re not going to let that happen up here.”
It does feel like the pioneer spirit when you talk to the local growers. People helping each other. Protecting each other from outsiders. From Johnny Law if needed. When I say Johnny Law, I mean Feds or DEA, not the local sheriff or police. The locals protect their own, even if they are wearing a badge.
After spending some time in the Emerald Triangle I’ve realized that the people up here are not only living the American Dream, but the Teabagger’s Dream, too. Here people help each other without wanting something in return. It is a community that relies on each other in order to survive. Everyone’s connected somehow. From the grower to the cops, everyone has their hand in it. In a good way, the way it was supposed to be. I don’t think these are the kind of people that if there was a hurricane or a storm, they’d stop you from crossing over to their side for help. Up here, they realize the connection. Between you and your brothers and sisters. Between you and the land. That to risk the harmony of living with the crassness of a non-organic Life would be a waste of time.
While others sit on lawn chairs overweight protesting that they’re not getting theirs. The people up here are living out a dream that few dare to reach. They’re living a life unencumbered except for having to get their own water and electricity. Now after years, decades of living under the radar, just asking to be left alone, their lifestyle is in jeopardy. After bringing us to the dance for over fifty years, they might not even be invited in.
Except for a person like me going there to tell their story, they would never complain. They just do.
We climbed back up the hill in silence. I hoped that I hadn’t bummed out my mountain hostess with all the talk about what is going to happen in November. My concern what’s going to happen with this area and the growers, if POT becomes legal?
By the time we return, carpenters that have an on-going relationship with Dalena’s beautiful mountain retreat were hard at work.
I had asked her if she pays the guys with the local currency.
“No, I pay them cash. They both grow too.”
I guess I had the look of a tenderfoot when I studied the map for my return to…I wouldn’t say civilization, because if Dalena had the room, I swear I’d move in, but to another form of reality.
“Don’t worry. Follow the mountain roads down. When in doubt go left. At the bottom of the mountain, go right and you’ll find your way into another reality.”
“Hey, that’s what I was just thinking.”
“Well…becareful. That’s how it starts…” Dalena said petting one of her dogs while filling a dented empty bucket with water that she pumps herself. Giving me a knowing glance that says we’re going to see each other again.
The Dark Side of Boom Towns