Onawa had been mad for over a month, or perhaps it's better to say she was freaking out because her boys did something stupid, and she thought one of them killed the other. John thought his wife would get over it, but she could not get the image of Walker dying out of her head, and so she had been quick to switch the boys for doing anything remotely unsafe.
Part of the issue was that Bobby was nearly grown, and she was afraid of him going, so mixing that fear with his recent misbehavior had his Onawa on edge.
John had been trying to figure out a way to get his wife out of the funk she was in, and he finally had a great idea. When he had it, he immediately went to his wife, and when she saw him, she frowned and said, “Do you realize that Bobby is almost grown-up, and he almost killed his brother. I am so worried about what he’s going to do when he leaves here. I think I have been too easy on him.”
John knew better than to argue with his wife, so he said, “I have a great idea that will help the boys. Why don’t we go visit Trevor?”
Onawa was stunned, speechless. She had never thought about leaving her home and visiting her son. Her son was supposed to visit her. After a long moment of silence, she said, “But he is so far away.”
“It's only a few days away, and it will be good for the boys to go visit their brother. Besides, the trip will legitimately be dangerous, so they will have to practice good safety.”
“I don’t know. When they had that helmet, they almost killed each other.”
“Well, sometimes boys make safe situations dangerous, but put them in a dangerous situation like the open sea, and they will try to keep things as safe as possible. It's how boys are.”
“But who will take care of our crops while we are gone?”
“I can hire some of the young men to do it. A nail a day will make them happy.”
“Your chief, though. Who will lead the village?”
“Your father can do it.”
“But he's really getting old.”
“He has a very sharp mind, though.”
“What about Congress and the Texas Rangers.”
“Congress isn’t meeting until winter, and the Texas Rangers need to run without me. Besides, this will be a shorter trip than the one we took last year when we looked for copper.”
“Are you sure it will be safe?”
“Yes. Plus, you will get to see your granddaughter again.”
With the mention of their granddaughter Onawa’s face lit up, and John knew he had her. Now he just had to tell his boys that they were going on a week long trip with their mother. A woman who had been very harsh to them for the last few weeks. A woman who they were currently avoiding as much as possible will now spend every waking moment with them on their way to Cuba, or whatever Trevor calls the island now.
It took a few days to get everything ready since they were totally unprepared to go on a trip. Onawa’s hesitancy to go was more because she hadn’t thought about the idea than her being against it, so once she got her mind around the idea, she was the driving force to go. Despite that, the boys were exceedingly careful as they supplied the boat. Onawa was not ready for their antics, but John could tell the idea of seeing Trevor and Lomasi had softened her up. John was just glad the boys hadn’t caught on yet; otherwise, they would be pushing boundaries, and Onawa might go back to the insane standard.
The trip was nice. John and Bobby sailed the boat at night. Walker and Quincy sailed the boat during the day under their mother's supervision. They didn’t bring much cargo, so the boat handled pretty easily, and it gave John and Bobby a chance to talk. Bobby asked John if it was alright to start building his trade ship after the first harvest in August, and John agreed to it, assuming Bobby had help building his trade vessel. Then John had a discussion with Bobby about everything he knew about trade from his perspective, which was colored by the infrastructure of a modern world.
Bobby was fascinated by the idea of moving goods from one place to the next on a manufacturing chain. John explained it this way. The place that dug iron ore sent their goods to a smelter, who sent their iron ingots to a manufacture, who made parts who sent their goods to factory, who put machines together, only for the factory to send their final product back to everyone on the manufacturing chain. Although John was thinking of cars, in his example, he used plows and boats. John explained that each link of the chain needed more than one product. For instance, smelting iron would require a lot of wood or coal. Workers would need a lot of food. Once the discussion got started, Bobby asked John questions about it nonstop for the rest of their trip.
It took less than a week to reach Cuba and an entire day to find where other ships were docked. When John saw the town built around the dock, he was impressed. In Just a couple of years, this village had built a lot. They cleared forest, built docks, raised walls, and made a patchwork of fields. There was even a waterwheel in the distance.
As John looked across the field, his mouth began to water. He saw Banana trees and Pineapple bushes. John decided then and there to begin trying to figure out how to make cake mix so he could make his grandma’s cherry, pineapple dump cake.
When they landed their ship, the men on the dock gave them a strange look and said, “Where are your trade goods?”
John said, “This isn’t a trade mission. I am here to see my son Trevor. He was the leader of the expedition to this island.”
“You mean the head landowner?”
John was confused; he hadn’t heard that title before and said, “Maybe. Is one of the men from the trade alliance available to speak with?”
“I will find landowner Ogima for you. Just stay here.”
Onawa asked John, “What is this landowner business? Isn't there enough land for everyone?”
“I don’t know. I know Trevor and his friends wanted to start their own nation to make an entire nation like Texas instead of the trade alliance. In Texas, we allow someone to claim their own fields, so I guess they would technically be landowners, but we don’t call them that because everyone can own land. I hope this is harmless.”
A few minutes later, a young man John didn’t recognize came out and said, “Chief John, it's so good to meet you again!”
John smiled and did not want to embarrass the youth, so he said, “It’s good to meet you again.”
The youth laughed and said, “I only met you long enough to introduce myself. I am sure you don’t remember. I am Ogima, the landowner of this village.”
“Oh, that’s great. Can you take us to Trevor?”
“Yes, sir. His village is only a few hours away. It's on top of a hill, so it is a bit of a walk, and since you are the head landowner's father, the Great Chief John, you rate a buffalo.”
Something about that last remark rubbed John the wrong way, “What do you mean I rate a buffalo?”
Since John’s visit was a surprise, Ogima did not have a chance for Trevor to tell him things he should not discuss with his father. If Trevor had the chance, he would have told Ogima to never mention the class system, that his father believed all men and women to be equal. But Ogima was not informed, although he heard the displeasure in John’s voice.
“Well, Great Chief in order to encourage the education and betterment of the people, we have determined only landowners can ride buffalo.”
“And who gets to be a landowner?”
“To be a landowner, you must understand how to plant, harvest, build things, and sail. All the things we had to learn before coming here. Trevor felt that if he was required to learn those things before he was allowed to leave home, then the natives must learn those things before getting to own land.”
John was upset with himself. Clearly, he taught his son the technical side of things, but he failed to teach his son the importance of freedom and self-determination. In his worry, he asked, “What do all the nonlandowners do.”
“Well, until they have the knowledge to be landowners, we treat them like we would children. Giving them lots of chores to do throughout the land we own. At first, the people didn’t care for it, but they liked the pay, and now that we have all these new fruits, they really enjoy the harvest of their labor.”
John closed his eyes and slowly facepalmed, and then began rubbing his eyes. His son had invented some form of serfdom. The bossy little brat has probably never felt so fulfilled in his life.
“Take me to my son.”
“We must wait for a buffalo. I already sent my men to get it. I hate to say it, but we do not have enough buffalo for all the landowners yet, but we are breeding buffalo at the end of this year and have managed to buy a handful from merchants.”
“I don’t care. I have been on a long voyage, and I need a long walk to get my land legs back. I am walking to see my son.”
Walker said, “I would like to ride a buffalo.”
“You need to get your land legs back so you will not be allowed to ride.”
Onawa sensed her husband's sour mood and told Walker, “Do I need to pull the switch out to adjust your attitude.”
Walker immediately straightened up and said, “No, Ma’am.”
Ogima led John’s family to Trevor’s village. As they walked, John noticed a lot of the locals gave Ogima a weird look. Apparently, despite the shortage of buffalo, it was abnormal for a landowner to walk to Trevor’s village.
After a few hours of walking, or about twelve miles, they reached Trevor’s village, and Trevor met them at the gates. The boys ran to meet their brother. John and Onawa were a bit too old to do the same, but they picked up their pace.
When John finally reached his son, he said, “Look at you, all grown up and a leader of a nation. And you finally have some facial hair.”
Onawa hit John and said, “What your father means is that we are proud of you.”
“Where is our granddaughter?”
“Oh, she is with her mother at home preparing supper. After such a long trip, I am sure your hungry.”
The boys all yelled out, “YEAH!” and followed their brother. They chatted away with small talk, but it was clear that John and Trevor were a little uncomfortable with each other.
As they entered Trevor's house, they noticed that his wife Hiaro was holding a baby, and a little toddler was holding onto her leg.
Onawa asked, “Whose baby is that?”
Trevor smiled and said, “We had a son. His name is Trevor.”
Onawa smacked him in the chest and said, “WHY DIDN’T YOU TELL US!”
Trevor laughed and said, “It slipped my mind.”
“So you're telling me you can trade with our merchants, but you can not send a letter home when you have another CHILD!” She turned to Hiaro and said, “I need to borrow your husband for a few minutes, so I can spank him.”
Hiaro couldn’t help but laugh, but the little mite holding onto her leg got scared and said, “DON’T SPANK DADDY!”
Onawa’s heart broke a little, and she said, “Oh, honey, I am just teasing. I am your daddy’s mom.”
The little girl looked amazed and said, “Daddy, you have a mommy?”
“Yes, Lomasi. And I love her as much as you love your mommy.”
“Do you want to give her a hug?”
Lomasi shook her head no and hid behind her mother's leg. Everyone laughed as Trever told her uncles, “You boys be nice to your niece.”
Lomasi asked, “Whats, a niece?”
“These boys are my brothers, so that makes you their niece.”
The little girl thought about it and then said, “I don’t like boys.”
Trevor said, “Considering how ugly these boys are, I don’t blame you.”
Quincy said, “Lomasi, when I marry Ajei, I will bring her out here to visit. Would you like that?”
The girl said, “I don’t know.”
Trevor said, “You're still dating her?”
“Of course, we are going to get married one day.”
And so the family caught up on gossip, and Hiaro stayed civil with her mother-in-law, whom she really didn’t like. Lomasi eventually came out of her shell to play with the boys because sooner or later, two-year-olds are going to want to play with the older kids.
After diner Hiaro had the very difficult task of spending time with her mother-in-law while John and Trevor took a walk.
Trevor started the conversation, “Look, dad, I know your upset with me because of how I am forcing people to serve, but I had to do something. Look around the people are better off, and in two years, I built most of our villages to the level that Texas is now. If we find iron, we will be better than Texas.”
“Son, I am not mad at you. I am somewhat disappointed in myself, but you have grown up in a very different world than I did. I will say that I would not do what you did, but you have made your decision, and there's no going back.”
“Wait, your not going to try to get me to change my ways?”
“Of course not. If you tried to back peddle and do things like I do them, you would be dead by the end of the month. You and your men have seized power. You have taken control of the inhabitants of this island. You have two choices. You and your people can leave, or you have to stay the course. That said, while you are here, your life will always be in danger.”
“What do you mean we will always be in danger?”
“Ogima told me that the natives are like children, and you give them chores. Sure, you pay them to do the chores, and you feed them, but at the end of the day, when they work, they work on your land to increase your wealth. If they want wealth, then the best place for them to get it is from you.”
“The same could be said in the Trade Alliance. If someone wants to get wealthy just take Texas.”
“Not really. Everyone I have come into contact with has become wealthy by their own standards. Since coming into contact with me, they have more food, more variety of food, tools, ideas, bison, and buffalo. There may be more of that in Texas, but to come and take my wealth would require that they pay in lives. Because I have given them seeds, tools and traded with them, they can earn the same thing with time instead of sons. So their decision about me is to either risk their life fighting me or spend their time getting as rich as me. The choice is easy. And I will freely admit that if I did not have a way to defend myself, they would rob me in a heartbeat. But since I can defend myself and I spread the wealth, they have no reason to even think about robbing me.”
“We are paying our people. And they can not compete with the buffalo riders. That’s why we only allow landowners to use them.”
“Can the natives become landowners?”
“Yes. They just have to know how to run things. We even started a school for what we are calling Sea Wardens where we train them in running a village, how to fight, and especially how to sail.”
John was impressed, and he said, “So all the sea wardens become landowners?”
“No, that’s the first step to becoming a landowner. See, when we first took over the villages, none of the people knew how to do anything right. So we took the warriors from the villages we conquered, trained them to be sea wardens so they could go around and make the villagers do their jobs correctly when we were not around.”
John facepalmed and said, “So you have the landowners, who are in control of the sea wardens, who are in control of everyone else?”
“Son, this is not stable. Even if you give your people stuff, they will not be happy that they have so many bosses.”
“Dad, it's okay. We make the biggest and strongest bosses, so it's not like the people can fight back.”
“What happens if the sea wardens turn on you?”
“Any Sea Warden who wants to become a landowner can. As soon as they show they know how to run a village, the other landowners and sea wardens capture a new village and put them in charge. We have more native landowners now than landowners from the trade alliance. Our plan is that within a few years, we have complete control of the island.”
John was stunned silent for a little while and, after a few seconds, said, “Son, if you ever need to return home, you can.”
“What do you mean?”
“This situation is extremely volatile. You're riding a wild buffalo, and if it tosses you, you can return home.”