No one dared to enter the yard of the exclusive freeman’s group. Our parents had warned us, when the freemen had first moved into town and built their stilted double storey complex next to our tiny house, not to meddle with the group.
At first we were eager for the group’s arrival but our parents informed us that the families living next door would not be like the families of our community. We wouldn’t be able to play with this new group and we certainly wouldn’t get to know them like the other children of our neighbourhood. Obviously this kindled a keen sense of curiosity in our young minds.
We only caught glimpses of the group leaving the compound to catch their bus to a faraway school 90 minutes from our town. Dad called them “backward” and “weirdos”, told us not to go near them. “Shut your mouth Greg!” exclaimed mum, “they’re just different, just like people with different coloured hair!” who had a more tempered opinion of the new group.
On one occasion Dad became enraged when an overhanging tree was loped off unceremoniously by one of the group without his consultation. Friday After Dad had consumed 5 or 6 beers he built up enough courage to confront the group.
We stood from a distance as he angrily banged on their front door. Several of the group appeared , the men wore green cloaks and their heads were closely shaved. The women were covered in a garment that stretched from head to toe making them walking green tepees. Dad started berating them “It’s not right what you’re doing to our trees!, No one gave you permission to start cutting away at our trees!”. The men stood arms crossed with stern looks across their faces. The smallest and roundest of the group spoke in a low monotonous tone. “God has lain that tree upon our fence and we shall be the judges of whether it is removed or not” with that he retreated and the others slowly followed.
That winter the rain came thick and fast. It was monsoonal in its ferocity and the deluge didn’t stop for days. Dad stubbornly refused to leave the house and disregarded the local firemen’s directive to evacuate. Mum had taken my youngest brothers to her sister’s house on higher land in a neighbouring town.
It was a Friday when the water began to cascade into our home. Dad had spent the day stacking sacks into the last barricade at the end of our street. Dad decided it was time to seek refuge. “Lets go son!”
The water was gushing into our street and soon we were in chest deep water flowing away with the stream. From nowhere an outstretched hand appeared and plucked me too safety. There I was in a small dinghy with several of the freeman.