Retire Mechanical engineer. Student at California State university Channel Island studiyingAbout Me

July 26, 2015

Visit to My Village - Part Six

The woodstove was fired up and the house was nice and warm. I took a hot shower, ate more of Mother's soup and retired for the night.

I told Mother that I wanted to sleep and if anyone came, to please excuse me. I was so tired, I slept over ten hours. In the morning I awoke, my thighs throbbing from yesterday's climb.

I walked out onto the balcony, warmed by the morning rays of the sun, and watched the cows passing in front of the house. Mother brought the tea pot up to the balcony and I truly enjoyed my morning cay.

I did not go out that morning, but in the afternoon there was no sign of rain and, because I could not sit still, I was off to the fields to pick more mushrooms. I could see the hamburger-sized mushrooms from a far distance; they looked like whitish-gray stones.

I took a different route to the northwest of the village and picked a bag full of fresh ones. The areas I wandered in were the slopes where pine trees had been planted by the government and had grown quite tall.

I enjoyed being by myself, partly because these were the fields I knew so well from my childhood. The only difference now was that the grass had grown so high, despite the herds grazing here. In years past, the fields were heavily used and naturally the grass was eaten by the sheep and goats.

That night Mother made mushroom pilaf, and several other dishes. I invited Hakan to have dinner with us. I must admit, my ulterior motives for inviting him were two-fold.  I wanted to listen to more of his interesting tales, but also, I wanted to hike again, to try to climb the second summit, and I wanted Hakan to go with me.

After dinner, I asked Hakan why there were so many wild animals now. When I was young there did not seem to be any bears, except maybe a few in summer, but I do remember one year when our corn fields were destroyed by bears.

"When you were here, there used to be Lazes. Remember? The higher elevations were leased out to them and their large flocks. They stayed from early March until late September, but since the disturbances with the PKK, the Lazes stopped coming."

"I heard there was no conflict with PKK, especially in this part of the country."

"That is true. There was only one incident with them and, since then, the government assigned guards with automatic weapons and the PKK never came back to these parts. Also, the Lazes stopped coming because their livestock was being stolen. Their flocks were attracting outlaws and shots were exchanged between them. Then, back in 2001, the government officials brought over sixty deer to the northeast of the village to increase the deer population. Unfortunately, the deer disappeared within two years. Some say people hunted them, others thought it was the bears, others thought it was wolves; the wolf population is more now than it used to be."

"What other interesting stories you can tell me?"

Mother interjected. "Tell him the story of your son Ibrahim and Tugba."

I listened with interest as he told me the story.

Ibrahim was a 26-year-old good-looking man. Tugba was a 16-year-old stunning young girl. They fell in love. The problem was, she was underage and they could not be seen together. In the end, Tugba and Ibrahim ran off to get married.

The details of this interesting story I intend to write another time. I think it would make a great short story, it may even be adapted to the screen.

When I asked Hakan if he would mind going hiking again, he replied, "Not tomorrow. I have to go to Erzincan for the day to see my daughter."

Erzincan it is about a forty-five mile drive through rugged mountains, which meant that Hakan would have to go to Siran on foot, which would take him about hour, then he would have to buy bus ticket to Erzincan.

That would give him only a few hours with his daughter.

He would have to take the bus back to Siran, and then the four mile walk back to the village, arriving very late in the evening, or even the next morning.

I learned from my elder brother Nevzat that Hakan was a very proud man, but I had an idea.

"Well, I have to go to Erzincan myself to meet a friend from the UK and on the way back I am going to stop in Kelkit to buy mother their famous Kelkit bread that she loves. If it is okay with you, I would like to have company. I will take you to Erzincan, you have more time to spend with your daughter, and I will drive you back. At a designated place and time I will pick you up. We will have a good time; maybe have lunch there."

"Lunch? No. My daughter thinks I am starving any time I visit her. 'Father, I will cook a nice meal for you,' she will insist."

When he said he would think about it, I did not give him any excuses.

"I will pick you up at six in the morning."

"You sure you city boys can get up that early?"

"I get up five in the morning," I fibbed.

Mother interrupted. "Why, that is a good idea.  Besides, I do not trust that area, especially the mountainous region of Erzincan; it is infested with PKK and other outlaws. It would be a comfort Hakan bey, if you go together."

"I have an ulterior motive for your going with me."

"Yeah, what is that?"

"I want to climb the second summit."

"I would go with you regardless of your motives; I want to climb that summit myself."

"Now you have made me curious. What is your reason?"

"When I was a boy of about eleven, I heard from the eldest man of the village that there was a treasure buried at the summit; left by the Greeks when the exchanges were made."

"Do you believe him?"

"I do not know. I do know that when the Russian army came all the way to hills of the village, our people retreated southward. When the Russian army left, the villagers came back. Other villagers from Ulusiran came and found boxes of ammunition and other valuable items, but no one found the treasure.  It makes sense, though, because when the Greeks left, they hid their gold, valuables and other important items. They hoped to come back and collect. Do you remember the Loloz tasi? I took you there when you were eleven. It is a dangerous climb to the top of that rock."

"How could I forget?  I remember it vividly."

"Do you remember the circular hole filled with water and some grassy plants in the middle at the top of that rock?"

"Yes!"  I was all ears listening Hakan's story.

"That circular man-made pool is no longer there. A couple of years back. A man came to the village claiming he was the grandson of Anastos, one of the prominent Greek residents of the village, who left along with all the other Greeks. That man blew up the circular pool at the top of Loloz tasi. Some say that was where the hidden treasure was that the Greeks left behind."

Hakan seemed as though he was in a trance, frozen in time, but shook his head and continued.

"In 1893 the Russian army was on those mountains that you want to climb. The entire village left and said their goodbyes; the Muslims went south and the Greeks went north with the Russian army as their protector."

I had heard these same stories from several other people. Stories about the armies of the Turks and Russians firing cannons, the villagers fleeing, women crying and children frightened. Such a sad scene.

"According to the elder, there is still a treasure at the summit and the place where it is hidden is where the first rays of the sun hit a spot on the eastern side. I always wanted to climb there, but never did. I will take you there the day after tomorrow. That is, if the weather permits."

"How come you have not searched for the treasure?"

"I did not believe it until that visitor came and blew up the pond on top of the Loloz tasi."

My mother wanted to refresh his tea but he said no. With that he got up and left.

Part Seven