Kathryn’s pregnancy was rough on the young woman. It was weeks before she was over morning sickness and after that Jamie’s slender wife soon looked as if she were carrying a basketball in her stomach. She was tired much of the time and by December just wished her children would hurry up and be born.
At her mid-December visit to Janice, the midwife at Braggton, the young couple was told Kathryn was being referred to Dr. Sanyal, an obstetrician in Audubon, as a precaution. ‟All appears well," Janice assured them, ‟But you are young, you have had a rough go of it at times, and you are having twins."
After examining the expectant mother, Dr. Sanyal also assured them that all was well and that he was involved only because Kathryn was young and having twins. They were somewhat relieved, but nonetheless, the young couple was worried about Kathryn especially as January tenth, her due date drew near. The fact that various and sundry had told Kathryn that since this was her first pregnancy, she would likely be late offered the two small comfort.
January second, Charles Summers who was supervising the construction of their house, called from Philos with some questions needing their attention. When they arrived, they quickly looked at the situation, gave him the answers he needed and then walked over the house. As they were coming down the back stairs, Kathryn suddenly bent forward as she said, "Jamie, I think we better head for the hospital." Remembering Ethan's experience delivering a baby in the back seat of a car, Jamie flew to Audubon.
Kathryn had a long, hard labor and finally delivered Michael Andrew Taylor at 2:00 and Raphael Ethan Taylor at 2:22. The babies were beautiful; Kathryn was exhausted. Because of her arduous labor, Kathryn remained in the hospital an extra day but was finally home with Michael and Raphael. Kathryn was much slower in recovery than anticipated, even for the mother of twins. During her recovery, Sally Ann was a godsend taking over the care of the boys when she was not in school. During the day, Molly checked on her several times by phone and came by frequently.
At the Christmas dinner, Christopher and Ethan discussed Christopher working for Arkadelphia Plantation briefly and Ethan told Christopher to drop off a resume at Arkadelphia Plantation's office after New Year's. He did mid-morning of January second, slipping it under the office door when he saw a note on the door, advising him that Arkadelphia, Pleasant Grove, and Philos Plantations offices were closed with an additional note stating, ‘We are adding two new members to the family !' The note also said the offices would be open the next morning. The next day Christopher called at 9:00 and was told to come by for an interview at 2:00.
Christopher's resume had an impressive listing of his achievements in high school with an attached transcript. He was an honors student all four years and had participated in the school rodeo and played baseball. His transcript from the community college where he was working toward a certificate in culinary arts also showed him to be an excellent student. His resume listed several awards he had won in rodeo and school culinary competitions. Under work experience, he listed what he had done on the ranch, much of which involved riding horseback, something which he would not be doing at Arkadelphia. Ethan was especially interested when he saw listed under 'Licenses and Certificates' one for heavy equipment operation and a CDL—commercial driver's license.
When he came in for his interview, Christopher was well-dressed in chinos and blazer, but without a tie. “Christopher, would you like something to drink? Coffee, Coke, water?” Ethan asked.
“Thank you, I'm fine.”
“Before we get to you and your questions,” Ethan said, “I'd like to tell you a bit of the history of Arkadelphia Plantation and our dream for it.” He then told him about what they had started calling the Arkadelphia Dream. “So you see, we are about more than just making money any way we can. Questions?”
“I think you just about covered it,” Christopher responded, “at least I have no questions right now.”
“As I told you, you will be assigned to the cattle station, but we all work where we are needed. Randy is the manager of the cattle station and will be your immediate boss. Randy."
Randy questioned Christopher, and soon both knew that while Christopher had worked with cattle from the time he started school, ranching in Texas and cattle farming in south Georgia were very different. While The Lazy L ranch owned by Christopher's family was many times the size of Arkadelphia and Pleasant Grove combined, they supported about the same number of cattle. When the cattle from the range went to market, they weighed much less than those from Arkadelphia because they lacked fat. They were sold to feedlots where they would be fattened on grain. More and more of Arkadelphia's cattle were sold as ready for slaughter as grass-fed beef.In fact, a small slaughterhouse between Braggton and Audubon had contracted with several Atlanta upscale restaurants to supply them with grass-fed beef. Menus in some of Atlanta's finest dining establishment were now proudly listing Arkadelphia Plantation grass-fed beef by name.
Davis explained the wage scale by noting that 'honest pay for honest work' was a part of the Arkadelphia philosophy. "Even though technically you will be part-time, you will receive health insurance and participate in the retirement plan. While we don't give part-time employees housing, if you're hired, we'll have to work out something about housing. You can't do your best at work or school having to sleep on the couch," Davis said.
After Christopher left, Davis asked, “Ethan, why is Christopher here?”
“You know as much about that as I do, Davis,” Ethan replied.
“Okay, why do you think he is here?”
“Well, I doubt he committed a serious crime and ran to an officer of the Department of Justice. That leaves—what—getting a girl pregnant or maybe he's gay, and his parents found out and disowned him. That's about all I can come up with."
Davis nodded and said, “Well, it's his business. Think he'll work out here?”
“Yeah, if he can learn to ride an ATV instead of a horse,” Randy laughed. “I think he'd be a good addition.”
“I agree,” Ethan said.
“Randy, you can offer him the job,” Davis added. “Any suggestion about housing.”
“We have room, but I don't think his living with us would be wise,” Ethan said. “If he's gay, I'm not ready to deal with him—or any other man for that matter—and if he's straight, I've got a sister. . . .
Davis laughed, "You don't have to say anymore! Noticed that young lady Christmas. Ethan, your sister is becoming one beautiful woman. How old is she now?"
“Sixteen going on thirty!”
“Yeah," Randy agreed. "I'll need to talk to Ginger, but I think we might be willing to offer him room and board. If not, the Kistler's may be willing. I'm not sure about their space."
“Well, the house is smaller than yours and mine,” Ethan said. “It has two bedrooms down and two up. If, as I suspect, Shawn has a room of his own they have a full house.”
“Well, let me talk to Ginger.”
Randy talked to Ginger, and she said since they used none of the upstairs, she saw no reason they shouldn't rent it to Christopher. "There's no bathroom up there, and when one is being put in, a kitchenette could be put in as well, and he could have an apartment. I'd like that more than having him living with us. I'm set in my ways."
Randy talked to Davis and Ethan the next day, and they decided to do the renovation if Christopher was interested. A kitchen and bathroom with a shower (no tub), bedroom and living room/study, all would be small, but plenty adequate for a single person. Ethan told Christopher about the possible housing, and he was delighted, but reminded Ethan that he had no money to pay a deposit and first month's rent. "Also, I have no furniture."
“Check out the place and what would be done to it, and if you and Randy agree, Arkadelphia will advance you rent money. You won't need a deposit. Furnishings? Check with Doug and Rich. They found a couple of things they are using including their drop leaf table and chairs—in the Pleasant Grove plantation house. I noticed New Year's they had refinished the table and chairs and recovered the seats of the chairs. They were pretty ratty looking when they got them, but are perfectly beautiful now. Also, check with Molly. I know she had some things stored in one of the old barns. My office and bedroom furniture are from there."
“Great,” Christopher responded, “I truly appreciate it.”
Later, as Davis was going over what he wanted to be done with Francis, he recalled Ginger was willing for Christopher to have an apartment upstairs, but was not willing to have him living with them. "Francis, how much trouble would it be to add an outside entrance to the upstairs?"
“No trouble at all. Steps up the side of the house and cut a door. No trouble at all.”
“Then do it,” Davis said. “How long is all this going to take?”
“Three or four weeks, a lot depending on the electrician and plumber. Also, you never know what you'll run into in these older houses. You want skylights up in like we did in the Kistler's place? Rooms are going to be awfully dark without them."
“Sure, yeah, sure,” Davis said.
Christopher managed to get classes Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, so the second week of January Andy, Jamie, Christopher, Michael, and Ethan headed for ASU. They dropped Christopher off at the community college which was about five or six blocks from the entrance to ASU. They told him they would meet him there at 6:00 for supper.
At supper, Christopher told them he thought the course he was in here was better than the one he had last semester. So far he really liked the instructor, and he was sure they would be doing more hands-on than he had before. He was glad he had the time after classes were over because much of his work would be lab work—cooking—and he could do that between the time he finished classes, and the others were ready to go home. "I think I'll have nothing to do outside of the time I'm here at school, well, maybe some of my online courses, but I can do that in the evenings I am not in class or lab here. I should have no trouble getting in thirty hours of work each week. That's really good news. Thanks to Arkadelphia, things are looking up, much more so than I had dared hope."
Saturday afternoon, Christopher called and told Ethan he, Doug and Rich were going to Pleasant Grove plantation house to explore and asked if he wanted to go along. Ethan did and reminded Christopher they would need flashlights as the house was boarded up. Ethan asked Sally Ann if she was interested and she wasn't. He grabbed a couple of Maglite lanterns and headed for Pleasant Grove.
When he reached the house, Christopher, Doug, and Rich were sitting in their car waiting for him. When they got out, they also had a couple of Maglite lanterns. They walked inside and just generally explored the house. After they had looked it all over, Christopher said, "I don't know why anyone would want to spend time in this part of the world, but this place would make one hell of bed and breakfast."
“Well, it's available,” Ethan laughed. “Maybe you can have a visit from the Virgin Mary and open a shrine.”
“In the Reverend Archibald Willis' backyard?” Rich chuckled. “Now that I think about it, wouldn't that give him a pain in the ass.”
The furniture in the formal parlor is definitely not something a young man would want and that in the everyday living room—at least all the seating—was worn beyond redemption. There was an end table which had good lines and would be very attractive when refinished. The same was true of the office furniture, a massive wooden desk and chair and a matching bookcase. Those things and a couch and chair and would be all the small living room/office could handle.
They had just about given up hope finding anything for the bedroom since everything in the many bedrooms they had explored was huge, heavy and ornate. When they opened the door of the last bedroom, they found an art deco suite in near perfect condition. Bed, dresser and bedside table would be all he could use, Christopher thought, but there was a high chest he'd squeeze in if he could. Of course, he'd have to buy new springs and mattress, but he thought he'd have money for that by the time the house was ready. He'd also have to buy a couch and chairs for the living room.
“I know how you're going to spend your Saturday and Sundays,” Ethan laughed. “You have a major refinishing job on your hands,” he said after Christopher said what he wanted.
“Doug can give you excellent advice about that," Rich said. "He did the table and chairs at our place."
“Be happy to, Christopher, and you'll have some beautiful pieces when they are done.”
When Ethan told Molly what they had found at Pleasant Grove, she said, “Knowing Minnie Maude Chambers, there's a good possibility she never got around to getting rid of that stored furniture. Wasn't there a second set of den furniture? Was there a couch and chair in that?”
“There was, and they were nice," Ethan said.
Molly called Minnie Maude, and sure enough, she said she just never got around to doing anything with that 'stuff' and would be happy for Christopher to have a look and use what he could. He and Ethan took the flatbed and met Minnie Maude and Molly at the warehouse. Christopher was more than happy when he saw the couch and two chairs. Again, it would fill the room, but he thought he should worry about that later. They loaded it on the flatbed and stored it in the old barn until the apartment was finished.
When Ginger learned Davis had ordered an outside entrance, she was more than pleased. She and Randy need never know Christopher was on the place. Francis was sure Ginger wouldn't like workmen walking through the house, so he had his crew start on the outside entrance immediately. Before the outside entrance was completed, a plumber and an electrician began work, installing the plumbing and wiring. Roofers installed skylights which made the space quite bright. Thursday, four and a half weeks after he had started, Francis, Davis, and Ethan did the final walk-through, and Francis handed Ethan the key. On the way to ASU, Ethan gave the key to Christopher and said, "You have a home." Christopher got teary-eyed.
Christopher had spent most evenings he was not in school refinishing furniture—the bedroom furniture needed nothing more than a good cleaning. All were soon ready to move in. Saturday morning after the apartment was finished, the younger set all pitched in to get Christopher moved, and by noon the job was done. The apartment was small, but would be very comfortable, Christopher decided. Everything was in place when the mattress and box springs for the bed arrived. When they were in place, he realized he needed pillows and bed linen, and he and Sally Ann headed to Walmart to get them. Doug and Rich gave him a computer and printer as a housewarming gift, and Rich connected the computer to the Internet for him. When everything was in place, Christopher looked around and said, "I got kicked out and seemed to have landed in a bed of roses." Ethan still didn't know why he had been kicked out.
Since Christopher's utilities were separate from Randy and Ginger's, they were in a quandary about what he should pay in rent. As he was moving in, Ginger had a sudden revelation. She could solve a long-standing problem and save Christopher money as well. Randy hated, absolutely hated any kind of yard work. The most Ginger had ever been able to get out of him was mowing the grass, and even that was a running battle. The next evening when she heard Ethan drop Christopher off after they got back from class, she stuck her head out the front door and called to him to come inside.
When Christopher came inside, Ginger said, "Christopher, my husband is worse than any thirteen-year-old when it comes to yard work. I have a proposal for you. You keep the grass mowed and things trimmed up, and that can be your rent. Of course, if you want to do more outside than that, it will be welcome, but at least keep the place looking decent."
“Sounds like a good deal to me," Christopher said and, in fact, one of the joys he had growing up was working with Pablo, his mother's landscaper/groundskeeper
“Well, there's really not much to do right now beyond picking up. Surrounded by trees, winter winds often leave a lot of twigs on the lawn, but that's about it until spring.”
Over the coming months, Ginger, who was reluctant to have Christopher move in, became his older sister. She was the first he told why he had ended up on the doorstep of the uncle who had not known him when he was thrown out of his home. Randy grew very fond of the Texan as well. He worked hard, had a great sense of humor, a genuine love of cattle and worked well with them. In spite of Ginger—and Randy although he never said much about it—not wanting Christopher to interfere with their lives, he had been living upstairs only weeks before they were treating him like a son which included showing him much affection, something his real family just did not do. He thrived on it.