Saturday morning, Andy pulled up to Stanley Hall and leaped out of the Shelby GT500 convertible. Christine was waiting for him. “Goats pay for this?” Christine laughed as Andy opened her door and she slid into the car.
“No, this was paid for by some slime dogs.” As they headed toward Philos, Andy told her about the reward money. “Paid for this and half of Philos Plantation and will pay for a house when I get ready to build one. If not, Jamie and I will sell a few pines.”
When they got to Philos, Andy parked by the office building and asked Christine if she had ever driven an ATV. She said she had, but only on a track. Andy told her that was probably good enough and opened the garage door and handed her the key to one of the ATVs and he took the other one. “We’ll have a look at the goats on Pleasant Grove first,” he said. “They are clearing out another patch of kudzu. The stuff grows back, but we get the goats back on it.”
Christine was quite taken with Hector, the billy at Pleasant Grove. “Yeah, he’s presentable, but you wouldn’t believe how nasty and stinky he is when he is in rut. There are two more billies at Philos, Ajax and Achilles. Right now all our billies are Trojan War heroes. We seem to stick to the practice of Mr. Blount, from whom we purchased our original herd, and name the billies after figures from Greek and Roman mythology.”
“How about the nannies?”
“Well, there are too many to remember their names, you'll recall we own a lot of nannies, and they aren't around as long as the billies. We replace about fifteen to twenty percent of the nannies with doelings after each breeding cycle. Even with replacing nannies and three billies, it's hard to prevent inbreeding. To add bloodlines, we also purchase sperm. Caleb is a miracle worker when it comes to keeping bloodlines straight."
“Sounds like a born geneticist. I’d like to meet him.”
“Sure. I'll give him a call and we'll get with him this afternoon. It's 11:30 and we have a lunch date at noon." After taking a good look at the goats and their environment at Pleasant Grove, Andy showed Christine the area from which the goats had been recently moved. ‟See how they have eaten the kudzu and bushes and brambles leaving the grass? It would be too costly in time and money to try to clean up an area by hand and machines are pretty useless where kudzu is involved. Also, where machines are involved, it's all or nothing—grass goes along with the bushes and brambles. When we start creating pastures for cattle at Philos, we'll have goats do their job clearing out kudzu and brambles first."
‟So you plan to run cattle as well as goats.”
‟Yeah, both Jamie and I are cattle people and got into goats almost by accident, but we have space for both. If the goats prove too much for Caleb with help from the Arkadelphia family, we’ll add help or reduce the size of the goat herd.” He glanced at his watch and said, ‟We better be getting back.”
Back at the office building, they parked the ATVs and got in the car and headed back into the forest of old trees. “Wow, you have some really big trees here.”
“Yeah, some are over a hundred years old. The place I have selected for my house is in a part of this same old growth forest. We also have a loblolly pine forest and older one of longleaf pine. Eventually, we'll sell off some of it, but right now we don't need the money and the market is depressed. By the way, have you run across Joe Maddox? He's a county agent working out of Glen Stockade, but is adjunct at ASU."
“I haven’t met him, but my professor has mentioned him.”
“Well, we work with him. He got us into the goat business and advises us about them and our forests. We're almost there," Jamie said as they turned a curve and broke out of the forest. Before them was Jamie and Kathryn's house.
“Wow,” Christine said, “that is some house. Beautiful.”
“Wait until you see the front and inside.”
“Your house going to be like this?”
Andy laughed, "No, I told them if I wanted to live outside I'd get a tent. No, it’s beautiful and all, but not my kind of house. I want a Georgia farmhouse—you know, with a two-way sloped roof, porch across the front."
“Love the style and it sounds right for a goat/cattle farm.”
“I have a grand site too. Show you later.”
As they got out of the car, Kathryn called from the deck, “Welcome to Philos.”
She was standing with Jamie who had his arm around her waist. He added, “Welcome indeed.”
The three-year-old twins were standing beside their mother, their bodies pressed against the railing cables. The two suddenly shouted “Uncle Andy,” and raced toward the steps leading to the deck.
“Careful boys,” Jamie called to them.
When Andy was a couple of steps from them, they both launched themselves at him and he caught them in his arms. “Christine, Masters Andrew and Raphael Taylor. Gentlemen, Miss Christine.”
“Hi, Miss Christine,” both said with huge smiles.
Kathryn showed Christine a bathroom and Andy helped himself to the one off the foyer. When he came out he said, “Damn, Jamie, that is a hell of a lot of car you bought me. Keeps the oil companies in business too, but I love it.”
“Not nearly as impressed as she is with the goats. You know cars are a testosterone thing.”
“Yeah, I'd say a guy who would drive that thing probably has a three-inch dick, fully hard."
“And we both know better than that.”
Kathryn was showing Christine the house and she was really surprised to learn the two had essentially designed the house. “You have furnished it beautifully as well.”
“Most of the furniture was made for us from our wood,” Kathryn told her.
She was taken aback when they walked into the dining room to find a table that was set for four, one on each side. “Lovely table,” Christine said while thinking, ‘More than a little small for this room though.’
“With just four we'd usually eat in the kitchen, but we thought we'd use the dining room since we had a guest. The table is usually set up for eight but will seat twelve when it is fully extended. Jamie said we'd like to talk and there was no need to have to shout across a table."
Kathryn served a delicious lunch and all enjoyed themselves, talking about ASU, classes they were taking, the plantation and families. When they had finished lunch, Kathryn said they would have dessert and coffee on the deck overlooking the river.
As they were getting settled, an absolutely beautiful young woman joined them, the two boys holding her hand. Jamie and Andy stood as she walked out on the deck and she said, “Glad you two remembered your manners.”
“We didn’t want to get hit upside the head,” Jamie said. “Christine, my sister Sally Ann. Sally Ann, Christine—oops I don’t know your last name.”
“Evans. Nice to meet you, Sally Ann. Guess you got stuck with the boys while we had lunch.”
“We had lunch as well but often that’s not a pretty sight.”
They all chatted for the next half hour before Andy said, “We’re headed over to Caleb’s place to check out the two flocks over there. Maybe meet Caleb if he’s not on the backside of nowhere with some goats.
“Come again, Christine. You’re always welcome at Philos,” Kathryn said as the two got in the Shelby. As Andy drove away, she turned to Jamie and asked, “You sure that boy needed that much car?” Jamie just grinned.
When Andy and Christine reached Caleb’s place, they saw him putting up a temporary fence beside the barn. When they walked up, Andy introduced Christine and asked, “What’re you up to?”
“The next round of kidding is over a couple months away, so the goats don’t require a lot of time, so I decided the boys needed pet goats. I selected a couple of welters and two doelings from the last kidding. I’m putting up a temp fence and will build a permanent one enclosing an acre or two later, divided so we can rotate pastures. I have selected four goats I think will make good pets, got their vaccinations up to date and dewormed them and been playing with them and giving them treats. Give the boys bags of corn chips and the goats will come running.”
“So how do you know which goats will make good pets?” Christine asked.
"Not sure how to answer that scientifically," Caleb said. "Mostly it's instinct, but some kids—goat and human—are just more social than others. That is saying a lot since goats are really social creatures but with careful observation, you can spot ones which are especially social. The only time Mr. Blount took back a goat sold as a pet was when a father insisted on buying a billy for his six-year-old son. Mr. Blount tried to tell him what a billy in rut was like, but he knew better. When he brought him back, you could smell him coming from a mile away. Mr. Blount took him back but refused to refund his money—rightly so. So I just observe how the goats behave and make a selection. A lot of instinct involved I think. Want to see the four I have selected?"
“Sure,” Christine said.
“I have them isolated as they have been dewormed and I don’t want their dropping to contaminate a pasture. I’ll be ready to put them in the new pasture before the day is over,” Caleb said, as they walked over to a small paddock nearby. As soon as the goats saw them, they came over to investigate.
“All of these Spanish goats?’ Christine asked. “They are all so different.”
“All Spanish. Look closely and you’ll see they are very much alike except for coloring. Spanish goats come in all the goat colors and patterns. DNA samples have shown our goats have ninety-eight plus percent of DNA found in Spanish goats. We want to keep it that way.”
The four goats—one pure white, a midnight black one, one with brownish red coat and a white one with black patches were clamoring for corn chips. Caleb gave each goat a few and Christine started scratching between the white goat's horn buds and the goat loved it. Soon the other three were trying to get scratched as well "Jamie and Ethan are bringing the boys around about 5:00. Should be a real show."
“I know you need to get the temp fence up,” Andy said, “but if you’ll talk to Christine about a project she has in mind, I’ll work on the fence.”
“So you want to get into goats, Christine?”
“Maybe. Been thinking about how to use goats for my fellowship in genetics. I’ll have a year and a half. Want to observe how you select nannies for breeding and to which billy and see if there is a way that can be used by people who simply aren’t talented in the same manner as you. If I can get a good start on it, I may be able to do further work on the project in graduate school. Caleb tells me you have kept very good records of bloodlines, so there’s a start. I’ve got to give it a lot of thought. Got time to talk?”
“Sure, now that Andy’s taken over the fencing project.”
Caleb and Christine went to his office where he showed her how he kept records of bloodlines offspring, etc. Christine was very impressed. The two discussed how she might begin to define her fellowship project. After they had talked for almost an hour, Caleb said he’d be delighted to work with her. After that, she asked about the issues goats presented and learned a great deal about the animals and about the vast knowledge of them Caleb possessed.
A few minutes before five, the quiet was shattered by a blast of Jamie's air horns. "I believe the boys have arrived," Caleb laughed. When he and Christine stepped out of the house, Kathryn and Jamie were helping Raphael and Andrew out of Jamie's truck. A second truck was parked beside Jamie's and a man and woman were helping two boys from it, one very dark headed and one a redhead. As soon as the boys were out, a small blond woman climbed out of the back as well. Andy motioned for Caleb and Christine. When they reached the five new arrivals, Andy said, "Christine, Kathy Nobel and her son Kayden, Ash Rutledge and her son Taylor and Jamie's brother, well, mine as well, Ethan Taylor. Folks, Christine Evans, lab assistant and friend from ASU. She’s interested in genetics and goats." Christine shook hands all around and Raphael and Andrew insisted on shaking hands with her again.
Soon Ethan and Jamie were over the stile into the pasture with the goats. Andy lifted the boys, each clutching a bag of corn chips, up and into the arms of their fathers. As soon as they were turned loose in the pasture, they were surrounded by goats. "Kayden, there's yours," Raphael said, jumping up and down while pointing at a nanny with hair almost the color of Kayden's brownish red mop. Kayden walked over to the goat and extended a corn chip toward her. Mrs. Kistler had been taking all four to a riding teacher and Kayden rode a pony named Princess and he promptly announced his goat's name was Princess.
Andrew couldn’t make up his mind between the snow white nanny and the black and white welter. While he was vacillating between the two, Raphael walked over to the white nanny, gave her a corn chip and said, “My goat’s name is Snow White. Andrew shrugged and claimed the black and white goat. He had apparently been listening to Jamie and Andy because he announced his goat was Apollo.
Everyone was so focused on the vacillating Andrew that they had overlooked Taylor. Now the ‘which goat' question between Andrew and Raphael had been settled, Taylor was the center of attention. All the adults were terrified. He was astride the pitch black welter, leaning over his neck, feeding him corn chips. "What if the goat decides to gallop off, throwing Taylor to the ground?" a wide-eyed Ash asked. They need not have worried. When Taylor sat upright, he used his knees to guide the goat over to the adults where he slid off. "Midnight likes for me to ride him," Taylor announced as he scratched the goat behind the ears. The other three goats eventually learned to tolerate giving their boys short rides after Ethan got halters for them; Taylor's Midnight never needed a halter and always welcomed Taylor for a ride. The other three boys had chosen their goats; Midnight had chosen his boy. Before they were ready, it was time for naps so Jamie took them in hand and headed for home.
Cade had been in Jacksonville for six weeks when he was told his leave had been extended. "I guess the Marines don't know what to do with you," the officer who gave him his orders said.
“Seems so, Sir.” He saluted, turned and walked out. He had thirty days before he was to report to Camp Lejeune in North Carolina for his official discharge. He went to bed for the last time in Jacksonville knowing he would have breakfast and head to Arkadelphia the next morning.
He took his time driving back to Caleb's place, exiting the interstate from time to time, stopping to walk around the Georgia Welcome Center and generally just having a relaxed drive. He pulled into Caleb's place at noon. He had not called Caleb to tell him he was coming. He should have, but he just never got around to it. As he pulled up, he saw a Ford Shelby parked beside the house, but there was no one around. He walked around the house and sprawled out on a lounge. Caleb had purchased the outdoor furniture at a yard sale, stripped the paint and repainted it and had new cushions made for it. It looked great.
As he lay on the lounge, he asked himself, ‘Now I am here, what next?" In his mind, he debated what he should do, but just under his conscious thought was the nagging reminder that he knew exactly what he needed to do, had to do. He had to talk to Caleb and make sure it was alright for him to live with him until he could make other arrangements. Then he had to talk to Ethan and get himself squared away concerning the Arkadelphia Dream. If he could get that done, he'd talk to Andy and Jamie about a job. Before he could fret too much about what he knew he had to do he was asleep.
He was awakened by the roar of two ATVs. When he got up, he saw them coming toward the house from the farm road that went to the back goat pasture. Caleb and Andy were driving, but there was another person with Andy. As they approached the house it became obvious the third person was an attractive woman. They roared up and stopped and all hopped off the ATVs and Caleb said, "Welcome home, Cade. This is Christine Evans. Christine, my brother Cade who is a Marine, was a Marine, what Cade?"
“They say once a Marine, always a Marine, but I’m on my way to becoming a discharged Marine. So far as I know I’m here until I go back to be officially discharged. So, your wheels Andy?”
“Yeah. Probably too much, but Jamie went to buy me a new Mustang and came back with a year before last used—it has almost five thousand miles on it—Shelby. The salesman told Jamie he would hate himself in the morning. Anyway, it cost a lot of money, but I love it. Taking Dad to see my grandmother next weekend and I’ll stop by mother’s place and go to Glen Stockade to see my brother. Be worth the cost to see the looks on their faces!”
“I guess you don’t like your brother a whole lot,” Christine laughed.
“Pardon my language in front of a lady, but he is a number one asshole. So you’re back until you’re gone again, Cade?”
“Shouldn't be more than a week to ten days getting out since it's mostly paperwork."
“I’ll talk to you later, Cade,” Andy said, “I’m off to show Christine my house site.”
Andy and Christine left and Caleb and Cade put the ATVs in a shed near one of the kidding sheds since they would be using them to check on the goats. Caleb and Jamie had taken them to the office building in case Andy wanted them after he told Jamie he thought he'd be bringing Christine out. When they got back to the house, Caleb fired up the grill to grill hamburgers. He also placed vegetables on skewers and potatoes on the grill. He had microwaved the potatoes until they were about half-done before putting them on the grill so they wouldn't take so long to cook but still would not taste like boiled potatoes. Cade went inside and grabbed a couple of beers. After Cade had handed Caleb a beer, he walked over and sat down on one of the benches around the table, staring into space. When Caleb walked over and sat facing him, he asked, "Caleb, do you remember Jeremy?"
“He was that friend of yours that lived down the road who died, right?”
“Yeah. Yeah, he was.”
“I knew him, remember him, but he really was your friend.”
“He was. I guess you never knew the whole story. Jeremy was like another brother to me." Cade then told Caleb the story. He had shielded Caleb from the sordid details when Jeremy hanged himself. When he finished, he had tears in his eyes as he said, "Caleb, that's the main reason I have problems with gays." Caleb noticed he said gays, not fags. Cade then talked about his time in Jacksonville and dealing with his emotional as well as his physical problems. "I think I have gone as far as I can go physically, well, there may be some slight improvement from healing and use, but it is about as good as it's going to be. Emotionally? I have a way to go with the emotional issues, but I'm working on them. I'll be working with a counselor in Audubon once a week for at least a month. Thought I might be able to go when you all go to class."
“Now that Arkadelphia and Philos jointly own a van, no problem if you can work out the schedule.”
“And honestly, I think I can keep my mouth shut and work around a gay person now.” He laughed, “I spent too much time trying to figure out who was gay at Arkadelphia and nothing added up. You eliminate the mothers and fathers and you’re left with Doug and Rich, Randy and Ginger, Christopher, Andy and Alfred. Reading just the other day about how homophobic the FBI was—even when J. Edgar Hoover was director even though he was much into homoerotic play with a boyfriend.” Caleb noted Cade’s language and knew he must have spent a lot of time talking about homosexuality because he sure didn’t learn words like homophobic and homoerotic in Hubert County or the Marines. “And with the FBI being a part of the Department of Justice, I don’t think that culture has changed that much.” Caleb knew it had, but also knew being openly gay had not advanced Rich’s career.
“Okay, I went out with Andy and Christopher once chasing skirts. Don't think they were faking. The long and the short of it is I gave up, saying to myself, ‘So much for believing I could spot a gay person a mile away!' Gonna talk to Ethan, then Jamie and Andy." For the first time, Caleb thought things just might work out for Cade.
Ethan was working on a schedule for the next week—well, that's what he would have said had he been asked—but the truth was, he was daydreaming of Caleb. If he were honest with himself, he’d have to admit he was doing a lot of that lately. Ethan was awakened from his daydream by the telephone. "Arkadelphia Plantation. This is Ethan."
“Cade! When did you get back?”
“A couple hours ago. You have any time to talk this afternoon or tomorrow?"
“Sure. Come over when you are ready.”
“I’ll be there in a few minutes.”
Twenty minutes later, Cade walked into the plantation office. Ethan stood and extended his hand. “So you’re finished in Jacksonville?”
“Yeah. Now all I have to do is wait for a call to go and get my discharge. It's just a matter of time and paperwork. I will be seeing a doctor in Audubon weekly for a while, a psychologist. Jacksonville did all they could do with restoring my leg. There was some shit from the IED that didn't show clearly on the x-rays and was left in. That was removed and some more reconstructive surgery was done. A lot of improvement, but the leg will never be as good as it was, but I am alive. The others in the Humvee were not so lucky. I'll always have a limp, but it's not as bad as it was when I got here.
“Emotionally, mentally I also made a lot of progress, but still have a way to go. That's really what I needed to talk about. As a practical matter, I need to know if I can arrange to go into Audubon when you all go to class."
“Sure. With the van, there'll be room if you can arrange your appointments. No problem. This semester we go in three days a week. We leave at 2:30 Monday, Wednesday and Friday. We leave Audubon at 5:30 Monday and Friday and at 7:30 Wednesday."
“On a much deeper level, I need to talk about work I did with Dr. Richardson, a psychologist, in Jacksonville. We did some digging concerning my problem with gays. Seems it stems from a pretty traumatic event when I was thirteen.” Cade then told Ethan about Jeremy. “That, and a Marine wrestling champion, got me straightened out intellectually.”
“A Marine wrestling champion?”
“Yeah. I was bragging about being able to spot—pardon the language—a fag a mile away. On some pretense, Dr. Richardson called his staff sergeant into the room. The guy could snap me in two and not break a sweat. The doctor introduced him and said he was the Marine regional wrestling champion. ‘Oh, and he's as gay as a troop carrier full of drag queens,' the doctor said. As I said, the staff sergeant and the session with Dr. Richardson got my rational mind on the right track. Emotionally, I still have problems especially when I think about what two men do in bed."
“Cade, I have problems when I think about what Davis and Molly do in bed, so I don’t think about it,” Ethan laughed.
“Well, the Marines straightened me out about working with African-Americans and I suspect if I could stay in after the repeal of ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell,’ the Marines would straighten me out about working with gays. But I can’t stay in and I am at the place where I can honestly say I can both work with gays and keep my mouth shut. I expect my attitude to continue to improve as I work with the psychologist here. If you could trust me, I’d like to work at Philos.”
“Cade, you know where all three plantations stand in regard to respecting people, but as to working at Philos, I can’t give you a yea or nay on that. Andy and Jamie own Philos and they decide who they want working there. They would probably listen if I expressed an opinion about someone they are considering, but they would give more weight to Caleb’s evaluation. You’ll have to speak to them.”
“I thought you were the Generalissimo of all three plantations.”
“Your twin is not always right,” Ethan grinned.
The two talked about what was going on on the plantations with Ethan telling him the kidding season was drawing to a close and the calving season would start in a few weeks. "We're also gearing up for the spring work in the groves. It's late, but Jamie and Andy talked with Joe and have decided to go ahead and sprig the prepared old goat pasture at Philos. Two goat herds are being moved to the new pastures this week and the one at Pleasant Grove is being moved. We really need a couple more people so I think you are looking for a job when we need people. Good luck."
When he got back to Philos, Cade found Jamie and asked about time to talk. Jamie called Andy and then told Cade they’d talk with him at 5:30.
At 5:30, Cade walked into the Philos office where Andy and Jamie awaited him. Jamie handed him a coke as he got settled and asked, “You wanted to talk, Cade?”
"Sure do. Talked to Ethan earlier thinking he made all the decisions around here, but he quickly told me I was wrong, that you two run Philos."
“Well, don’t believe everything Ethan says. Caleb doesn’t call him Generalissimo without reason. We actually run Philos, but our relationship to Ethan is kinda like his to Davis except we don’t work for Ethan. We’d go against his suggestions if we disagreed, but we’d think long and hard about why he thought as he did,” Jamie said.
“Ethan is kind like the daddy of us all,” Andy said.
“A job he gets tired of it from time to time, but he’s still Ethan, our big brother and can’t get out of the job,” Jamie added.
“Well, I told him about my experience in Jacksonville and what I can expect in way of follow-up. I'd like you to know that as well."
“So tell us,” Jamie invited, and Cade did.
“As I told Ethan, if you can trust me, I'd like to work at Philos. I know goats, maybe not as well as Caleb, but he must be half goat to understand them as he does. I'll continue working with a psychologist and as I said, I don't think I'll have a problem working with gays—hell, I have been already—and can keep my mouth shut if you'll give me a chance."
Ethan had called earlier and told the two about his talk with Cade, but he wouldn’t say what he thought they should do. After they talked it over, Jamie called Ethan and told him they were going to give him a six month’s contract. “Good idea, Brother. A wise move,” Ethan had responded.
After Andy and Jamie had asked Cade some questions, Andy said, “Cade, you’re not fool enough to believe Ethan didn’t call us after he talked with you. He didn’t say what he thought we should do, but suggested we talk about it and then interview you.”
“After we discussed it," Jamie said, "unless something came up in the interview suggesting otherwise, we decided we'd offer you a six months contract, subject to renewal. Ethan thought that was a good idea. You know and understand the Arkadelphia Dream and agree to it as part of the contract. We pay on the same salary scale as Arkadelphia—Jamie handed him a copy of the salary scale—you'll find it is higher than any other plantation in the area. We pay health insurance and into a retirement account. Generally, we would provide housing, but that's a problem. We don't feel we can build another house here or refurbish one at Pleasant Grove and there is not one at Arkadelphia. I know Caleb has said you could live with him as long as you needed, but I'm sure you both would like your privacy."
“That’s true. We have always gotten along and I had practically no privacy in the Corps, but I know Caleb enjoys having his own place. Now that I’ll be out of the Corps, I can understand why. Maybe I can find a place nearby.”
“Not likely to find anything close, but keep your eyes open," Andy said. "There is an option provided Caleb is agreeable. Caleb's house plan originally included an attached garage. Since we knew we'd have the barn and sheds nearby, a garage seemed unnecessary. Nonetheless, Francis, the contractor who built the house, insisted that the foundation for the garage be poured. He said it would cost little and would make building the garage much easier should one be desired later. The front is set back from the front of the house eight feet, but the back is extended toward the river the width of the deck. Instead of a garage, an addition could be built on the foundation. You could have a living space—bedroom, bath, living room and a very compact kitchenette. We'll talk to Caleb and you do as well and if it's a go, we'll get Francis on it as soon as possible."
Caleb had expected the present arrangement to continue if Cade was offered a job and was delighted with the possibility of having his space back. When Cade mentioned his space would have an outside entrance, Caleb wondered if one could be added to his office as well.
Caleb assured Jamie and Andy he had no objection to Cade living with him, especially if he could have his own space. When Francis showed up two days later, he told Caleb it would be easier if he treated the addition as a separate apartment with its own heat pump, electrical service and plumbing. He said he'd get a plan by and if it was approved, start on the addition Monday of the coming week. He also told Caleb adding an outside door to his office was no problem.