In mid-February Kathryn finally felt like her old self again. She really felt better when Jamie called her in March and asked her to come to Philos to do a walk through the house. Charles Summers, who was overseeing the construction, was ready to do a punch list. The list was short and the contractor assured Charles the work would be completed by the end of the week.
"If you are sure," Jamie said, "I'll schedule delivery of the furniture." The contractor asked Jamie to give him an additional day.
The kitchen cabinets had been made by Dan Matthews, a cabinet maker Dr. Austin knew. In talking with him, Jamie learned he had three brothers who custom built furniture. Jamie and Kathryn met with them to discuss furniture for the master and guest suites, great and dining rooms. When one of the brothers examined the lumber Jamie had, he suggested they do an exchange. They had lumber that had been air drying for four and five years while what Jamie had, had been drying for less than two. They struck a bargain and the furniture was ready for delivery when the house was finished. The rest of the furniture they had selected in a couple of stores in Atlanta and it, too, was scheduled for delivery when they were ready for it.
The move into the house was fairly easy as the furniture was delivered and placed so the only moving, so far as Jamie was concerned, did not involve furniture. Molly, Claire Bell, Sally Ann, and Ginger took care of grocery shopping, getting linens in place and in general getting the household going. Molly had called Mrs. Heffner, Kathryn'smother, to remind her what was going on and, again, ask her to join in. She said she couldn't as it was her bridge club afternoon and she was ‘busy' the other days they would be finishing up the move in.
Jamie and Kathryn had been in their own place less than a week when, as Jamie walked in from ASU, the phone started ringing. Kathryn answered it and said, "It's Joe," as she handed it to Jamie.
"What's up?" Jamie asked.
"Get Andy on as well. Have run across something for you two to think about."
"Andy here. What's up?"
"Joe here with Jamie. Listen, guys, we need to investigate further, but I may have stumbled onto something. Got a call from a woman in Hubert County. She's a business executive from Atlanta whose dad just died and she finds herself with a herd of goats on her hands. She found my name and number on her dad's 'call when I die' list. I had known him for a several years and really liked the old man. Anyway, he started raising Spanish goats a few years ago because he was in a situation not unlike yours in some ways. He retired and bought a couple hundred acres in Hubert County that has been more or less abandoned for several years. He intended starting a cattle farm, but someone suggested he get brush goats to clear it off first. He did and became so enchanted with the goats that he never got around to cattle. He sells all he raises to a company which supplies goat meat to restaurants in Miami, Atlanta, Mobile, and New Orleans as well as exporting to the Islands. You interested in looking into it?"
"I don't know about it," Andy said, "I really can't see calling myself a goat man."
"We need to think and talk about it," Jamie added. "How much money are we talking?"
"He had two championship-quality billies and their wether companions and twenty-one nannies and ten doelings. Ordinarily, we'd be talking about eleven to twenty thousand, but I think you can have them for about half that or a bit more."
"Where would we put them? We have nothing but a lot of nothing at this point," Jamie said.
"The woman has a man taking care of them right now, but he's leaving in three weeks. If you are at all interested, I suggest you get down there, talk to the woman and her goatherd and find out what you need to do. You'll need to talk with Ethan and Davis and see if they can help you get ready. I know you'll need a fence and billy pens. Goats also need shelter---pole barns will do fine. I'll get on learning about goats and you let me know what you decide."
They all said goodnight. As he hung up, Andy laughed and said he'd be over for breakfast.
At 7:00 when Andy arrived, Jamie was finishing breakfast while Kathryn nursed a baby. The younger set accepted that as a perfectly natural---which it was---and none of the three nursing women dashed to hide when someone came unless it was Davis.
"Neither of you look half asleep," Andy laughed. "Andrew and Raphael screw up and sleep all night?"
"They did. I'll admit I got up once to check and make sure they were all right," Kathryn grinned. "Well, Raphael, you are finished and now need a clean diaper." She went into the nursery, changed the diaper and brought both boys back. They were so identical that Kathryn had placed Raphael's name bracelet on his right arm and Andrew's on his left.
Andy and Kathryn put the babies in their carriers and placed them on the kitchen table while Jamie dished up breakfast. After Jamie said grace, he asked, "So, Andy, what do you think about raising goats?"
"Actually, I have given it a lot of thought and done a bit of research on the Internet. On the plus side, we have an opportunity to pick up an established business at a fire sale price. Preparation for the critters isn't as expensive as it would be for cattle and, unlike cattle, they'll eat what we need to get rid of. Did some research and found Spanish goats, which these are also called brush goats because they will eat brush and bushes before they'll eat grass. Grass is their last choice. In fact, some places and outfits have bought them just for that purpose. A very remarkable characteristic is that they eat kudzu and poison ivy. We have enough of that here and Arkadelphia and Pleasant Grove are covered with the stuff anywhere we haven't beaten it back. When the goats finish with an area it will be a hell of a lot easier to turn it into a cattle pasture than it is now. Kudzu, brush and bushes, stuff we need to get rid of are prime goat food. Goat people use temporary fence so they can just keep moving the goats as they finish an area.
"The downside is the fact that we know nothing about goats. If we could find a goat man or woman, then I say we go for it."
"Also we'll need to check with Dr. Weiss to see if he knows squat about goats. If not, we'll have to find a vet which might be difficult," Andy concluded.
Jamie laughed, "I believe you did do some thinking. I did too along different lines. I want, of course, to talk with Ethan and Randy, but I think we need to head to Hubert County and spend some time with the fellow who is caring for the goats now, see what we can learn and see if we can find a goat man."
"I guess we could leave this afternoon and be gone until Sunday, but I'll have to talk with Joe first."
"Go ahead and give him a call, this is his idea after all," Andy said.
Joe said he'd make arrangements for them to meet the owner of the goats and the man keeping them. When he called back, he said it was all arranged. The closest motel was twenty miles away and Ms. Blount, the owner, said they could stay on the farm. Joe gave them directions and wished them luck.
Jamie called Ethan after breakfast while Andy used his cell to call Randy. Ethan would call Davis. When they had all assembled around the conference table in Davis' office, Andy said, "Okay, Jamie, you start and if they start laughing too hard I'll leave."
Jamie glared at Andy and then said, "Joe called just as I was got in last night. I think the man is a magnet for bargains or what he thinks are bargains." He then told them about the goats.
"Guys, about goats I know nothing," Davis said. "Having said that, I'd pretty much trust Joe on anything that grows in the ground or walks on four legs or two legs if it can fly. If he thinks this is a good way to go, I say don't turn it down without a careful look."
"I agree with that," Ethan said, "Your investment will not be nearly as steep as starting an equivalent cattle operation and the return will be quicker. How does a goat's gestation period compare with a cow?"
"It's shorter, but I don't know how much," Jamie said.
"It's just over half a cow's," Andy said. "I'm sure some of the nannies have been bred and Spanish goats are like girls, they breed year round."
"You better watch your sexist mouth," Ethan laughed. "We have several women around here who can make sure you'll never breed anything! Anyway, I see the goats' diet as a major asset. I understand they will eat kudzu, bushes, bramble and such. Go, ask questions, think and decide. You know more about this than we do. You've got common sense---use it, that's the best anyone can do."
Jamie asked Ethan if Sally Ann could stay with Kathryn. "I'd not like leaving her at Philos by herself with two young babies," Ethan said if she couldn't he would.
The trip to Hubert County and Calumet Farm took just under two hours. When Jamie and Andy turned into the farm lane, they saw goats of several colors watching them. Jamie looked at the fence and pointed out to Andy that it was net rather than the kind of fence they were used to.
As they approached the house, they saw a large two-story house with a porch across the front. It had been painted white, but was in need of a new paint job. When they got out of the truck, a woman dressed in a smart pants suit stepped out of the house. "Hello, I am Ann Blount and I assume you are Mr. Taylor and Mr. Hickey."
"I'm Taylor, please call me Jamie and this is Andy, Ms. Blount."
"Do come in and call me Ann. I was expecting much older men. Neither of you looks twenty."
"We're not, but will be shortly."
"I sure there's a story behind that and Philos LLP I seem to be dealing with, but let me get you something to drink. Ice tea, coke? I planned to offer you a cold beer, but given your age . . . "
"Ice tea would be fine," Andy said and Jamie nodded.
Ann got the drinks and as she sat down said, "I guess Mr. Maddox---you do know Mr. Maddox, right?" Both young men laughed and nodded. "I guess he told you the situation here. My father loved this place. My mom had died the year before he retired and he was all at loose ends when he was no longer had a job to demand his attention. He came to south Georgia to look up an old buddy and he and his buddy were just driving around, showing Dad the country. When Dad saw the 'For Sale' sign on this place, he had his buddy drive in to have a look and fell in love with the place. What he didn't know was that the price included four pregnant Spanish nannies. By the time someone called about them, he had made pets out of them and the first thing you know he was in the goat business. Spanish goats are sometimes called brush goats because they much prefer eating brush---and kudzu---to grass. His reputation soon got around and finally, he had a contract with a company to purchase the goats for slaughter. When he had goats ready to sell, he gave them a call, they sent a truck and a check. He made a very good profit with minimum work. He died a month ago and I find myself with a south Georgia goat farm on my hands, just what every young, unattached Atlanta gal wants.
"I know that if you're not interested in goats, a goat at any price is not a bargain, but Mr. Maddox thought you might be interested and since you are here, I guess you are somewhat. My main concern is getting the goats situated as quickly as possible. Dad told me on more than one occasion he wanted the goats in a good situation and if possible, where they'd help young people. He had two young men who worked for him. He could easily have gotten by with one, but he thought it more important that he help them than make a bit more profit. With that in mind, Joe told me about you two and you seem to be what Dad had in mind.
"Cade Howard, who is goatherd right now is leaving for the Marines in three weeks. He and his twin, Caleb, have been working for Dad since they were in the eighth grade. Of the two, the real expert on the goats is Caleb. He's at a 4H leadership camp this week. That's not to say Cade is ignorant when it comes to the subject."
"Think Caleb might be looking for a job?" Andy asked.
"Not sure. Cade would know. He'll be here in the morning. For the rest of the afternoon, I suggest you walk around, have a look at the animals, and stretch your legs. I'm afraid we are pretty hard up for supper. I don't cook."
"Any place to eat around here?"
Ann laughed. "You have a choice between two barbecue places. Both are excellent if you like barbecue."
"Do you?" Jamie asked
"Then be our guest. Think either would sell a beer to an underage plantation owner?" Jamie asked.
"I'm sure both would without batting an eye and I have to know about this owning a plantation."
The barbecue place was literally a shed on the side of the road. No question about it, they did their own barbecue as they parked right in front of the smoking pit. Inside there were two rows of picnic tables and only one table was completely empty. They sat down and a boy no older than thirteen came over and asked for their drink order. Jamie noticed a number of Latinos at one table and asked for a Dos Equis. Ann and Andy followed his example. While the boy was gone, they looked over the menu. All three ordered a chopped barbecue plate with coleslaw and potato salad. The plates were huge and in true southern tradition, accompanied by 'stick to the roof of your mouth' white bread.
They clicked beer bottles and Ann said, "Okay, about this LLP and owning a plantation."
"Ever hear of Grant, Grant, and Sherman in Atlanta?"
"Have I! Their office was in the same building I am in. So you had something to do . . . Shit! Pardon my French, you're James Taylor and Andrew Hickey. So how does that connect with owning a plantation and thinking about becoming a goat farmer?"
They told her about the reward and Andy told her how Jamie had outfoxed a number of people to get the plantation at a bargain.
"So you live on the plantation, the two of you?"
"I still live with my dad and see no reason not to," Andy laughed.
"My wife and I have just moved into our new house with our twin sons."
"You're married and have children?"
"Very much married and have twin boys who are six weeks old."
"Well, I understand Spanish goats are great pets for kids."
They went to bed early and slept late. Ann had coffee, orange juice, and pastries for breakfast. They were having a second cup of coffee when a handsome young man, muscular, with a high and tight haircut, came in. "Jamie, Andy, this is Cade. Cade, they're yours for the day. When is Caleb getting back?"
"Mid-afternoon. I was supposed to go pick him up, but I guess Dad can."
"Call your Dad and tell him we'll pick him up," Jamie said. "Need to talk to him about goats."
After Cade had called his dad, the three wandered over the farm as Cade told them what he knew about goats, which was a lot.
The camp/conference center was thirty miles from the farm. The three left shortly after noon and found Caleb ready to go when they arrived. No one would ever take the two for twins. What little hair Cade had left was mousy brown, Caleb's was shoulder length and black. It looked almost exactly like Ethan's. Cade had the muscular build of a weightlifter/football player. Caleb was slender with the muscular structure of a runner. Cade was not fair, but he was much lighter than Caleb. Both were handsome men. Jamie chuckled to himself thinking, "As I said, Brother Ethan, I'm about as straight as you can get, but I can see while Cade is hot, Caleb leaves him in the shade. If I were my brother, I think I'd be creaming my Jockeys."
On the way back to the goat farm, Jamie and Andy plied Caleb with questions. He finally said, "Look, you got a place for the goats and money to buy them, you're a fool if you don't. Just wish I could afford them."
"So what are you going to be doing after the goats are gone, Caleb?" Jamie queried.
"Unlike Cade, the military is not for me. I wanted to go to college and then vet school, but there's no money. I had saved some I earned working for Mr. Blount and I planned on continuing working for him while I went to the community college. I could get my certificate as a vet's assistant there. Of course, that's not going to happen now. I have enough saved to at least start, but I have no transportation since he was going to let me drive his truck. Seems there's a roadblock every way I turn."
"You up to moving?"
"Be more than happy to. There nothing holding me here now that Mr. Blount is gone and the goats are going."
Caleb directed them to the falling down shack he and Cade called home. As the two young men got out of the truck, Andy said, "See you in the morning."
On their way back from the conference center, they had stopped by a grocery and bought a family size frozen lasagna, French bread, a packaged salad, ice cream and a block of dry ice for the cooler. Back at the house, Andy prepared a salad and Jamie buttered bread to place in the oven when the pasta was near done. While they were waiting for that, Andy and Jamie discussed buying the goats. Andy finally said, "Hell, Jamie, what are we talking for? No way we're not going into the goat business.
Ann walked into the kitchen laughing. "Something sure smells good. Anyway, I knew if you were interested enough to come down here, you'd end up with goats. You'll have to talk with Caleb, but anything attached to goats you can use goes with the goats. I've got to get the farm ready for the market and anything you take will save me having to pay to have it hauled off. I know there's a lot of temporary fences which, I'm told, will last about ten seasons, and chargers. I know only because Dad told me. I'm sure the fellow who bought the goats will buy from you. All the books, records, who's giving birth when etc. are yours as well."
"Deal," Andy said. "Write the check, Jamie." Jamie wrote the check and Andy countersigned and the deal was done.
"I still find it hard to believe two guys under twenty-one get a pile of money and aren't driving a fancy car and living a life of ease."
"Well, I am living a life of ease," Jamie said and explained how they had lived before Ethan told off the boss. "Our place looked a whole lot like Caleb's."
"And Ethan started work at fifteen, keeping books? Some family. How about you, Andy?"
"My family had good enough life. I had a few chores to do, but nothing like Jamie. When I turned sixteen, I was expected to work in the groves, but the company which bought them laid off rather than hiring people. Then my mom took up with a former Glen Stockade football player who saw dollar signs when he looked at my older brother. No one else thought he was that good, but I became what was called, in the old slavery south, my brother's body servant, doing everything from ironing his clothes to doing his homework. After we went to Arkadelphia, Dad finally woke up and acknowledged Mom was sleeping with Ray's ‘manager'. The money? My experience convinced me I wanted something down the road and not just everything now.
"Change of the subject, but what do you know about Caleb?" Andy asked.
"Only what I have seen in the last couple weeks and what Dad told me. I know his father is an abusive drunk. Apparently Cade had always felt responsible for Caleb who is his twin but has always been smaller. When they were thirteen, Cade gave his father a good beating when the old man started beating Caleb. He has not been physically abusive since. They are poor, really poor. Dad never let them take money home where the father would steal it for booze. Instead, he saw that they had things for school---clothes, supplies, books, lunch money---and put money in savings accounts. Dad said if Caleb had a degree behind his name he'd be traveling the country lecturing on goats in general and Spanish goats in particular."
"Great!" Andy said. "We're offering him a job in the morning. It means he'll have to move, but with Cade gone, that sounds like a good idea. Three other guys who work on Arkadelphia and Pleasant Grove---I'm employed by Arkadelphia at the moment---Jamie and I are enrolled in Audubon State. We have classes on campus two afternoons a week and do two online courses and an independent study with Joe Maddox. Caleb can join us. We've been studying cattle, but maybe next semester it'll be goats. But dinner is served."
"As delicious as it smells and looks, I think it deserves a bottle of Dad's best," Ann said as she opened a closet and a tall wine cabinet and took out a bottle of red wine. "Jamie, glasses are in the butler's pantry between the kitchen and formal dining room."
The four had a delicious meal and delightful conversation.
Comments always welcome at Sequoyah