Arkadelphia Plantation: Book Two

Chapter Seven

Ethan had left a wake-up call for 7:30 and the ringing phone jerked him out of deep and peaceful sleep. He and Caleb showered, dressed and went down for breakfast at 8:00. When they finished, Caleb got his bag, and they headed for the airport. Caleb picked up his ticket at the Delta desk, got checked in and went through security after Ethan had hugged him goodbye.

Ethan was left alone in a large city, a totally new experience for him. He was having dinner with Jeff and Art but now had the day before him. Jeff had suggested he take in Zoo Atlanta and the Cyclorama, 'the world's largest oil painting' which depicted the Battle of Atlanta in the Civil War. Ethan was surprised when Jeff told him both were located in Grant Park. In his best 'Gone with the Wind' accent, he exclaimed "A Yankee park in Atlanta?"

Art laughed and said, "The reaction of most when they first hear 'Grant Park.' Actually, the park was named in honor of  Lemuel P. Grant who gave a hundred acres of land which were the beginning of the park, not Ulysses S., the Civil War US general.

The day was beautiful with a clear sky and mild temperature as he, somewhat fearfully, began the drive to Grant Park. He soon relaxed as the drive was easy and he had no trouble at all.

Ethan visited the Cyclorama first and had the feeling that he was supposed to experience some sense of loss at the South's defeat in the War, but did not. Even though he had grown up in South Georgia, he was well aware of the evils of slavery, of an economy, based on the belief that human beings could be bought and sold like bales of cotton. The fact remained even today as the privileged few played poor whites against African-Americans in order to maintain their privileged position socially and economically. The Arkadelphia Dream saw that dynamic as destructive of the region's and individuals' well-being. Seemed to him in the Civil War the South stood diametrically opposed to what the Dream stood for. Maybe that hadn't changed a great deal in much of the rural South but Ethan was devoted to seeing it defeated.

Ethan found the zoo fascinating. See living examples of animals he had only known through books and the TV was great. He was particularly fascinated watching the gorillas. As he observed the different animals, he forgot he was a twenty-one-year-old young man and enjoyed the experience as though he were a kid again.

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Caleb called at 2:00 to let Ethan know he was at Walter Reed. The flight had gone well. "I'm glad Rich arranged to have someone meet me," he said, "otherwise I would still be wandering around lost." He said Cade was in worse shape than he had been led to believe and emotionally he was very depressed. "I think time at Philos will be a real lifesaver for him." Before he ended the call, he reminded Ethan he and Cade would be landing at 2:00 the next day.

Ethan left Grant Park at 4:00 and drove to Emory University. When he finally found a place to park, he went to the Carlos Museum where he was meeting Art and Jeff. The two had completed their bachelor's degree the year before but had been offered fellowships for a year's post-graduate study at Emory. Since the fellowship provided for living expenses as well as academic ones, they both decided to take it, postponing medical school.

The two had not been to Arkadelphia since returning to Emory in early August and were full of questions about the babies, Philos, how the goat boys were doing and a thousand other things. There was certainly plenty to talk about and the three finally went to bed at 2:00 in the morning. Next morning Art asked Ethan if he wanted to go to church with them. "We go to St. Bart's which is on the cutting edge just about any way you want to look at it." Ethan told them he had not brought 'church clothes' and Jeff told him whatever he wore would be 'church clothes.'

Ethan had been to St. Matthew's only once or twice since he'd got out of the hospital. St. Bart's made him give thought to trying to reconnect with St. Matthew's. The service was beautifully done, the music superb and the sermon really made him think about how the Arkadelphia Dream could be spread.

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Monday Ethan was at the arrival gate at 1:30 waiting for Caleb. It was 2:30 before he saw Caleb. He saw him before Caleb spotted him. When Caleb saw him, huge smiles covered both their faces. Walking beside Caleb was a young man who was using arm crutches and walking with a limp. While Ethan had never met Cade, he was sure the young man was Cade although he would never have guessed he was Caleb's twin because they looked so different.

When the two reached Ethan, Caleb embraced Ethan in a bear hug, turned and said, "Ethan, my brother, Cade. Cade, Ethan Taylor. As I told you, he's the generalissimo of three plantations although he denies it and the owners don't know it."

"Cade, glad to meet you and while we're not there yet, welcome to Arkadelphia Plantation. How was the flight?"

"Glad to meet you, Ethan. The flight was miserable. Even with a good leg, legroom is totally inadequate but with this bum leg, it was more than uncomfortable. I'm glad to be able to straighten it out."

"I'm sure you're hungry. Five peanuts and a half a coke are what I understand the airlines call food these days. Let's get something to eat then talk about what we want to do. We can go out--the woman at the hotel desk suggested a restaurant nearby or eat in the hotel. By the way, I asked for and got a room change to one with two queen size beds. The manager was very nice and apologized for the mistake." Ethan glanced at Caleb who grinned at him.

Cade suggested they just eat in the hotel. The restaurant was not up to the one where they had dinner Saturday night but was almost as nice as Lyle Plantation in Audubon. As soon as they were seated, Ethan asked Cade how he felt. "Tired, but better than I expected," he replied.

"Just so you know," Ethan said, "what we do is entirely up to you. The bad news is it's about a three hour trip to Arkadelphia. The good news is Mollie's Lincoln rides well. I assure you whether we leave late today or tomorrow morning is a matter of indifference to me, as I am sure it is to Caleb. The room is ours until 11:00 tomorrow. After we finish eating, we can go up and you get some rest and decide if you would like to go on or wait. Do what is best for you."

Cade said he thought resting before deciding was a good idea.

As they ate, Cade asked Ethan questions about Arkadelphia. "Caleb, I thought you were working on Philos Plantation."

"I do," Caleb said. "Well, more correctly, I am an employee of Philos, but work on Arkadelphia and Pleasant Grove as well. Ethan, you can explain it better than I can," Caleb looked at Ethan and grinned, making it clear he had tossed the 'tell Cade about the Arkadelphia Dream' ball into his court.

"Why don't we have coffee and dessert sent up to the room and talk there? And, Cade, there's a long and short version of the Arkadelphia story, but either would be better and we would be more comfortable in our room." Ethan asked their waiter to send up coffee and dessert and the three young men went up as well.

Once the coffee and dessert arrived, Ethan said, "The short version of the story is Mr. Davis Edwards, owner of Arkadelphia Plantation, hired me at fifteen to keep books for Arkadelphia. Just before I graduated high school, he made me very angry and I let him know it. The upshot of that was he did some thinking and decided to turn over a new leaf. He decided to put Randy, who had been his manager, in charge of the cattle operation at Arkadelphia and me manager of the pecan business. Shortly afterwards, he purchased a neglected plantation, Pleasant Grove, which adjoined his. The two are operated as one, but mostly for historical reasons, they maintain their identity.

"In his thinking, and with Randy's and my input, what we now call the Arkadelphia Dream came into being." Ethan then explained what that meant in terms of how the plantation operated and made clear that its basis was respect for people.

"Cade," Caleb said, "that means such things as name-calling and showing disrespect to a person because of their race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, etc. is grounds for dismissal."

"You have fags working there?"

"That, Cade, would get you a warning and if it happened again, dismissal," Caleb said.

"You put up with that, Caleb?"

"I don't 'put up' with it, Cade, I think it is wonderful. Arkadelphia folks are my family. Some of my brothers and sisters are gay, some are African-American and one is mentally challenged and all are great people."

"How do you stand being hit on by fags?"

"Okay, Cade, before I answer that, please, if you must put labels on people, they are gay. And I don't know how I would react to being hit on because it hasn't happened."

The three sat in silence for a minute or two, then Cade said, "Okay, so that's Arkadelphia and Pleasant Grove, but I thought you were at Philos. I don't understand."

Ethan and Caleb then explained that Philos was owned by Jamie, Ethan's brother, and Andy Hickey and how that came to be. "So Philos is owned by the two, but it operates as a part of Arkadelphia. When I'm needed to work in the pecan groves, I do, and when we need help at Philos, the Arkadelphia people help out. When we need help at Philos, Arkadelphia is beside us. We have goats at Pleasant Grove as well as Philos."

After he finished his coffee and dessert, Cade lay down on the bed and propped up in a stack of pillows. "Okay," he said, "I think I need to hear the long version."

"Later," Ethan said, "Right now I think you need to take a nap."

"Not a bad idea," Cade responded, stood, took off his pants and shirt and slipped under the cover and was asleep in minutes.

"If Cade decides we need to take off this afternoon, maybe we need a nap too," Caleb said. Ethan nodded, and the two joined Cade in slumberland.

Forty-five minutes later, Ethan awoke to find Caleb pressed against his back and himself wrapped in his arms and legs. It felt very good, but he wondered how Cade would react when he saw it. He glanced over to the other bed and saw Cade, lying on his stomach, his arms wrapped around a pillow, sound asleep. Fortunately, he wouldn't have to deal with Cade right now. In fact, he hoped Cade would never be a problem, but from his reaction to their earlier conversation, he was afraid that was wishful thinking.

Caleb stirred beside him, hugged Ethan to himself and still slept. Ethan needed to piss but didn't want to disturb Caleb. Soon, however, it was no longer a matter of waiting. He untangled himself from Caleb and ran to the bathroom. He had just finished when Caleb burst into the bathroom and quickly freed himself from his underwear and loosed a stream into the toilet.

As he walked out of the bathroom, Ethan almost collided with Cade who was on his way to the bathroom. "Great minds or calls of nature seem to be in sync," Cade laughed.

When they had all taken care of their pressing need, Cade said, "It's only 4:00. If we leave now we can be at Arkadelphia by 7:00 or so. I think if we can stop every hour for me to walk around a few minutes, I'd like to head out. This hotel room is nice, but it's definitely a temporary stop. I'd like to be settled for a while."

"Your decision," Ethan said. "We can certainly stop as often and as long as you wish. The whole point is to make you as comfortable as possible."

"Then let's move out smartly," Cade grinned. Fifteen minutes later they were on the road to Arkadelphia. As they left the hotel, Ethan asked Caleb to call Sally Ann and tell her they were on their way and to ask her to plan dinner for 8:00.

Just over an hour later, they stopped and had a burger and fries in Macon. It certainly wasn't exceptional, but Cade declared it was better than hospital food. When they finished eating, they walked around the Middle Georgia town slowly for about fifteen minutes before resuming their journey. Shortly after they left Macon, Cade was asleep on the backseat. As they approached Americus, Cade was still asleep. Ethan asked Caleb about waking Cade to walk around and Caleb suggested they not. "It's only half an hour to Arkadelphia. If he wakes up and wants to stop we can, otherwise, let's let him sleep."

Cade woke up as Ethan turned into the drive to Arkadelphia. "Cade, we're having dinner at my place before I take you and Caleb to his place. I asked my sister, Sally Ann, to keep it just for the four of us. Sooner or later you'll have to meet the whole Arkadelphia family, but I didn't think you'd like that after traveling all day."

"Thanks. Mostly I want to walk around as I'm still stiff from being stuffed in a plane seat but I'll not be turning down a home-cooked meal either."

"You're in for a treat," Caleb said." Sally Ann is a grand cook. Even Christopher, who is training to be a chef, agrees."

Sally Ann outdid herself and 'home cooked' took on a new meaning for Cade. "Sally Ann, I can honestly say I have never had a better meal anywhere, anytime. Thank you very much," Cade said as the four sat down in the den with coffee and dessert.

After coffee and dessert, Ethan drove the two brothers to Caleb's place. When Cade saw the house he said, somewhat shocked, "This is your place?"

"This is my place, what you can see of it in the dark."

"I can see enough to see this is a new house."

"It is," Caleb said.

Inside, Cade put his bag in the office saying he would put things away later. When he came back into the living room, Ethan said goodnight and told Cade if he wanted or needed anything, to ask.

Caleb walked Ethan back to the car and before Ethan got in, pulled him into a hug and said, "Ethan, thanks for all you have done and are doing for Cade and me. It means a lot to me."

"Happy to do anything I can for you and Cade," Ethan said.

Caleb still had his arms around Ethan as he said, "Well, I guess you better go and I better get back to Cade. Goodnight, Ethan."

"Goodnight, Caleb." Ethan was debating with himself about whether or not he should give Caleb a goodnight kiss when Caleb decided for him as he pulled Ethan closer and gave him a passionate, but brief kiss. "Goodnight, Generalissimo," he said as he turned and half ran into his house.

Ethan drove home with a smile on his face which was still present when he walked in his back door. "When Jamie used to come in with a smile like that on his face, he generally had lipstick on his face as well," Sally Ann said.

Ethan laughed and said, "I'm not Jamie and I'm not into lipstick, not at all."

When Caleb went inside, he too, had a smile on his face which Cade noticed. "You seem very happy, Caleb," Cade said.

"I am, Brother, very happy. For the first time in my life, I have a very decent house to live in. I have a job which pays well doing what I love. I have nice clothes, plenty of food and pretty much anything I want. Most important of all, I am surrounded with wonderful people who are like family to me. Yes, Cade, I am very happy. My only unhappiness is with your condition. When I think about how active you always have been and now to see you crippled for what? I guess I would never have questioned the war until you did, now when I see how much it has cost you, I am most unhappy."

"Caleb, I am as I am because of choices I made. Choices which I do not regret. I do resent all the blood and money being spent to accomplish nothing, but I did find a family in the Corps. You and I have always had each other, but we have never had a family. I envy yours because I am sure mine is gone because it is just a matter of weeks, maybe a few months at most before the Corps is a thing of the past for my life and I don't know what I will do."

"Cade, I have nothing to say about who is hired here and in fact, I don't even know if there is a place for someone else, but regardless of your future as an employee of Arkadelphia, you have a home and a family here."

"Right now I'd settle for a bed," Cade said.

"I'll sleep on the couch tonight and will take no argument about that. Tomorrow, however, you should have your own bed and you can thank Sally Ann for that. I figured we'd sleep together, but given your injury, the consensus was that was not a good idea. The alternative was to set up a bed in the office, but Sally Ann suggested a Murphy bed. Mr. Spangler, who is putting it in, said it was ready except for the final coat of finish and he would be here early tomorrow morning to take care of that. Come take a look." The bed looked finished, but apparently, there was something more to be done to the finish. It did operate well and both Caleb and Cade were pleased with it.

Shortly after Caleb had called Cade to breakfast, Mr. Spangle knocked on the door. Caleb invited him to have a cup of coffee before he started work and he was pleased to do so. He asked Caleb how he liked the bed and Caleb told him it looked great. "In fact," he said, "I saw nothing it needed."

"A lot of people would have called it finished as is," Mr. Spangle said, "but I wanted to put another coat of clear finish on it. It will see a lot of handing and needs extra protection."

After they had washed up the dishes, Caleb said, "I have the day off to show you around. I'll show you where you can find an ATV and this afternoon when I go to class, you can explore Philos. Right now we'll take the connecting road to Pleasant Grove and show you the setup there. Then we'll go on to Arkadelphia. Pecan harvest started today, so you can meet everyone except Kathy who teaches school, Kathryn who is in class at ASU and Mrs. Kistler who babysits with the four boys."

"Four boys?"

"Don't you remember, I wrote that Jamie had twin sons and Ash and Kathy have Eth . . . each a son. They're all within a couple months of the same age. I think they'll be three around Christmas."

"I forgot that Jamie said he had twin boys when they came to buy the goats. Seems like year's ago."

"It does. Seems like I have been here forever, but it has been just over a year and a half. Remember you were in Afghanistan nine months before you were wounded."

"Talk about something seeming forever."

Caleb and Cade got in Caleb's Philos truck and rode across the bridge to the Compound. Caleb had told Cade about the crime empire which had owned it and how it had been brought down. He also explained why Jamie and Andy had money to buy the plantation and the goats. The goats had long since been moved from the Compound after taking care of the brush and brambles. As Caleb looked at it critically, he thought they might bring back a small number to take care of things which were growing back. He showed Cade the ATVs and where the keys were.

When they got to Pleasant Grove Cade saw a herd of goats--he thought at least twenty--playing and eating in a large field which was covered in kudzu. "How many goats here?" he asked.

"There are twenty-five here. The billy pen is down the road a bit."

When they reached the billy pen, Cade asked, "Those wethers?"

"Yeah," Caleb responded. "There are five in the pen with Paris."

"Still have Zeus and Hector?"

"We have Hector but we traded Zeus for a new billy, Ajax. In addition, we are using artificial insemination to increase our bloodlines."

"Damn, Caleb, how many goats do you have?"

"We have the three billies and their companions and three trips of twenty-five. The three trips are a mix of doelings we will be breeding and ewes. It's quite an operation we have going. Most of the time it's not too demanding, even with all those goats, but breeding and kidding time mean we have to have help from Arkadelphia. Fortunately, we now have acres under permanent fence with shelters and automatic water troughs. The only real regret I have is we simply cannot spend a lot of time socializing them."

Cade laughed, "Yeah, I can imagine trying to treat these as we did Mr. Blount's. So you're happy here being a goat boy?"

"I am."

At Arkadelphia, everyone was working in a pecan grove and Cade got introduced to them all. They had arrived at the grove shortly before noon and Davis said, "Caleb, Cade, if you have no plans for lunch, please join Molly and me."

"Thanks, Davis," Caleb said, "otherwise it will be a baloney sandwich."

Claire Bell set out a substantial lunch which surprised Cade until Caleb reminded him everyone was hard at work--" and that includes long hours as well. So how's the harvest going, Davis?" Caleb asked.

"Excellent crop. Think it may top what we had last time we had an 'on year.' He then explained for Cade's benefit that pecans produce heavy crops on alternate years.

At lunch, Davis asked Cade what his first impressions of Arkadelphia were.

"Well, I haven't been here long enough to form many. For me, the most important one is that people sure are taking care of my brother. He's got a great setup for goats and we are both really goat boys. I'm sure the goats have been treated great as well."

"Interested in becoming a part of Arkadelphia? Of course, I can't make an offer since I guess you'd be more interested in goats than cows and nuts. Wouldn't make a difference except for the fact that the goats belong to Philos and that's Jamie and Andy's bailiwick. Cows are Randy, nuts Ethan." Davis chuckled, "We said that, but we all know it's Ethan who runs things around here."

"He doesn't look old enough to be running much of anything," Cade said, looking puzzled.

"He's pretty much been in charge for almost three years now and can finally buy his own beer."

"Well, Caleb tells me his bosses are even younger and Jamie is a father. You sure grow up fast around here."

"I guess that's right, but I try to look at the person and not some number. Ethan and Jamie have been handling adult responsibilities since they were barely in high school. Ethan has essentially been head of a family since he was fifteen or sixteen. Made him manager of the pecan operation when he had just turned eighteen and never gave it a second thought. Actually, he hadn't finished high school when he laid the Arkadelphia Dream on us."

"Ethan mentioned an Arkadelphia Dream and Caleb has said something about it, but I'm not sure I understand it."

"Well, it kinda resulted from my calling my son a fag and Ethan boy." Davis then told Cade the whole story. When he concluded the tale, he said, "That was the start. Over time we have kinda refined it into two parts. The first and least important is that Arkadelphia, Pleasant Grove and Philos all work closely with the extension service, do our own experimentation, use any resources we can find to develop the best possible methods for producing cattle and pecans--and now goats as well--while caring for the land. Of course, that is important. Without a producing plantation, we'd not be here, but what's really important are the people here and those who may come here. In a nutshell, we are an extended family concerned with helping each other grow and thrive. At the heart of that is deep respect for ourselves, each other and our fellow human beings. That means we look at who you are, not what you are. Presently, we have men and women living here, gay and straight, young and old, owners and workers, black and white. We're pretty tolerant, but words or acts of hate we will not tolerate. I call someone a fag and Ethan would probably kick me off my own plantation. That clear enough?"

Cade proceeded to either demonstrate how thick his skull was or decided to test the waters. "So you actually work with fags,"

"Son, I guess I didn't make myself clear. Let me put it straight, if you were an employee rather than a guest, I'd drop kick your ass off the plantation. Clear enough?"

"Sir, yes, sir!"

"Remember that if you think you might want to consider living here."

Cade did give that a lot of thought over his leave while he lived, observed and worked, mostly at Philos.

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Ethan saw very little of Caleb alone following Cade's arrival on the scene. The two did end up working together occasionally, they spent time with the other young bucks and Sally Ann and Kathryn had Cade, Caleb, Andy and Ethan for dinner a few times, but otherwise, they saw little of each other. It gave both time to think.

Two weeks after Cade arrived, Ethan decided that if he was truly to move ahead and especially if he might be developing a relationship with Caleb, there was something he had to do. Determined to get on with it, he called Randy and asked if he had time to talk. When Randy said he did, Ethan said he'd meet him at his place. When Randy answered Ethan's knock, Ethan said, "Let's walk." Randy nodded and they headed to a pasture which had been renovated.

The fence along the drive had an electric fence on the inside, but a white board fence facing the road. When they reached a huge old oak which overshadowed the fence, Ethan said, "Let's sit." When they were settled atop the board fence, Ethan said, "Randy, I need some advice and some help. Something has come up which makes me realize I have some unfinished business with Scotty."

"That something happen to be Caleb?"

"Maybe. Well, yeah in the sense that time I spent with Caleb made me realize I hadn't moved on and that I needed to. Further, it made me see that wasn't going to happen until I had talked with Scotty. I need your help contacting him.

"No problem."

"Didn't think it would be. The advice I need is how to go about meeting him if he is interested."

"He will be," Randy replied. "My advice? Pick neutral ground. I don't think he would be welcome here and I don't see you going to meet him at his place. Pick neutral ground and don't go alone. Nothing good will come out of you being manipulated into something and let's face it, Scotty was and can be a great guy, but he's a superb manipulator and his time in California just made him better."

The two talked about the situation for half an hour and decided Ethan should call Scotty and make arrangements to meet him somewhere and that Jamie should go with him. After giving Ethan Scotty's number, Randy and Ethan walked back to Randy's place and had ice tea and cake. As he was leaving, Ethan told Randy thanks and Randy said he was glad to be of help and wished Ethan luck.


Comments always welcome at Sequoyah