A Ten Pound Bag
Chapter 90: Supplies and Livestock
Copyright© 2020 by Emmeran
“Captain Timmons, do you know anything about dairy cattle?” I asked, as we ate a magnificent gumbo.
“No, sir, I do not ... not aside from the basics, anyhow. My mother kept a few, but I was always out on the fishing boat with my father and can’t be trusted any further than keeping a cow fed.”
Well, that made me laugh. I turned to Isaiah and his friends and repeated the question, to mostly head shakes. The one quiet guy at the end slowly raised his hand.
“Mister, my name is Thomas, and I grew up on a dairy farm in New York. I think I might remember enough to be of help.” He was soft spoken and I had to focus to understand him, but I seemed to have gotten lucky again.
“Well, Thomas, any chance you also know about making cheese?” Hey a guy could dream, couldn’t he?
Thomas just shook his head sadly, like he had failed somehow, “No sir. I’m sorry to disappoint. sir, but that would be my wife.” He really looked like he thought he had just blown it as the rest of us fellows erupted in laughter.
“Thomas, I think everyone here agrees that you and your wife will be mighty fine additions to our little plantation. With any luck, we’ll have Captain Timmons here hauling milk and cheese up and down the Missouri in just a few years’ time.”
I pushed on, “Anybody got experience raising pigs?” All the black men raised their hands. I just had to smile.
“Well, fellas, here’s what we’re gonna do tomorrow. Y’all gonna pair up with the white guys I hired earlier today to purchase our dairy and pork herds. When you go out buying it’ll probably best to usually let the white guy do the talking, but both y’all gonna agree on the decision before you come to me for the money. Does that make sense?”
We got agreement all around on that and I paused to get more coffee. I was surprised to see that Mouse had taken charge while I plotted; she had set up our second tipi for the new folk to sleep in tonight. It was truly amazing how quickly those women could operate.
I walked over to her and she simply said, “The children need to sleep now.” Sure enough, the black families were already ensconced in the tipi and it appeared to be story time. I just shook my head, gave her a kiss and walked back over to the fellas.
“Well, gentlemen, it looks like your beds have been made for the evening. I hope you hadn’t planned on leaving, cuz your women sure ain’t.” That brought laughter all around. This was going to be a good group.
“Timmons, we need to work on your crew next, particularly since you are not welcome in Leavenworth’s town. Do you have a first mate who can act for you?”
“No, sir”, he replied. “My first took a position on another boat and is half way to N’Orleans by now. Come to think of it though, I did have this young up and comer who worked on the Connecticut River growing up. I talked to him earlier today and he was still looking for a job.”
“Is he white?” Brutal to have to ask that, but this was 1822, after all, and it still made a lot of difference to a lot of folks.
“Yes, he is, as a matter of fact. I think he hasn’t been hired just cuz he’s a Yankee.” That made me smile. Regional prejudice was a pretty common fact back then.