We all ate and talked and laughed throughout the meal. Compliments were shouted up and down the table to the appropriate preparers of the various dishes. The children finished first, of course, and played in the yard. There is nothing that makes a meal enhanced than the sound of giggling happy children in the background.
After the dishes were cleared, cleaned and repacked in the baskets; all the left over supplies were stored; and the restored cart was returned to the newly painted barn awaiting the next reunion, Esther said, "Let's get on home now."
Confused, I followed as they ascended the small hill over which they had earlier descended. When I reached the summit I gazed down in amazement upon hundreds of acres of manicured pastures, miles of gleaming white fencing, countless long hen houses and perched in the middle of the whole estate stool a huge main house. Parked cars lined the drive and filled one of the pastures. A large crowd milled about the ample lawn.
"That is the old Noah Washington place?" I asked.
"We added some things when times were right," said Esther. "Back there," she tossed her head over her shoulders, "is the old home place. It means a lot to us. We have all of our weddings there. All my babies come back together once a year, at least. It's like a holy place for us. It's also where me and Mr. Jefferson will be buried when the Lord takes us home."
"Who are those people down there?" I gestured toward the lawn and guests.
"Friends of ours. We got a lot of friends don't you know."
We made our way down the hill through a huge gate over which arched an impressive sign that read EGG MAN FARMS. Then we entered the gathering and the party commenced in full swing. The band was lively, the hors d'oeurves delicious and the drinks non-alcoholic.
I introduced myself to several of the guests, then I noticed Tom Forbus, the mayor, glad handing with some of the guests.
I waited until I was recognized, then held out my hand. "I want to thank you for helping me get the interview."
"They are something aren't they?" he said shaking my hand.
"You can say that again. If I play my cards right, I could get a regular assignment post with the magazine with this one article."
"He's a very well respected man. An endorsement from Jeremias Jefferson is worth ten, maybe fifteen thousand votes."
"What does he get in return?"
His brow wrinkled as he looked at me disapprovingly. "You still don’t get it do you? Jeremias ain’t like most people. Jeremias is simply a good honest man in every respect. Most folks think somebody ought to right down his philosophy of life and spread it around. I think the man could start a whole religion. He has certainly changed my life."
I nodded, then swept my arm in a wide arc. "This the old Noah Washington place?"
He laughed. "Technically we are standing on the old place, but Jeremias began to buy up adjacent land whenever he could afford it. Now he owns the biggest spread in the county. He employs almost three thousand people, but employ isn't the right word. Those three thousand people have been added to the Jefferson family."
I thanked the man again and wondered around until I found Esther. Again I waited until I was noticed, then asked if I could speak to her alone.