Chapter 23: HOME PORT
As soon as his ship pulled in, Armad left to find Parry. He found the young man in his wood working shop making barrels, as usual. “My boy! I have a job for you.’”
Looking up from his cutting, Parry asked, “How many and what type of barrels do you want, and how soon do you want them?”
“I need a lot of those smaller barrels that you make but first I need a hand full of the larger ones and all of them should be made of oak.”
“Oak is a good wood.”
“For this purpose, it is the only wood. I also need a farmer that is capable but has had a run of bad luck. I want him to grow a crop for me.”
“What will you have him grow for you?”
Armad pulled out a stick and gave him a shaving. After a short while he noticed that Cappy was smiling. Cappy was sold on this stuff and if Cappy liked it, chances were, he could sell it. This was Armad’s final test before he went all out in growing the sugar cane.
Riding out to the farm, Armad interrupted the farmer as he was setting up his land for a winter planting. “Don, you’ve had a bad few years and you are just about ready to ship out on a fishing boat to feed your family. I have a job for you that will feed your family and possibly make you wealthy. Do you wish to take a chance with me?”
Don, like everyone else had watched Armad plan, build and succeed where everybody thought it was impossible. Having him include him in one of his plans was more like a dream come true than an imposition but he needed food and supplies now and the only job that paid up front was shipping out on a boat in the winter. “Armad, explain your plan to me.”
Armad pulled his sample cane out and cut him off a strip. Don enjoyed the sweet flavor but insisted, “Sir, this is a risk. The cane, as you call it, is a luxury. People can’t afford luxuries, they would rather eat.”
“Don’t worry; this will produce several luxuries that very few people will live without. Just grow the plants that I will be sending out to you and we will harvest slowly at first and then much more rapidly. This will be only a little sideline at first and in return I will make sure that you have enough food to keep you from starving. I will also hire some men to help you plant and harvest.”
With this news, Don brightened. “Deal!” Don reached out to shake hands in the man’s fashion.
“Good! Deal!” Armad returned the firm handshake and gave the man a pat on the back.
With all of his plans in place, he began passing out the potted cane to his few farmers so that everybody could plant it. They planted the young cane and began storing barrels. Back at the Dry Dock, he gave Blackie and his metalworkers instructions for the hardware that would be needed for the operation of the ship yard. Following that, he inspected the lumber storage sheds that had been built up while he had been gone.
The land that had been cleared had not been all divided off so he arranged for Don to be given some of it that was close to his farm and went out to find other farmers to plant fields of sugar cane. From this cane, he would have to find someone to process it and make sugar. He also would have to find someone with the ability to make alcohol from the sugars. There would not be much available at first and he expected that the first few barrels would be rather harsh but time and experience would change that. The first of the barrels would go out for trade after he introduced the drink to the sailors. He knew from personal experience that sailors would demand more drink than anyone else and spread the word even better. They had ale and something like beer. There were no real wines and nothing at all like the liquors that were possible with the sugars from cane and other grains. The sugar itself would work itself into the society and make possible all sorts of candies, desserts and other pleasures. These sweets were some of the foods that Armad missed the most.
These were all long term projects and just as the Bridge was now supporting trade in previously difficult to access directions, so would his shipyard and sugar production support new development. It was time to go talk to Blackie.