Heather Gates, Ep. HG 3, Heather’s Uncle Peter Had Been a Mystery Man
Do you watch the clouds that pass your way?
Introduction 3 of 5
Peter Bevins was very much of a mystery to his family when he made the surprise decision to return from Oregon and make the two year commitment to the farm in order to qualify for an inheritance per the provisions of his mother’s will. It was only weeks before his graduation from the University of Missouri that his father, Frank Bevins, had died in an auto accident returning home from a visit to Peter. Claiming the death was his fault, Peter did not attend the funeral but immediately moved to Oregon and had not been back to Missouri since. Though there had been limited communications, most of the story was missing.
In response to the will, Peter chose an acreage on the ridge, north and east of Oak Springs, behind a huge White Oak tree, that could be clearly seen a few miles to the west from the mill. Peter’s plan was to plant trees, on CRP (Conservation Reserve Program) eligible land observing best practices of conservation on part of the land. As noted in Introduction 2, during the spring and summer of 1987, a series of events including Donnie, Jennifer, Christopher and Melanie Ogden, Peter Bevins and Sheila Gates (detailed only in the text of the novel “Back to the Homeplace”) played out that provided the opening for Jason Winslow to have long conversations (as an informal counselor, of sorts) with Peter that brought clarity to some of the mystery. Partially, Jason learned that Peter’s guilt about his father’s death arose because his father had accidentally caught Pete in sexual intimacy with a male classmate at the university. Peter believed that the shame his father felt contributed to the circumstances of the accident (though there was really no evidence to support his belief).
Peter had taken a teaching position in Oregon and lived in a commune with both men and women where his bisexuality was accepted and welcomed. These were the early days of AIDS. Peter had lost many of his friends in the ensuing years, and was HIV positive, but had not yet contracted AIDS symptoms. An encounter (careless, it turned out) with Sheila Gates shortly after their arrival in Oak Springs resulted in her also becoming a carrier of HIV. She had subsequently also sustained some severe injuries in one of the incidents of that summer, and had spent several of the ensuing years in Springfield working and getting treatments. During those ensuing years, however, both Sheila and Peter had become active participants in both AIDS Awareness organizations and environmentalist organizations. As we approached the summer of 1996 in our story here, they were living together, as a couple, off the grid in the geodesic home they were constructing near the big White Oak at his place. She was working part-time with her father and sister at the Mill.
What do you see in these clouds?
Heather, Sheila and Paul worked together at the Mill
Paul had invited his two daughters into his office at the Mill. He knew that other employees were available to cover the floor while they had a brief chat. He started out by reminding each of them how much he enjoyed having each of them working at the mill and regularly offering their suggestions as well as covering hours in the shop. Recently, Sheila had specifically mentioned that some of the energy efficiency practices they had researched as part of building their new home might be useful to consider here at the Mill. Paul was also aware that Heather was actually becoming more interested in spending more time at the stables than more time at the Mill. He shared each of these thoughts with Sheila and Heather as an introduction to what he had to say next. “Sheila, since your house is now nearing completion, I would like you to think about considering working here in the Mill half-time, on a regular basis. It would provide you with the opportunity to make even more suggestions, from your experiences. You would also be earning more spendable money, which I’m sure you would find helpful. It would be useful to me to have you around more often, if you would consider it.”
Sheila was obviously taken aback. Heather just smiled. Sheila seemed to gulp, then speak. “Do you really mean that? I had not thought about it at all. I would have to talk to Peter. Do you think I’m qualified to take on that responsibility?”
“Of course you’ll need to talk to Peter,” Paul replied. “But, I’m confident he will be very supportive of the idea. I know you had some experiences working in Springfield that would be useful in this job. I’ve heard you talk about them, even if you didn’t realize you were doing that. I am very serious about this offer. I’ve actually given it quite a bit of thought.”
Sheila listened intently, took a deep breath, and replied, “I will talk to Peter. I do agree that he will very likely encourage me to do it. He always encourages me to stretch myself. I’m the one who seems to be the chicken, most of the time, these days. Thank you. I’ll do that.”
The stables had a number of breeds of horses
Heather and Diane talk about operations at the Stable
“You do ask good questions, Heather. I really do appreciate that.” Diane and Heather had been reviewing the expanded aspects of some of the new work Diane had asked Heather to become involved with. “There is one other important thing we do that I don’t think we’ve gone over in detail yet. It is time we did that.”
“Sounds interesting. What is that?”
Diane continued, “We use a “credits” system with respect to some of the horses we board and related activities. You’ve been involved in doing those activities, but there is more to it than just that. You know how we ask you to record most of the things you do, in one way or another?”
“Of course. I’m always very careful to do that like you’ve shown me.”
“Yes, you do.” Diane smiled. “What I want to share now is related to what we use those records for. An example is the best way to explain. Christopher’s horse, Shadow, is a good, simple example. He has agreed to pay us a certain amount to house and feed his horse.”
“Yes, I assumed that was the case,” Heather replied, raising her eyebrow thinking that was pretty simple and didn’t need explanation.
“Well,” Diane said, “have you noticed that when we go out on Trail Rides that sometimes we use Shadow as one of the horses and sometimes we don’t?”
“Yes, of course I have. Sometimes we need more horses than others. Sometimes we do take Shadow.”
Diane smiled, continuing with her example, “We will always use regular stable horses first. We own them, that is why we have them. But, we only have so many, to meet our normal or minimum needs. In order to generate more revenue from the Trail Rides, if we can get more riders, to get more money, we need more horses. This is where Shadow and other boarders come in. If the owner agrees, we have an arrangement with them to use their horses for these extra riders on an “as needed” basis. When we do that, they are given “credits” against the amount they owe us for boarding their horses. The more we use a particular horse, the more credits they earn. It reduces their cost of boarding, and it helps us by not having to have our own extra horses, the extra expense, all the time. Win, win. It seems to work pretty well. But, it requires accurate record keeping.”
“Interesting,” Heather exclaimed. “I’m not surprised, but I had not guessed that was going on. I like it. I assume it must work fairly well for you, as a business?”
“Yes, it seems to be worth the effort all around. We’ve even expanded it into other areas, from time to time. We’ll talk about those some more, when we get into those things.”
(continued in Episode 4)
This series of stories in the life of Heather Gates, a fictional character in The Homeplace Saga series of family saga, historical fiction stories (home blog found at thehomeplaceseries dot blogspot dot com), is being created as a way to use a minor character in the early writings to expand those stories and share details omitted in those earlier writings within the original overarching themes. These newly included details may have been left out of the earlier stories through editing or they may have seemed unrelated to central themes at the time. With the expansion of the entire Saga, over the years, it has become obvious that filling in some of the gaps in the story for overall better understanding of the individuals, their families, and their interactions would be useful to The Homeplace Saga body of work in total.