Refuge (Robledo Mountain #2)
Chapter 3

Copyright© 2020 by Kraken

Sunday morning, we finally rolled out of bed at eight. I convinced Anna to try the shower with me. We talked about last night, laughing as we soaped each other up. All that shower fun really tired me out. I was very tempted to just go back to bed, but Anna insisted that we have breakfast and get ready for church. Anna got dressed, opened the curtains and French doors, and cleaned up the room. I unsuccessfully tempted her the entire time, trying to change her mind and enjoy the day in bed with me.

Finally admitting defeat, I dressed in one of my church suits. Joining Anna, we walked downstairs, hand in hand, for breakfast. Anna pointed me towards the dining room and disappeared into the kitchen carrying the empty wine bottle and dirty glasses.

Walking into the dining room, I found the others all seated eating breakfast with big grins on their faces. I gave a mock scowl, shook my finger at them, and told them not to even think about starting on me. They all laughed and continued eating, but the smiles were still on their faces.

Anna came back out with coffee for both of us and sat down next to me telling me that breakfast would be right out. Taking a sip of coffee, she looked around at all the smiling faces, and with a grin told them not to even start on her this early in the morning. Even I had to laugh, as she had parroted my words almost exactly.

Breakfast and coffee done, we walked outside to discover Tom had been busy. Seven horses and a wagon were waiting for us, just outside the courtyard. The wagon was quickly loaded up with Father O’Shea, Cristina, her two daughters, and Giuseppe’s two young ones. Martina was driving. The rest of us mounted up and headed down the slope.

Cresting the hill, we all got our first good look at what had been accomplished in the village. The first sixty-six houses were complete, and in a rainbow of colors. They brightened up the brown, red, and faint green of the surrounding desert. Some had a milk cow behind their houses, while some had chicken coops. A few had started preparing the ground for a garden. The Finca Operations building was partially built, with the village store at the near end almost complete. A lot of work had gone into leveling and smoothing the plaza, also.

The villagers had already started gathering in the plaza area; so, once everyone had a good look, we rode down through the village pulling up in front of the plaza.

I looked around as we walked to the back of the plaza and saw that most of the masons’ families had made the trip for this morning services, despite the fact that they were Lutherans. I even saw some of the cousin’s families here, too.

Taking the Padre aside I said, “This is your opportunity to set the tone for all future services. You have a large group of Lutherans as well as some Apaches here this morning, to hear what you have to say. This is what we were talking about. What you say here, today, will either draw them in closer to the community, or alienate them.”

Deep in thought by the time I was done, he absently nodded. I left him as the villagers gathered around to welcome him.

The Padre held a relatively short but standard service. He read from the bible he carried with him, and we sang a few standard hymns. His readings and sermon were on the need to help one another, as well as the less fortunate. There was no hell fire and damnation, nor were there any evangelical entreaties. When the service was over, he met and shook hands with all the villagers, and masons, and cousins, which took longer than the service. Anna and I both thought he did a fine job, all things considered.

Afterwards, the Padre walked with some of the villagers to their houses. He looked around both inside and out, congratulating them on the fine work they had done. While the Padre was getting to know his congregation a little better; Anna, Tom, Yolanda, Giuseppe, Sofia, Juan, and I wandered around the plaza as a group, looking around. At the Finca Operations building, Juan told us that Lupe could probably start stocking the store in four or five days.

I looked around the plaza again and gave Anna a glance. Turning to Juan she asked him if he could get the folks who laid the patio stones out here this week to start working on the plaza. He grinned and said they were already here and would start tomorrow. When Father O’Shea rejoined us, we all mounted up and rode back to the Hacienda.

We spent the rest of the day relaxing, talking, and singing as I played the piano, all the while munching on a platter of bizcochitos Martina thoughtfully brought out for me. When we were ready to call it a night, Anna and I walked upstairs bidding everyone a good evening.

Entering the bedroom, Anna opened the French doors, while I laid a fire and got it going. With the fire going, Anna handed me a cup of coffee from the service Celia brought us. The cool night air wafted in through the open French doors bringing with it the mixed smells of water, mesquite, creosote, and sage of the high desert, along with the faint odor of smoke from the fireplace. Without a word, we both walked out to the terrace railing to stand with an arm around each other’s waist, while looking at the starry sky and sipping our coffee.

Anna put her head on my shoulder. “It’s a gorgeous view. So peaceful and quiet it’s almost like we’re the only ones on earth,” she murmured quietly.

I gave her a kiss in agreement, and we stood enjoying the peacefulness for another few minutes. Eventually, the chill drove us back inside. Shutting the doors and drawing the curtains, Anna took my hands pulling me towards the bed.

“There are many more possibilities and I want to explore some of them tonight,” Anna said quietly, with a twinkle in her eyes and a smile on her lips.

Anna and I were waiting on the terrace, when the others arrived early the next morning. I was a little surprised when Sofia and Giuseppe came up with Yolanda and Tom. They were almost immediately followed by the rest of the cousins and masons who’d become regulars. After a good workout and cool down, we hurriedly dressed and headed downstairs for breakfast.

Our ride after breakfast was shortened when the Padre, who hadn’t ridden much in the last few years, decided to join us. The first stop was Rancho Dos Santos. Giuseppe had finished his survey a few weeks previously, so everything was staked out. We were all forcibly reminded how much space the Ranch Operations building, with its seventy apartments, was going to take up.

With a large interior courtyard, the thing was huge. The twenty single story apartments were just north of the operations building, and just north of them was the stables. When we arrived, Heinrich walked over to us with a grin on his face. He told us that now it was warming up again, the building was going faster, even without the four masons who were working at Fort Fillmore. As it currently stood, he estimated completion of everything by the middle of July. Pleased with the progress and the report, we rode back across the river and into the low foothills of the Robledo Mountains.

Shooting practice was quick, because the Padre was with us. Both Giuseppe and Sofia had obviously been practicing and were quickly turning into reliable shots with both the rifle and pistol. Father O’Shea was a little startled at the rate of fire from the rifle but didn’t say anything. He also refused to try either the pistol or the rifle.

Father O’Shea spent the slow ride back to the Hacienda riding next to Tom and Yolanda, who were right behind Anna and me. We listened with interest, but otherwise let Tom and Yolanda answer the questions.

“Tom, what are the farmers doing, today?”

“There are two teams working on the Finca Operations building, four teams hauling rocks for levees, and two teams going through Apache training,” Tom replied.

“What do you mean by ‘teams’?” the Padre asked, curious at this point.

“The farmers work in groups of five with each team having an elected leader responsible for the team’s activities. Each team switches tasks periodically so that they get to do something a little different from time to time,” Tom explained.

Satisfied with the answer, the Padre switched gears. “What are the Apache teaching the farmers, that they don’t already know?”

Tom laughed. “The Apache are teaching them tracking, hunting, fighting, and living off the land.”

“Why do farmers need to know those things?” the Padre asked, clearly confused.

“Padre look around you. Everything you see for four miles in any direction is Estancia land. In a short time, there will people working every day, all over that land. Do you think you could survive in the desert during a three or four-day sandstorm? Would you know what to look for and where to hole up during an eight or nine-hour thunderstorm with lightning flashing all around you and the very real threat of flash floods? Those are just two of the threats anyone living out here will face, especially if they are caught out on the far reaches of the Estancia.”

We rode for a few minutes in silence as the Padre thought about Tom’s answers. Eventually though he asked the question we all knew was coming.

“Why do the farmers have to learn to fight? Wouldn’t the needs of the Estancia be better served if they spent all their time farming?”

This time it was Yolanda who answered. Her response was given in a calm voice tinged with just a hint of anger. “Weren’t you paying attention at all during the talks we’ve had with you?”

The Padre must have given her an affronted look because she laid into him with both barrels. “You’ve repeatedly been told that we are on the very edge of civilization out here. Help of any kind is a full day or more away. Apache, Comanche, and Navajo raiding parties travel through the Estancia at will.

“On top of that, there are bandits drawn by the Camino Real to contend with. Both the Indians and bandits view anyone they meet, especially small parties, as their victims. We’ve already been attacked by a large group of bandits. Things will only get worse once all the buildings are completed, and the farming, along with the ranching gets underway. The Estancia and its food supplies will be a target for every raiding party and bandit in the area.”

The Padre asked unbelievingly, “What happened when the bandits attacked?”

Giuseppe piped up in a dry voice giving a short succinct response. “We lived, they died.”

We should have expected the next question from this ‘man of the cloth’ who refused even to touch a firearm, but it still caught us all by surprise.

“Wouldn’t it have been better to just give the bandits what they wanted, rather than fight them?” he asked in a pious tone.

Both Anna and I swung our heads around to stare at the Padre. Me in disbelief and Anna in anger. Like Anna, Yolanda was staring red faced at the Padre while Tom was giving him a look usually reserved for the village idiot. Giuseppe was giving him a stunned look of contempt. We were all momentarily speechless. Sofia was the only one who seemed unperturbed by the Padre’s question and it was she who answered with pity in her voice.

“Padre, the bandits weren’t just after a little food or money. They wanted everything; and by everything, I mean exactly that. If the bandits had been successful in their attack, none of us would be here today. Anna, Yolanda, and I would be in Las Cruces, trying to figure out how to get on with our lives, while dreaming about what could have been. Paul, Tom, and Giuseppe would be dead or sold as slaves to the Comanche. The same thing would have happened to the masons and the Apache warriors. As for the women and children, they would have been taken captive and sold to the Comanche as slaves as well. Until they were sold, the women would have been used by the bandits, as they pleased, in full view of their husbands and families.”

Father O’Shea looked at the rest of us, clearly surprised by Sofia’s answer. Seeing nothing but anger and serious agreement on all our faces, he wisely kept silent. The remainder of the short ride was quiet, with nothing but the sounds of the horse’s hoofs and the creak of leather marring the silence.

We’d all calmed down by the time we reached the Hacienda, where we enjoyed a nice lunch. Tom took everyone off to the quarry to set a few charges after lunch. Anna agreed to watch the little ones so that Giuseppe and Sofia could go with them, while I took the opportunity to get a few things done.

“Anna are there any rooms upstairs without furniture in them?” I asked as we walked into the study.

“Oh, yes. There are quite a few. Even with all the furniture we bought, there are still a half dozen or so rooms up there that don’t have furniture in them, yet. Why?”

I closed and barred the door before answering. “I want to turn one room into an armory where we can store all the weapons, ammunition, and clothes we’ll be giving out over the next few months; and where I can work reloading ammunition and fix any broken weapons in the future. We can’t keep bringing things out of the cave one or two at a time, or questions will start being asked. I also want to turn another room into a command post, with maps and files of information we can refer to when needed.”

After a few moments of thought, she replied, “I know just the rooms, my love. Let me show you.”

I followed her out of the study, up the stairs, and down the hall, before turning into a short hallway with a single door on each side.

“These two rooms are out of the way and would be perfect. I’m a little concerned about the kids getting in here without any of us knowing about it, though,” she said with a concerned look.

“They’re perfect, Anna. Give me about an hour and I’ll have the doors fixed so we won’t have to worry about the kids getting inside, at least for a couple of years,” I replied, giving her a hug as we walked back downstairs.

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