Refuge (Robledo Mountain #2)
Chapter 5

Copyright© 2020 by Kraken

The next week seemed to fly by as we instituted the various classes, continued settling into the hacienda, worked to turn the Estancia into a farm, and prepared for new arrivals; all while Anna and I prepared to leave on our honeymoon.

The days always started with our early morning Tai Chi and ended with talking and singing, in what was becoming known as the music room, before Anna and I went off to explore whatever new possibilities she had thought up.

As I expected, training the cousins to use our weapons was difficult. Not that they were inherently bad at marksmanship, but they had absolutely no concept of what was required, thanks in large part to historical access to poor weapons, limited ammunition, and a complete lack of understanding regarding basic maintenance.

Anna and I accompanied Tom and Giuseppe down to the camp to pick up Miguel and the other committed cousins. Once we’d found an appropriate arroyo, Tom and Giuseppe began weapons training with the cousins, with Anna and me monitoring. They did an excellent job familiarizing the cousins with the pistol covering safety, aiming, speed versus accuracy, and maintenance. Watching them blast away at the stick targets, it was clear to both of us that they lacked an understanding of the need to aim, and simply assumed they were going to hit what they were trying to hit or would hit close enough to not matter.

When they had all fired off two magazines, I walked out in front of the cousins and faced them. “The purpose of the pistols is to hit what you are shooting at. These are not toys. They are tools designed to kill your enemies and to take down the food you need to eat. If you can’t hit your target, then there is no need for you to have these weapons. If you practice and maintain your weapons, then perhaps you might get to be as good as Anna.”

When I said her name, Anna whirled towards the sticks, pulled her pistol, fired a full magazine, changed magazines and fired two more shots. She hit all twenty sticks in less time than it takes to describe what she did.

I looked at each one of the cousins. “That is your goal. From what I have seen today I doubt any of you will be as good as Anna; but then, very few are. Anna was born with just the right combination of hand speed, hand and eye coordination, and an innate ability to judge distance. That is a rare combination which you all proved today you don’t have.”

The cousins were getting angry; but Miguel, along with a few others, had thoughtful looks on their faces. “What you do have are brains and the ability to learn. While you might not ever be as good as Anna at snap shooting, you can learn to hit your targets with aimed shots. Concentrate your efforts on learning aimed shooting, and you will get pistols of your own when you can hit your target eighty times out of a hundred. Until then you will practice and return the weapons after cleaning them every morning.” I looked in each cousin’s eyes until I got a nod or grunt of understanding. I suspected that they thought my rules were a little excessive, but they also realized I wasn’t going to bend them.

It took the rest of the week, but eventually they all passed the course, and received both a rifle and pistol at a graduation ceremony the morning before we left. I had Tom help me design and hold the awards ceremony while Anna worked with a couple of the farmers wives to come up with a bull’s eye patch to add to the right shoulder of their shirt.

Tom questioned the need for such a ceremony, and I explained that award ceremonies were just one method we would use to make sure everyone was recognized for their achievements, as well as feeling like part of the bigger community. At the ceremony, each of the cousins was given weapons, ammunition, three sets of camouflage pants and shirts, and the shoulder patch. I’m not sure what that first group of cousins was prouder of: the weapons or the shoulder patch.

In a surprise move, the Padre, changed his mind about using a weapon. He asked for and received training on using the sawed-off shotgun saying that getting shot, for no other reason than that he was alive, was a sobering experience. Once trained, I took it a step further, and gave him one of the Remington shotguns like Tom and I used. I helped him saw off the barrel and the stock, before giving him sandpaper and varnish. By the time we left for Santa Fe, he had the weapon in shape and was becoming quite good with it.

Closely related to weapons practice, was finishing setting up the armory. The tables and shelves I’d ordered from El Paso arrived just before lunch on the same day all the cousins started their weapon and language classes. Tom and Giuseppe helped me carry them from the courtyard into the house, up the stairs, and into the room. Once they were gone to do their afternoon work at the quarry, I set the room up the way I wanted it. I also shelved everything we had brought up from the cave before the last raid. With everyone except the cook and house cleaning staff out of the house, I took the opportunity to haul the rest of the weapons, ammunition, reloading equipment, uniforms, and accessories from the cave to the armory.

With the armory set up, I spent a couple of hours everyday teaching Tom, Yolanda, Giuseppe, Sofia, or Anna how to reload rounds for the different types of weapons we were using. It took the rest of the week for this training as there were so many other things going on that only one of them was available at any time to train. I gave Yolanda sole responsibility for reloading the A700 sniper rounds, since she was the only other person who fully understood the need for consistency when shooting long distances.

Yolanda, Sofia, and Anya worked magic in preparing, coordinating, and conducting Spanish language classes for the adults to learn reading and writing. Surprisingly, the adult masons and their wives, as well as the cousin’s wives, joined the evening classes. The cousins attended classes every morning while everyone else attended classes three evenings a week. With so many people interested in the classes, and only so many ‘teachers’, we ended up with two separate classes. Half would attend Monday, Wednesday, and Friday evenings, while the other half attended on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday evenings.

Apart from my time with Anna, the most enjoyable aspects of the entire week were the two meetings I had with the old ones to start laying out the youth organization. It was also the most frustrating part of my time for instead of explaining what we’d discussed, Miguel had simply asked the old ones to meet with me.

Our first meeting was spent rehashing the need for the organization, its goals, structure, and knowledge badges. Once they understood what I wanted to do with the organization, and its deeper purpose, the old ones became enthused and left to discuss things among themselves.

During the second meeting, a few days later, I actually had to rein in and temper their enthusiasm as they were quickly heading towards combining school and the organization into a fourteen hour a day, six day a week activity. By the end of that meeting, both they and I were excited to see what they would come up with over the next few months while Anna and I were gone.

Anna and I also managed to find time to hold one on one meetings. Anna with Yolanda and me with Tom.

Anna’s meeting with Yolanda was an entire afternoon and had two main goals. The first was to make sure Yolanda knew what was involved in running the day to day activities of the Hacienda, including ordering and paying for all the supplies. To that end Anna went through the Hacienda ledger we’d set up and then showed her the money box with $500 in a mix of double eagles, eagles, and half eagles. Anna later told me that although she and Yolanda had been talking about Yolanda running the Hacienda for the last few months, the sight of the ledger and the money had threatened to overwhelm Yolanda, as all the talk had suddenly become real. Apparently, they spent quite a bit of time working through the emotions before Yolanda could come to grips with the reality.

The second goal of Anna’s meeting with Yolanda was to go through the Hacienda, room by room, and identify everything that was still required to complete furnishing and outfitting every room. Anna planned on using the resulting list as a guide in her shopping activities in Santa Fe.

While Anna was meeting with Yolanda up on the terrace, I was meeting with Tom in the study. Our meeting took a little longer as we covered everything about running the Estancia while I was gone. We covered everything from the positions I thought we would need to hire, the timing for new wagons we needed - and the teams to pull them - and my thoughts on the quarry and levees. This included the new groups of farmers who’d be arriving, what needed to happen if Hector made it back with the vaqueros and cattle before we returned, as well as all the coordination that would need to be done with the various groups and new activities we’d started that week. Tom was fine with everything we discussed, until we got to three last items: ordering custom equipment from the Delgados in Las Cruces, attending Apache training, and the monthly payroll.

The custom order from the Delgados included an initial order of 400 belts, 100 saddlebags with the Estancia Dos Santos brand and pouches, 50 shotgun slings, 400 small scabbards, 17 large scabbards, and 325 courier bags like the one she sold me, also with the Dos Santos brand and the same pouches that were inside the saddle bags. We went through each item, who they were for, how they were to be used, and how each recipient earned their items.

I took great pains to explain at length that each of the items was a reward for completing Apache training. The items, when combined with the awards ceremony, would also serve as a method of instilling the concept of unity that we wanted to foster on the Estancia.

Like the weapons, each item was a gift to be used while they were a member of the Estancia but would have to be returned if they decided to leave. Likewise, the items served to provide a method of identifying them with the Estancia.

The second item, Apache training and the requirement for he and Giuseppe to attend, took almost as long to work through as the custom order. The longer we discussed this topic the angrier Tom became.

“Damn it, Paul, why do we need to go through this? There isn’t much they are going to teach me that I don’t already know about living and fighting in the desert,” Tom said heatedly.

“You’d be surprised at what they have to teach you, Tom. For instance, do you know how to best use the Apaches on the Estancia in a fight against an opposing force of fifty or sixty warriors?” I asked trying to get him to think logically instead of emotionally.

He started to respond then stopped and thought for a few seconds. “It would depend on the exact situation of course, but regardless I’d probably be able to figure it out.”

“Yes, you would figure it out, eventually,” I said. “The only problem is that by the time you figured it out, everyone - including you - would probably be dead. Going through the training will teach you what the Apaches do best, what they are capable of, and - just as importantly - will prove to them that you and Giuseppe don’t look down on them.

“Even more importantly, it solidifies the unity we were just talking about; the importance of combining the best from every culture on the Estancia. And, yes, before you ask, I’ll be attending Apache training once Anna and I get back from Santa Fe. Every male employee of the Estancia will be required to attend unless they are too old.”

He didn’t like it but, in the end, begrudgingly agreed to go through the course while we were gone and to make sure that Giuseppe went though it as well if at all possible.

With that out of the way we finally got to the last item that concerned him, paying out the monthly payroll, and paying for everything he ordered. I knew this was a concern for him. Not that he was incapable of doing it, but the responsibility scared him more than just a little.

I handed him two ledgers telling him the top ledger was for the payrolls he’d be making. The bottom ledger was for documenting anything he spent other than the payroll.

“Tom, you need to be meticulous about documenting all expenditures while we’re gone. We must have solid records of everything we spend; and, eventually, everything we bring in.”

“I get that, Paul, but what am I going to use to pay for everything?” he asked.

Leading him over to the desk, I opened the bottom drawer. I pulled out both metal money boxes, put them on the desk, and opened the lids. He gave a gasp and stared as if mesmerized at the rows of gold coins.

He finally looked up at me when I said, “There should be enough there to cover any supplies, wagons, livestock, and incidentals that you might need for the next six months, if we are gone that long.”

“My God!” he mumbled. “That’s a fortune! What in heavens name makes you think you can trust me with this?”

“I’ll address that in a minute, Tom; but first, you need to understand that this doesn’t include covering the payroll. The money for the payroll is over in that wooden box,” I said, pointing to the box on top of the bookcase. As he moved over and opened the lid I said, “That is enough to cover payroll for a fully staffed Estancia for six months, so you should have more than enough for any emergencies that may arise.”

He looked back down at the coins and then back up at me. “I’ll say it again, Paul,” he said as he gently closed the lid. “What makes you think you can trust me with all of this?” Moving slowly with a look of consternation on his face, he went over to the couch where he sat down and stared at me. It was times like this when I wished I’d had some good scotch available.

I quietly sipped coffee and waited for Tom to speak. A few minutes went by but eventually he got his thoughts together and said, “You’re giving me a lot of responsibility and trust. Why?”

“It’s not just me that trusts you, Tom. You’ve proven yourself to everyone that matters to me. You’re trusted by Anna, Yolanda, Mr. and Mrs. Mendoza, Giuseppe, Heinrich, and the cousins. We are leaving you to care for our Estancia, our Hacienda, our land, and our people for anywhere from three to six months. Part of that care is the money to meet the payroll and buy things that are needed.”

Tom just nodded and sat there staring into space. I returned to quietly sipping coffee again. Finally, he looked at me and shook his head. “I don’t know how you can trust someone like that. I’m not sure that I could do the same, if the situation was reversed.”

“Anna and I can’t do everything ourselves, Tom. We need to trust someone. As a matter of fact, we need to trust a lot of people. Besides you and Yolanda, we trust Hector, Giuseppe, Juan, Jorge, Mr. Mendoza, Miguel, and Maco. Do you know what Hector is doing down in Mexico?”

“Well, just that he is gathering people and cattle to bring back here,” he said, confused at the apparent change of topic.

“That’s right, Tom,” I said with a nod. “And he left Las Cruces with just about the same amount of money that’s in that wooden money box, as well as a Bank Draft for double that amount.” I shrugged my shoulders. “I have to trust a lot of people if any of this is ever going to be a reality. It’s all part of daring to dream, to reach for the unreachable.”

“Okay. I get that as the Estancia Segundo you have to trust me. Not to mention the fact that we are going to be almost brothers-in-law for all intents and purposes,” he added with a wide grin before getting serious again. “But, aren’t you concerned at all about having this much money in the office where almost anyone can get to it?”

“Not really, Tom. Outside of Anna, me, and now you and Yolanda, no one knows the money is here. Eventually, some are going to figure out that it’s here somewhere, though. When they do, they’ll have to try and find it. If you hadn’t noticed the Hacienda is huge. I suppose if someone really wanted the money it wouldn’t take them long to find it, but for the moment no one comes in here without being invited. Nevertheless, Anna and I make it a practice to bar the door when the money is brought out. I expect you and Yolanda will be doing the same,” I said while putting the metal cash boxes and the ledgers away in the bottom drawer.

“I expect we will,” Tom said with a nod, closing out the conversation. I removed the bar from the door and led him upstairs to the terrace to join Anna and Yolanda after their talk.

Somewhere in all the activity on that first day, Anna and I had time to talk about what she was taking on the trip to Santa Fe. The conversation started when she said she was looking forward to seeing where the gold was coming from and working the gold field with me. That reminded me that we were going to be using pack mules on this trip instead of a wagon.

“Anna, you remember that I want to bring the wagon I left in Santa Fe on my last trip back with us?” I asked. At her nod I continued. “That means we’ll be using pack mules on the way up to Santa Fe which means there won’t be any storage boxes for your dresses and other clothes. As a matter of fact, because we want to take as much gold as we can, that means you’ll have to limit what you take so that we have space for the gold.” As her face began to scrunch up in a grimace, I quickly asked, “What were you planning on taking with you?”

“Well, I was thinking two riding outfits and three dresses should do. After all, I’m going to be buying more clothes in Santa Fe, so I don’t need to take everything I bought in El Paso. But, if I can’t use a chest to store them in while we’re traveling, how will we keep them from getting dusty and completely wrinkled?”

“Okay. That, along with a couple of spare sets of the camouflage shirts and pants, should do just fine until you get more clothes made. If you get me one of the dresses you want to take, I’ll show you an ancient family secret. It will keep them clean and limit the number of wrinkles while they’re stored for traveling,” I said with a grin.

Giving me a thoughtful look, she went into the closet and returned with one of her new dresses and laid it on the bed. After looking at it, I carefully folded it twice, lengthwise. Starting at the top, I rolled it tightly down to the bottom, stopping frequently to make sure the roll remained tight.

When I was done, I took a canvas square from my bottom drawer, and centered the rolled-up dress on one end. Rolling the dress and the canvas I ended up with a neat and tight tube of canvas that I tied with three rawhide strings. Handing it to Anna I told her we’d unroll it in two days and look at the results. Skeptically, Anna took the roll, and at my suggestion took it out and put it on one of the tables on the terrace.

Two days later Anna was chomping at the bit to rescue her new dress from the terrace before it was ruined. Still skeptical, she brought the roll inside, removed he rawhide, unrolled the canvas, and shook out the dress. With a gasp of disbelief, she turned to me while still holding up the dress.

“That’s amazing, Pablo! There are almost no wrinkles at all, and not a speck of dust. Where did you learn to do this?”

“I told you, it’s an ancient family secret,” I said with grin. “I learned it when I was in the military, in the future. When we deployed everything had to fit into canvas bags and still be serviceable, meaning wearable, right out of the bag, when we got to where we were going. Rolling everything tightly reduces the number of wrinkles in most clothing and the canvas keeps it clean. Of course, rolling won’t work on some of your dresses because of the material, but you already know that.”

Convinced now that she would have clean wearable clothes despite not being able to use storage boxes, she quickly rolled the dresses and riding suits she wanted to take. She put them on a shelf in the closet, ready to go into the panniers when we left.

Two days before we were scheduled to leave, Anna and I rode out on a tour of the Estancia with Tom, Giuseppe, and Heinrich. The purpose of the ride was really just to familiarize us with where exactly things stood when we left so that we could tell what, if anything, had changed when we returned. Our itinerary for the ride was the Hacienda, the Ranch, the new quarry, the seep, the village, and back to the Hacienda.

We certainly received the familiarization we were looking for, but we also made two discoveries that would rapidly change the environment of the Estancia.

The first discovery was that the seep was now much more than the slow trickle we had come to expect. The faint line of water coming from the rocks had almost tripled in size and was rapidly filling in the depression I’d inadvertently formed during my early attempts to begin a quarry. At the rate it was going, we could clearly see that sometime in the next seven to ten days the water would overflow the depression and begin making its way down the draw to eventually reach the Rio Grande.

Although we all called it a canyon, because of the high rock walls, it was really a long draw about 200 yards wide narrowing to about 50 feet wide 400 yards away, down towards the river. Since none of us had ever had the time to explore the draw beyond this point, we decided to ride further up towards the mountains.

It didn’t take us long to see that it was a wide and extremely long system of connected draws, perhaps three miles in total from the base of the mountain to the river. The most notable feature to me was the natural choke points that formed where two draws connected. When I pointed this out to the others, they quickly became as excited as I was.

It would take some work, but if we widened the areas between the narrows and built dams at the narrows, we could have a nice series of ponds for farming during a drought or to use for recreation, all the while reducing a major source of flooding. The problem was going to be building the dams in the right places and providing ways for excess water to drain out to the river during the rainy season.

As we rode to the village, we continued to discuss building the dams. We all agreed that if we were going to do this, we needed to get all the draws widened as much as possible and get the dams completed before the rainy season started this summer. Anna and I talked quietly to each other as we rode without being noticed by the others as they continued to talk through everything that would need to be done.

As we neared the village, we both caught back up to the others. “Gentlemen,” I said to gain their attention. “Since Anna and I are leaving for our trip in two days, we are going to leave it to you three to work out all the details and get the work done. Heinrich, Tom will have the final say on what gets done, so please give your bid on the dams to him when it’s ready.”

All three men pulled up their horses to a stop on the hill overlooking the village to stare at us. Giuseppe and Heinrich with smiles on their faces, and Tom with a pensive thoughtful look. Both Anna and I nodded our head at Tom, before turning our attention to the village.

We watched as the women and children of the village went about their daily lives. The wagon teams were making rapid progress laying the patio stones for the plaza. A lot of preparatory work had been done in the last two days, as we could see piles of sand dotting the plaza. Two teams of two were spreading the sand evenly for the stone layers. Work continued on the Finca Operations building. From this distance, it looked like the walls would be high enough this afternoon or tomorrow to start placing the vigas on the non-Store portion of the building. On the store portion the vigas had already been placed, and the roof looked completed.

Satisfied with what we could see from the hilltop, we rode down into the village and made our second discovery. Unlike the seep, which affected the geographical environment, the discovery we made in the village affected the social environment.

We rode down into the village and dismounted in front of the plaza. Anna walked over to the store looking for Lupe, while the rest of us walked around the plaza looking for Juan. When we finally found him, he was in an intense conversation with Jesus and another man. Tom, Giuseppe, and Heinrich wandered off to inspect the buildings and plaza work while I remained waiting to talk to Juan. A few minutes later the conversation broke up and the third man walked off towards the houses angrily.

Turning to me Juan smiled and waved his arm at the building saying, “Good morning, Pablo. They’re making excellent progress, don’t you think?”

“Morning, Juan, Jesus. They’re making much better progress than I anticipated, Juan.” Glancing at the retreating back of the third man I had to ask, “Is there some problem I should be aware of?”

With a small grimace he replied, “Not really, Pablo. There are still one or two holdouts like him who want to take shortcuts instead of doing the job right.”

“I’d be really surprised if Jesus is one of the holdouts,” I said with a raised eyebrow.

Jesus looked startled while Juan just laughed shaking his head. “No, Jesus is the leader that everyone looks to for decisions, and to resolve arguments. The primary holdout was the guy who just left. He was arguing that the walls didn’t have to be perfectly straight, and it didn’t make sense to waste all the time making them straight.”

“How many are there like that?” I asked.

“Besides the one who just left, there are two others that I’m aware of who still have a hard time following directions.” Turning to Jesus with a questioning look, he asked, “Are there any others besides those three, Jesus?”

“No, those are the only three still having problems understanding why buildings have to be built a certain way.”

This was something I needed to stop before we left on our trip. “Do I need to talk to the three of them about the trouble they are causing by not following directions?”

Jesus thought for a few moments before replying. “They aren’t really troublemakers, Paul. They just don’t understand why the buildings have to be built a certain way. Put yourself in their position for a minute.

“They, like everyone else here, have lived most of their adult lives completely independent of anyone else. They’ve built their own homes and farmed their own land, living well away from villages or towns. Then they decide to believe in the word of their friends and come to the Estancia where major decisions are made by others and they are even told how to build their houses.

“It’s going to take time to explain the reasons behind those decisions to each of them in a way they can understand. That’s the case with the three Juan was talking about when it comes to building the houses and Finca buildings.

“There are others who’re having the same kind of problems understanding the need for building the levees and irrigation systems before preparing the fields and planting any crops. There are still others who’re having problems with having to take part in the Apache training.”

With a shrug of his shoulders he added, “I’m not saying that everyone will understand and live with the rules. Some few, probably won’t ever understand, and will end up leaving. To be frank, those few are waiting to see how things will be run while you and Anna are gone. If the rules continue to be applied with you gone, then the ones having the problems will probably be gone by the time you get back.”

I watched the work teams laying the stones in the plaza while I thought about what Jesus had said. Finally, reaching a decision, I turned back to Jesus. “Thank you for that explanation, Jesus. I’d like you and Lupe to come for supper tonight, so we can talk about this with the others.”

“I think it’s safe to say we’ll be there, Pablo,” he replied with a grin. “What others are you talking about?”

It took me a moment to figure out that in all the hustle and bustle of getting the farmers and their families here and then getting things built we’d never made the management structure clear to any of the villagers, including Jesus and Lupe. “I meant Anna, Tom, Yolanda, Giuseppe, Sofia, and Father O’Shea. We’ll discuss their roles with you and Lupe tonight, just so everything is clear.”

We talked for a few more minutes about all things related to bees until Tom, Giuseppe, and Heinrich wandered back over to us. After a quick goodbye, we left to find Anna, so we could finish our ride. Anna was waiting for me by the horses, while talking to Lupe. She got a big smile on her face when she saw me coming towards her and Lupe turned around to face me as I arrived

I got a big hug from Anna and a quick kiss before she asked me if I was ready to leave. I greeted Lupe and told Anna I was ready. I helped her mount and then turned to Lupe telling her we’d see her at the Hacienda for supper tonight. She looked surprised at that, and I told her Jesus was probably looking for her to tell her. She nodded, gave us a quick goodbye, and hurried off to find Jesus.

Over lunch I told everyone about our visit to the village, and that Juan, Jesus, and Lupe would be having supper with us tonight to discuss some things. I wouldn’t elaborate as I wanted them to hear it ‘from the source’ without tainting their point of view.

Anna and the ladies started talking about packing for the trip. Tom, Giuseppe, Father O’Shea, and I all rolled our eyes and listened quietly while finishing our lunch. I did ask Father O’Shea what his plans were for the afternoon, and he told me he was going to go with the other two to see what they were doing. I smiled and made no comment leaving it to Tom and Giuseppe.

As we broke up after lunch, Tom asked if I was coming with them and I told him I didn’t want to get in the way of the work they were doing. Besides, the scenery in a house full of women was much easier on the eyes. He laughed and in a low voice said that was true until they all started talking. I walked them out to the courtyard, still laughing, and waved them off.

Anna beckoned me over to the piano when I came back in the door. “You’ve said that it’s going to be months without music, so I’d like to spend the afternoon listening to you play. But before you do, tell me what’s going on in the village.”

I sat down on the bench next to her and quietly explained everything I’d learned while talking to Juan and Jesus. I also tried to explain my thoughts about supper tonight, and the issues I hoped to address and resolve.

As usual, Anna was way ahead of me, and interrupted my explanation. “So, we need to make sure Tom and Giuseppe understand the importance of continuing to enforce the rules while we are gone. We also need for them to come to the same conclusion we came to, that the village needs a representative in our management meetings, and that representative should be an Alcalde elected by the villagers. Finally, we need to make sure everyone on the Estancia knows the management structure. Did I miss anything?”

“No,” I said with a smile. “You covered it all. I think the only issues we have to be prepared to discuss tonight at length, will be getting Jesus to accept the position as temporary Alcalde, with women being eligible to hold the position of Alcalde, and women having the right to vote.”

“Yes, I can see that as well. It’ll be interesting to see how it plays out over supper. Now that we’ve discussed the supper conversation topics, please play for me.”

I gave her a, “Yes, Dear,” and proceeded to play “Ten Minutes Ago.”

When we were done singing, she gave me one of her special smiles. “I do like that song but now please play something I’ve never heard you do before.”

After a few moments of thought I started playing: “The First Time Ever I saw Your Face.”

Before I could start on the next song, Anna got up and sat down in my lap, giving me a strong hug and a long smoldering kiss holding a promise of even more. When we broke the kiss, I looked in surprise at her eyes, to see her love shining through a pool of unshed tears.

Seeing my surprise, Anna gave a small snuffle and wiped her eyes.

“Mi Pablo, since we met over four years ago, you have played many songs for me. Some have been funny, some have been sad, some have been very beautiful, some have been extremely powerful in expressing your love but the one you just played has to be the most powerful and beautiful song I’ve ever heard! Thank you, my love.”

Another quick hug and kiss and she was off my lap, walking toward the kitchen, telling me over her shoulder, “Hold the next song until I get back with some coffee.”

Rather than just sit there waiting for her return, I decided to play “Blue Danube,” while I thought about what she’d said.

My repertoire of songs I knew well enough to play and sing was rather extensive by anyone’s measure, but then again, I’d been learning, playing, and singing since my mother first started teaching me at the age of six. The simple fact is I love music. Learning new songs and playing ones I already knew, has always been my preferred method of relaxation.

However, I’d reached the limit of what I already knew and could remember well enough to play on demand without constant practice. I resolved at that point to print out all the sheet music on my computer in the RV and bring it into the house, so it would be available to me when I had time to practice.

Anna returned with a coffee service about halfway through the piece and poured us coffee as she listened to me finish it.

Thanking her for the coffee, I took a large sip before launching into a four-song run starting with “I Love How You Love Me,” then moving immediately into “When You Say Nothing At All,” followed by “I Cross My Heart,” and finishing with “I Love the Way You Love Me.”

We spent the rest of the afternoon quietly talking about what to expect during supper, our trip, and the things she hoped to accomplish in Santa Fe, as I played mostly instrumentals. About the time we expected everyone to return she asked for another waltz. I played her “Tales From the Vienna Woods.”

No one had arrived yet when I finished the waltz, so I decided to sing one last song and started singing “Stand By Me.” That seemed to be the signal everyone was waiting for, as by the time I was done everyone was back and Juan, Jesus, and Lupe had also arrived.

When I was done, I welcomed them all, joined Anna on the love seat, and chatted with them all until Cristina came out and told us supper was ready.

After seating Anna, I sat down and asked Tom what they’d found today.

He nodded at Giuseppe who answered, “It’s looking very good, Paul. We’re going to need a series of nine dams, with six above the seep, the seep dam, and two below the seep.”

“That’s great news! How long will it take to finalize everything and begin work?” I asked enthusiastically, leaving no doubt in any one’s mind that I was fully behind the efforts to make this a reality.

“I have the preliminary plans in my head. I just need to write them up, and then sit down with Tom and Heinrich to come up with a schedule for blasting, hauling, and building,” he replied with a smile.

“Good, very good,” I smiled. “Please include Jesus in the planning.” I could see that both Jesus and Lupe were surprised at his inclusion, so I turned to them and explained.

“We need a representative from the village to be included in our planning until we have a Finca Segundo. Anna and I believe you should be that representative.”

I didn’t give them time to argue as I turned back to Giuseppe. “Will you have them ready by tomorrow afternoon?”

At Giuseppe’s quick nod, I turned back to Jesus and Lupe. “Looks like you’re invited for supper again, tomorrow night.” They were obviously uncomfortable with the quick pace of the discussion and the surprise I’d sprung on them, but that was nothing compared to what was coming.

Switching gears, I had Juan talk about his observations of no longer being needed to oversee the day to day building activity we’d talked about this morning. When he was done, I asked Jesus if he thought Juan was right about the villagers not needing his or Jorge’s supervision in building the houses, or the Finca buildings, after this week.

Jesus thought for a minute and said he agreed, although they were both going to be important to have on hand when the church was built. I looked around the table asking the others what they thought. When no one had any comments, I nodded and told Juan to leave a day early, so he could catch Jorge before he started out to the village.

Finally, it was time to address the issue that was going to take most of the night to gain acceptance. I asked Jesus to tell everyone what he’d told me about the three who were having problems with the directions they were given while building. Jesus went through everything he’d told me, raising many eyebrows around the table as he talked.

When Jesus was done, Giuseppe asked, “How come we haven’t heard of this before now, Jesus? I spend at least some part of every day in the village just to make sure things like this don’t happen.”

Jesus let out a small laugh. “Giuseppe, you are there, like Juan and Jorge, to make sure the buildings are built correctly, but you can’t be everywhere in the village. Besides that, this extends beyond the village itself. In each activity, whether it’s building houses, building the levees, Apache training, or anything else you can think of, there are one or two who don’t fully understand the reasons behind the decisions. But, those one or two are not the same in any given activity.

“In the early days I explained to the other farmers what was happening in as much detail as I knew. That satisfied the vast majority of them but not everyone. It’s going to take a little time to have it all explained in a way that they understand. Some of them will probably never understand and will probably eventually leave, but we have to keep trying.”

“Finish that thought about them leaving, please, Jesus,” I prompted him when it appeared he was done talking and had gone back to his supper.

Quickly swallowing the food he’d been chewing, Jesus picked up the thoughts I was looking for.

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