Retreat (Robledo Mountain #3)
Copyright© 2020 by Kraken
We left Las Cruces on our return trip home as scheduled, with a passel of kids dressed for the ride, and a wagon full of clothes for growing kids. Tom, Martin Amador, and I rode along behind the wagon, as the ladies rode near the front of the wagon on either side, talking to Celia, Beth, Izabella and the rest of the kids.
Celia hadn’t had a chance to see George during the trip, as he was back out on patrol early the next morning after our visit with the Colonel.
Martin had reluctantly come with us. He had adamantly refused to attend the training at first, not seeing the need. But a stern talking to by his mother, and a warning from Mr. Mendoza that he wouldn’t be hired as a driver unless he attended and passed, persuaded him to take us up on the offer.
The stone bridge coming into view was a welcome sight after a seven-day absence. What was even more impressive, was the fact that it had been completed, as evidenced by a group of wranglers coming across the bridge with a small herd of fifteen replacement horses for the ranch stables. As we crossed the bridge, I couldn’t help but be impressed by its sturdiness as well as its beauty. The masons had done a really nice job.
Martin hadn’t been north of town in quite a while and was amazed at the changes he was seeing. His first glimpse of the Hacienda as we rode up the slope, produced the now expected jaw-dropping expression. The amazement continued, as two of the cousins came up to help us unload everything, and then take the horses and wagon down to the corral.
We entered the Hacienda to find it strangely quiet for a weekday just after lunch. Anna and Yolanda disappeared into the kitchen, to find out what was going on as Celia, Tom, and I made sure each of the kids took their clothes up to their rooms. Beth and Izabella were tasked with making sure the younger kids put up their clothes properly, before having a late lunch.
As the kids disappeared upstairs with their first loads, we heard a whoop of excitement come from the kitchen. The ladies came out talking so fast we could barely understand a word they said. When they finally slowed down enough to understand we discovered that Lorena had delivered her baby in the wee hours of the morning.
Mother and son, Tomas Jerome Lopez, were doing fine, but everyone was exhausted and were in their rooms having an afternoon siesta.
We could hear the kids upstairs making noise, and Anna went up to quiet them down while Celia took Martin to show him his room and explain the bathroom situation. Tom and I went upstairs after loading a coffee service in the dumb waiter. We retrieved the coffee, and went out to the terrace, sitting down in the shade waiting for the ladies to join us for lunch.
We passed a quiet afternoon in the shade of the terrace awning talking amongst the four of us about everything that had happened the last two weeks, and the plans we needed to finalize for the rest of the year.
Two of the things I was most interested in, were buying and setting up greenhouses and building an ice-making machine near the new school and community center. Tom and Yolanda had heard me talk about the greenhouses with Tomas, so they were at least familiar with the term and how I planned on using them.
The ice-making machine caught them completely by surprise. I explained that a doctor in Florida had invented it in 1845. He received a patent for the process in 1851 but had died a short time later. I told them I’d show them the patent tomorrow morning after breakfast. Anna smiled at that, as we had decided that tomorrow morning was the best time to let them in on all our secrets.
I explained a little bit about how the machine operated, and my thoughts on using the ice-cold water that was a byproduct of the process, to cool the school and community center during the summer. I also explained that if we could build the machine, everyone on the Estancia would be able to use blocks of ice to keep meat, milk, eggs, butter, and the like longer before it spoiled.
We’d have to experiment building ice boxes, to see what worked the best, but eventually, I was sure every family on the Estancia would have one. The biggest hurdle I could see at this point was finding a small steam engine to run the machine, but Juan had assured me that he would be able to get us one, eventually.
Supper that night was an even more boisterous affair than usual, as we all celebrated the birth of Tomas Lopez. Hector was pleased as punch with his son’s arrival, and Lorena was radiant. Martin didn’t quite know what to make of such a large gathering at mealtime, but he fell in with the spirit of things and joined in on the conversations that interested him ... at least, the Spanish conversations. His English was still too poor to really understand what was being said, and he lacked any knowledge of Apache, so he missed those conversations completely.
At breakfast the next morning I asked Giuseppe to tell Miguel and Maco that I’d like them to come for lunch today if he saw them. Giuseppe said there was a better way now, and he’d show me how to contact them before he left.
Tom, Yolanda, and the rest of the adults grinned, while Anna and I looked puzzled letting us know that we were the only adults at the table who didn’t know what Giuseppe was talking about. A half-hour later, Giuseppe led Anna and me into the office where he told me to write out the message and who it was for.
When I was done, he led us upstairs and out through the upper courtyard to the corrals, where Giuseppe had me give the note to one of the young cousins on corral duty. The boy read the message, then turned towards the Robledo Mountains taking one of the small signaling mirrors from his pocket.
He flashed a quick signal towards the center of the mountain and then waited until he got an answering ready signal from someone about three-quarters of the way up the mountain.
My Morse code was a little rusty, but I think whoever was on the mountain sent back ‘rdy’, which I assumed meant ready. I stood next to the cousin as he sent a short message. I was sure the reply when it came was ‘ack’, which I knew meant acknowledged. I wasn’t sure what message he actually sent but it wasn’t a direct copy of what I’d written, as sending it was far too quick.
While we were waiting for a response, I asked the cousin what message he had actually sent. He took a short stubby pencil from his pocket and wrote what he’d sent on the paper I had given him: ‘fm dp to mm lnch tdy hac’. I couldn’t help but laugh after I read it. Just to be sure I asked him to translate it into English for me.
He smiled while telling me, “In English, it says, From Don Pablo to Miguel and Maco, Lunch today at the Hacienda.”
I nodded, clapped him on the shoulder, and looked over at Anna, “That’s pretty much what I wrote out.”
Less than a minute later we saw a flash from the mountain, and the cousin flashed back a ‘rdy’. The signal was quickly sent, and I found I could decipher what it said, now that I knew the shorthand they were using.
I held up my hand just as the cousin began to tell me the message, and said, “Let me try. The message read, ‘fm mm to dp lnch tdy hac ack, wbt’. Which means, from Miguel and Maco to Don Pablo, Lunch today at Hacienda acknowledged. Will be there.”
An incongruous thought popped into my head as I found myself thinking these folks would have no problems texting in 2016. I looked at him expectantly, and he grinned, telling me that was exactly what it said. I thanked him for his help, and we all returned to the Hacienda to head our separate ways.
We made sure all the kids got off to school, and that Rose was being looked after in the kitchen, before Anna and I led Tom and Yolanda into the office. The last one in, I closed the door and dropped the bar across the back, before going over to the desk. I opened the top drawer and removed the letter from Mr. Garcia, and my old billfold then joined the others on the couches.
Tom and Yolanda were looking at me expectantly with a slightly worried expression as Anna took Yolanda’s hands and told them both, “Pablo has some things he needs to tell you about himself. You need to keep your minds clear, and not discount what he tells you, because it will be difficult to understand. I know, it was for me.”
“Anna is right, but before I say anything else you need to read this letter from Mr. Garcia, first,” I said as I handed Yolanda the letter.
Anna and I waited patiently, as first Yolanda and then Tom read the letter. When he was done reading, Tom refolded the letter and handed it back to me.
“So, you’re going to tell us your secrets and let us know about the two caves because Mr. Garcia told you to in a letter he wrote before he died?”
I shook my head and replied, “No, Tom. We had already decided you and Yolanda needed to know my secrets and about the caves. We were just trying to figure out when to tell you. Mr. Garcia’s letter helped us decide to tell you now, rather than later.”
Tom and Yolanda were now staring at me intently with an almost eager expression on their faces waiting for me to start. I looked back at Anna. Seeing her calm and tender look settled me down enough to start talking again.
“Almost everything you think you know about me, except my name, is probably wrong. I am not twenty. As best as I can figure, I am about to turn seventy-one.”
I stopped there, as Tom and Yolanda were both looking at each other with a half-smirk on their face, telling me with their body language that they didn’t believe a word I’d just said. I looked back over at Anna and resettled myself before taking a deep breath and starting again.
“Well, hell! You two need to understand that I’m not having fun with you, or telling you lies. I was born in El Paso in 1952. Yes, you heard me right, I was born ‘in the year of our Lord 1952’, almost a hundred years from now.” I spent the next forty-five minutes giving them the story of my twentieth and twenty-first-century life. My parents teaching school at the reservation, being adopted by the Garcia’s, joining the military, finding and marrying Laura, my education, my kids, my work in the service, my retirement, Laura’s death, and finally waking up here, after driving into a low fog. As I talked, I watched their expressions change from disbelief to incredulity, and back to disbelief again with a touch of anger by the time I was done.
“I don’t expect you to take my word for a story like the one you just heard. I will try to prove it to you.”
I reached down and picked up my wallet from where it was laying between Anna and me. I opened it up and dumped the coins I’d put in the bill compartment into my cupped palm. I handed the coins, a penny, nickel, dime, and quarter, to Yolanda. I pulled out a one-dollar bill, a five-dollar bill, a ten-dollar bill, and a twenty-dollar bill, handing them to Tom.
I let them examine them closely before saying, “Those are the most common coins and currency from the early twenty-first century. The dates they were minted or printed are on them.” I waited a few moments longer, before opening the billfold again as I said, “One of the common themes in the late twentieth century and early twenty-first century, is the fact that government-issued identification is required to do almost anything. Here is my retired military identification card issued by the Federal government. This is my license to carry a concealed weapon, and here is my license to operate a motor vehicle, both of which are issued by the State of New Mexico. Again, they are all dated and have my picture on them.”
They set the money coins and bills down on the table and took the ID’s I gave them to look them over. Their faces had lost any trace of anger, but still maintained the look of disbelief. While they were examining the IDs, I looked at Anna, getting a nice tender loving Anna smile in return and a pat on my hands, as she told me without words that everything was going to be alright.
I was still staring into Anna’s eyes when Tom looked up from the driver’s license he was holding and asked me what else I had in the wallet. I picked the wallet back up and pulled out each item one by one and handed them to him as I told him what they were. “My Veterans of Foreign Wars membership card, my American Express Card, my Visa Card, a picture of my wife and kids, and my business card.”
Tom took each item as I handed them to him, giving them a quick glance before passing them on to Yolanda. They looked at them for a few minutes, before handing them all back to me. I put everything, including the coins and bills back in the billfold.
When I looked up from putting everything away, Tom and Yolanda were both looking at me expectantly.
“You have more to show us, Paul. Where is it and when will we go see it?” Tom asked.
“Tom, you’ve always been a skeptic, but you’re right. I do have more to show to you, and the time and place is here and now.”
As I’d been talking, Anna had gotten up, retrieved the key to the cave door, and was standing near it. I asked Tom and Yolanda if they still had their key to the armory door, and they said they did. I nodded and told them Anna was holding a similar but much longer key, that would open the door to the caves in much the same manner as the armory was opened. I nodded to Anna, and she inserted the key, giving it a good push and the cave door swung open.
Tom and Yolanda stared in stunned disbelief at the opening. I cleared my throat, regaining their attention and told them, “Only two other people besides you two, Anna, and I know about this, and I expect it to remain that way. The caves are never discussed outside this room, and then only if the door is closed and barred. The two other people who know about the door and the caves are your grandparents, Yolanda.”
That took them both by surprise, but they just nodded their heads still too stunned to talk. I waved at Anna and she beckoned them to follow her as she picked up the lamp off the desk that she’d lit while I was talking. She walked through the door, and into the cave. Tom and Yolanda hurriedly followed Anna through the door, while I followed more slowly, content to let them take their time exploring.
I watched from the doorway as Anna led them to the smaller cave to start their exploration. Just as when the Mendozas and Anna had first explored the cave, all I could see was the soft glow of the light and Anna’s soft murmur in the distance, as she explained the water wheel and the pipes.
The glow from the lamp began to get stronger as she started back to the front. I stepped fully inside and joined them as they entered the larger cave. Both Tom and Yolanda stopped in their tracks when they realized the glint reflected from the light cast by the lamp was coming from stacks of gold bars. Anna had been expecting this of course. She stepped closer to the shelves, raising the lamp higher so they could better see the stacks of gold bars.
Tom looked over at me. “Good Lord! How much gold is there?”
I gave a shrug. “Based on the price we got for the last load we sold, that’s about two-point-eight million dollars you’re looking at.”
Yolanda swung around and stared hard at Anna with bulging eyes, while Tom was giving me the same look.
Anna gave them both a small grin. “And now you know another secret.”
Tom looked around the large cave, “So did you bring the gold with you, or was it already here?”
My reply startled him yet again. “No, Tom, I didn’t bring it with me, and it didn’t come from any cave. It came from a dry stream bed, where I dug it up and melted the nuggets down into the bars that you see.”
“Okay. Where’s the stream bed?”
“It’s not on the Estancia, Tom. I promise I’ll take you there and to other areas for more gold in the future. For now, I want to talk about these two caves. Right now, we, the four of us, are responsible for ensuring the welfare of over twelve hundred people. The gold you see on those shelves represents the future of the Estancia and the people on it. Without that gold, there would be no Estancia. These two caves provide security for the gold reserves we will need in the hard times to come, as well as providing a safe refuge should it ever look like we will be overrun. So, the caves really serve two purposes.
“They also serve other purposes, which we’ll get to in a few minutes; but, for now, those are the two reasons they are kept a secret. What you need to know right now is that Anna and I do not own the Estancia. When we were in Santa Fe, after we got married, we placed all the land and the Estancia bank accounts into a trust, which she and I jointly manage. A lawyer in Santa Fe administers the trust for us. Anna and I are paid as employees of the Estancia, just like everyone else.
“Everything you see in these two caves belongs to the Estancia, as far as we are concerned. Which brings me to why I’m telling you this. If anything happens to Anna and me, you two will be the managers of the Estancia. Your pay will go up, of course, and the Hacienda becomes yours to live in; but more importantly, all the responsibility becomes yours as well. You are also named as the guardians of any surviving children we might have, and you will, of course, be expected to raise the children we’ve adopted. If we do have children that survive us, they will become the Estancia managers when they reach the age of twenty-five.
“Now you know why Anna and I had already decided to tell you the secrets, and why Mr. Garcia said what he did in his letter.”
Anna and I stood patiently waiting side by side with our arms around each other, while Tom and Yolanda processed everything they’d seen and heard over the last hour. A short time later, Yolanda shook her head and muttered, “My God!” before looking over at Tom.
Tom looked at her for a moment before turning back to us, “Okay, so you’ve told us the secret that you’re from the future and shown us the caves. There’s still the proof of you being from the future you promised us.”
I gave a soft laugh saying, “Tom, you really have to quit being so shy, and tell us what you really mean.”
Tom and Yolanda looked startled and then grinned at each other. I went back over to the cave door and swung it shut, before returning to Anna’s side. “The proof I promised you is on the other side of the shelves.
Anna led the way around the shelves followed by Tom and Yolanda, with me bringing up the rear.
Anna led them around the RV, so they could see what there was to see besides the RV and trailer. I heard Yolanda’s gasp when she spotted the small mountain of gold nuggets piled on the cave floor near the front of the RV, and the gold bars stacked against the far wall. When they’d finished looking around, they rejoined me near the door.
Tom said in a quick breath, “Two questions. First, how much gold do you have on this side of the shelves?”
I shrugged again, telling him, “What it’s worth depends on the price we can get for it. If the last price holds then it’s worth roughly six million dollars. Anna and I may be altruistic, Tom, but we aren’t stupid. If anything happens to the Estancia, hopefully, we can use what’s here to start over somewhere else. What was the second question?”
Tom grinned at my reply, and then waved his arm towards the RV and trailer asking, “What the hell is this thing?”
I laughed again, telling Anna, “That’s almost what you said the first time you saw it.” She nodded with a grin, and I continued, “It’s actually two things, Tom. The front part is called a Recreational Vehicle, or ‘RV’ for short. Think of it as a small house on wheels, that can travel long distances almost anywhere by means of an internal combustion engine. The second part is a trailer, used for hauling material or for storage. In this case, I used the trailer to carry and store my inventory. It’s kind of like a tinker’s wagon, but instead of being pulled by horses, it’s pulled by the RV.”
Anna let out a small giggle at the confused expressions on Tom and Yolanda’s faces. “Don’t think too much about it. It’s all confusing at first, with the odd names he calls things. Just listen and look. It will become clear in time.”
I turned and opened the rear doors on the trailer. Reaching inside, I flicked the light switch. Tom and Yolanda gasped at the sudden light and looked inside to see what was on fire.
Seeing the panic on their faces, I hastily told them, “There’s nothing to be concerned about. It’s just an overhead light.”
I stopped at that point, once again realizing that none of what I said made any sense to them. I thought for a minute and said, “It’s an artificial light, created by applying the right type of power to an incandescent bulb. It’s not dangerous, and it’s not magic. In about twenty-five years a man named Thomas Edison, back East, will invent the first useable form of this technology. Nothing else I can tell you about it will help you understand it any better without a lot of discussion and explanations, which we don’t have anywhere near enough time for right now.”
They continued looking at the light inside the trailer for a moment, before tearing their eyes away and glancing at the worktable, lathe, storage racks of rolled steel and bins of wood before looking back at me.
“We can talk about all the things inside the trailer at a later time but most of what I tell you will require much more time than we have, right now. Suffice it to say that what you see inside the trailer, are the tools and materials I use to build guns or pieces of guns.”
They both nodded and pulled their heads out of the trailer. I closed up the trailer and beckoned them to follow me. I walked to the front of the RV, opened the door, and watched them file past as they followed Anna into the RV. I left the door open to get some fresh air inside.
I couldn’t help but think that now the fun would begin, as I followed them inside. Anna had turned on the interior lights and started up the air conditioner to get rid of the stuffy stale air. I moved up to the driver’s area and waved Tom and Yolanda up to stand behind me as I sat down in the driver’s seat. Anna grabbed the coffee pot and left us to get water from the small cave.
While she was gone, I explained what I could about driving, steering, the gas pedal, the brake, and the gear shift. When I was done with that, I reminded them that nothing could happen until the engine was on, and then I started the engine. I turned off the engine and looked over at them. They were both shocked, and although they were still wearing slight looks of disbelief, I could see the dawning of understanding of what I’d been trying to tell them in their eyes.
Anna walked back in as I sat them down at the kitchen table. I took the coffee pot from her as she handed it to me. I pulled the coffee container out of the freezer and filled up the basket with grounds before putting it back. Pouring the water in, I placed the pot in position and closed the lid on the water reservoir before telling them the coffee would be ready in a few minutes. The look of disbelief remained on their faces, although at this point, I couldn’t be sure if it was the technology or the fact that Anna was letting me make coffee.
I went through the same routine I’d used with the Mendozas and Anna on their first visit and explained all the appliances. We drank coffee and ate microwaved popcorn. I answered all of their questions as fully as I could, given their limited knowledge of technology and the limited amount of time we had. Eventually, I had to call an end to things.
“There’s much more I could show you, but we’re about out of time, and I need to do one more thing before we leave here. Please excuse me while I work for a few minutes.”
I got up and went back to the bedroom, returning a moment later, carrying my laptop and charger. I hooked up the laptop to the outlet, finished my coffee, and turned on the computer. When it had booted, I opened the hard drive, searching for my old senior mechanical engineering project folder. When I finally found it, I opened up the file for US Patent number 8080 and hit the print button.
The printer, sitting on a small table behind the kitchen area, started up. It began whirring as it prepared the paper to print. The sound of the printer starting up startled Tom and Yolanda, and they looked around trying to find where the noise was coming from. I smiled at them and told them what it was.
My explanation made absolutely no sense to them of course, and with a chagrined look on my face, I told them that was a subject for another day. When the printer was done printing the twelve-page patent document, I returned the laptop and my wallet to the bedroom. Picking up the papers, I led the way back into the office, before someone came looking for us.
With everything closed up and hidden away once again, the ladies went to the kitchen for coffee. While they were gone, I gave Tom the papers. I told him to read them, as they represented our next major project.
The ladies returned a few minutes later with a coffee service, letting us know that lunch would be ready in an hour. I shook my head wondering where the morning had gone. It seemed like we’d only been in the cave for a half-hour, yet almost four hours had flown by.
Tom’s rustling of the papers as he shuffled them together focused my thoughts back on why we were here. He handed me the papers and started to ask me a question. I asked him to hold his thought for a few minutes as I gave the papers to Anna.
As Anna was skimming the papers, I got up and barred the door. Sitting back down, I poured a cup of coffee. Anna quickly finished skimming the papers and handed them to Yolanda.
After reading the first paragraph, Yolanda mimicked Anna and quickly scanned the rest before handing the papers back to me.
Tom looked at me, and at my nod asked, “Paul, with everything we have going on why do you want to add this now? I mean, we have virtually everyone tied up on various construction projects, clearing land, driving cattle to the various forts, or planning the next phase projects. Why now, and why this? Do we even know if this contraption will work?”
Anna was smiling at me with an ‘I told you so’ look, while Yolanda was waiting for my answer with a curious look on her face.
“Those are all good questions, Tom. First, let me assure you the contraption works. I know it works because I built one using this patent when I was in college as my senior project. The one I built was on a smaller scale and compared to what is available in the twentieth century it was very inefficient, but it did work.
“Second, this is going to take a lot of planning to implement correctly, and even then, we are going to be using trial and error to get some things right. To build the system described in that patent, we will need Raphael to make most of the metal parts, the cooper to make the wooden parts, the masons to build the structure, Juan and Mrs. Amador to find and obtain the parts that we can’t build, and Giuseppe working with you and me, to make it all work together correctly.
“Once it’s built and working, everyone on the Estancia will have ice available to them. Think of what that would mean to every family on the Estancia. Anna and Yolanda probably have a much better idea of what it would mean to the families but suffice it to say having a reliable way to keep meat, milk, butter, eggs, and liquids cool, would greatly reduce the amount of spoilage.
“Part of the planning we have to do is to figure out how the ice can be most efficiently stored in the home. Is an icebox the best answer? What should it be made of, and in what shape? Is there a way to make the ice last longer than just a day or two? There are a host of other questions as well I’m sure.
“If that was all that this machine did, I would say you’re right that it could wait. However, one of the byproducts of making ice is cold water. Very cold water. That cold water can be used to cool large buildings like the combined school and community center if the ice making machine is close enough. That, in and of itself, is a major reason I want to go ahead with getting the planning started.
“The kids in school will learn much easier if the building isn’t sweltering in the spring and fall. Meetings and celebrations in the community center will be much more comfortable. To make that work effectively, we need Jorge to include the pipes and vents into the design of the school and community center. We will also need to do some work experimenting with fans powered by windmills or steam engines, or both.
“Another reason I want to get started is because one of the major components of the machine is a mechanical water pump. I have some other ideas for cooling houses and buildings, but they all require mechanical water pumps much smaller than what’s available today. Over the next few years, I want to do some research on water pumps, and this gets us started in that direction.
“Everything I’ve talked about will take time, lots of time, but the crucial thing that must be done now is making sure that Jorge and Heinrich both understand what we are trying to achieve, and for them to account for it in their building design and construction.”
As I talked, I could see Tom mentally trying to put the pieces together for what I was describing. By the time I was done, it was clear he hadn’t been able to figure out how it would all work, but he was very interested in the challenge. I hoped Giuseppe, Raphael, and Jorge would also be intrigued when it was explained to them.
I continued, “Ultimately, what we’ll be doing is proving the concepts of making ice, using it in the home, and cooling buildings with and without the use of very cold water. Once these are proven, we can duplicate them commercially in Las Cruces, Mesilla, or anywhere else in the territory. We will eventually make, sell, and deliver ice; make and sell iceboxes; and make, sell, and install building cooling systems. The commercial enterprises will employ people in the area, raising the standard of living, so they have more money to buy our beef and produce. Of course, it will also enrich the Estancia, which is a good thing, too.”
By the time I was finished, both Tom and Yolanda were nodding their heads at the idea. I couldn’t help but wonder what they would think in twenty years or less when I started in on electricity and the telephone. A knock on the door interrupted any further questions, as it was Celia telling us that lunch would be ready in just a few minutes.
We walked into the dining room, finding both Miguel and Maco among those already at the table. We greeted them as we were sitting down and talked pleasantries as we waited for the rest of the Hacienda to come in before lunch was served.
As we were eating, I explained Martin’s presence and asked Miguel and Maco when they could start a special Apache training course just for Martin, to be focused more on recognizing ambushes and avoiding them, or getting out of them, with less focus on survival. I added that Martin needed training on using and caring for a shotgun, as well as the use of the medical kits, in addition to the other things he would learn; and that everything needed to be done, four weeks after he started.
Miguel looked at Maco for a few moments and then turned back to give Martin a long look. Finally, he nodded his head and said he could start first thing Monday morning after Tai Chi. He noticed Martin’s confused look and explained that Tai Chi was a set of exercises everyone did in the mornings before breakfast. I told Martin I’d show him the basics tomorrow morning, and after breakfast, we’d show him how to get to the village, where his training would start.
Lunch over, Maco motioned for Martin to follow him, as he walked upstairs and out to the upper courtyard. I walked Miguel out through the lower courtyard while telling him that I wanted him to be at the weekly meeting on Monday morning, to discuss some security concerns. He looked at me curiously but told me he’d be there. As he walked off down the slope, I turned to go back inside and found Tom and Yolanda waiting for me.
As I walked up to them, Tom said, “Paul, if you don’t mind, Yolanda and I would like to talk to you in the office, for a while.”
“I don’t mind, Tom. I sort of expected to spend the day at this. Let’s find Anna and I’ll join you in the study,” I replied.
Yolanda spoke up at that point. “Anna will join us with coffee, so we aren’t disturbed for a while.”
I nodded and led them to the study, where we found Anna already in her accustomed seat with a fresh coffee service on the table. Tom closed and barred the door before sitting down, and then the questions started.
For every question I answered, three or more follow-up questions were generated. At first, the questions were general in nature, but they quickly became more and more specific. Tom and Yolanda both were extremely disappointed and, in some cases, disturbed by my inability to give detailed answers. At one point, I stopped the questions for a few minutes and tried to explain my inability to answer specifics.
“Look, I know you’re both having problems with my inability to give detailed answers to most of your questions. You both need to understand a few things. Yes, I went to school from the age of six to eighteen. A total of twelve years of required education. That education covered reading, writing, math, a second language, the sciences, and history.
“It was very comprehensive, but it was also very broad. Let’s take math as an example. In the first six years of school, I was taught the basics: the numbers, addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, fractions, and ratios. The next six years were a mix of algebra, geometry, introduction to trigonometry, and calculus. All that education was meant to provide a grounding in the basics.
“The same held true for the sciences. Basic science, including the scientific method, was taught the first six years while a grounding in the specific science fields like biology, chemistry, and physics were taught the last six years. No one was going to hire a high school graduate as a mathematician or scientist. A high school education simply doesn’t give anyone enough knowledge in a specific field, to be of real value in the job market.
“A high school education does give you enough knowledge to function in a technological world, and more importantly it helps you determine where your interests lie, so you can choose a field of work or study in your adult years. Like most other kids, when I graduated high school, I still had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up. I went into the military, where I was taught to be a police officer.
“In the course of my work, I discovered gunsmithing. Once I expressed an interest, the military gave me the training I needed to become a gunsmith. I went to college when I discovered that a degree in mechanical engineering would help me do a better job as a gunsmith. I never took a single college course on how to be a gunsmith. Mechanical engineering is about building mechanical systems in general. Things like pumps, for example. Identifying what type of materials are best suited for different types of uses and solving different types of problems.
“Mechanical engineering is a distinct field of study, completely separate from civil engineering, which is about building structures like houses, offices, dams, bridges, and the like. Civil engineering is completely separate from electrical engineering. All three are engineers but with completely different focuses.
“Despite having formal training as an engineer, I am not now, nor have I ever been, an engineer. It didn’t take me long after starting college to figure out that I just don’t have the mindset of an engineer. Engineers approach problems much differently than everyone else. I can’t really explain it but look at Giuseppe and Heinrich. They are engineers. Watch them as they go about their work, and you’ll see that problem solving to them, whether the problem is building a bridge, a road, or a house, is a methodical process that requires examining every facet of the problem.
“College taught me many things, but the most important thing it taught me, was that trying to think like an engineer is exhausting and frustrating.
“To make matters more complicated, there are many engineering fields, and each has further specializations. The same holds true for scientists, which can be broken down into biologists, chemists, physicists, and so on. They are all scientists, but their fields of study are so focused, that about all they have in common is that basic education they were originally given.
“The other thing you need to remember is that knowledge doesn’t stand still. For me, high school and college are forty years in the past. The sheer volume of what changed in that forty years is staggering, and unless I made a conscious effort to keep up with current knowledge, what I knew quickly became outdated.
“Suffice it to say that unless it was knowledge I felt was instrumental to my success as a gunsmith, I ignored it. You ask me how a water pump works, and I’ll tell you what I remember learning in 1980, not how a water pump in 2016 works. It was knowledge I didn’t need as a gunsmith, and it was knowledge I wasn’t interested in.
“It’s very similar to Tom not being able to tell me the best way to refine the impurities out of gold nuggets, or Anna and Yolanda not being able to tell me the best way to prepare a supper of octopus and eels. You might like to know, but you’ve never needed the knowledge, and you most likely never will.”
When I was done with my explanation, even Anna seemed to have a better understanding of the problems I was having trying to answer their questions. We picked back up with the questions and answers but now their questions were better thought out, and more general in nature.
We spent the rest of the afternoon with them asking questions, and me answering them as best I could. Gradually they began to narrow down their questions to those about what things in the future I was trying to change, why I was trying to change them, how I was trying to change them, and the outcome I expected the changes to bring about.