Retreat (Robledo Mountain #3)
Chapter 10

Copyright© 2020 by Kraken

After the Monday morning staff meeting, I holed up in the study with Tom and Yolanda. I’d been wrong in El Paso. It didn’t take two days to give them the background and go over the tentative plans Anna and I had been working on. It took all week, and even then, I’d just scratched the surface of the background.

The major problem, as always, was trying to figure out how to answer their questions in terms they could understand. I tried to stay away from things they didn’t need to know about. Things like specific battles in the Civil War, the names of the Generals involved, and the locations. We couldn’t affect any of these things, so I didn’t want to get involved with them and further muddy the waters. Instead, I did my best to focus on those events and personalities that would affect the local area and territory, over the next twenty-five years.

While I was with Tom and Yolanda, Anna began her training with Nantan in earnest. She tried to explain what she was learning but it sounded like a meditation-based self-induced trance state. I knew that she needed to learn this so I supported her as best I could. She joined us in the afternoons and added her perspective to whatever topic we were discussing.

In the evenings after we turned in, I told her what the three of us had covered during the morning, and what I planned on covering the next morning, while she was practicing with Nantan. Anna provided some key input on the sequence and specific discussion items that eased the explanations.

We talked at length about the Texans crossing into New Mexico Territory once the war started, and what we could do to limit, if not prevent, it. I emphasized the role the Confederate sympathizers in Mesilla and Tucson would play and that we needed to come up with a way to neutralize them.

They were surprised to hear me say that the real issue was the relationship between Hispanos and Anglos. I reminded them that until recently, Mesilla had been in Mexico and was mostly populated with people who had moved from the US to Mesilla, so they would be Mexican instead of US citizens. They viewed Anglos with deep suspicion, especially easterners, and felt they would be treated much better by the Confederacy. They wouldn’t be, of course, but they would only learn that the hard way if we couldn’t come up with some way to influence them.

We talked about the Salt Wars, and what Anna and I had come up with to prevent it from happening; as well as the continued relationship problems, once easterners started moving into the area in large numbers after the war. From there we turned to accelerating statehood, compulsory education, the railroad, and starting a university in the area with specific colleges focused on agriculture, engineering, medicine, law, and business.

Each of those issues took half a day of discussion at a minimum and by the time we were done, they began to see that all the issues were interrelated and couldn’t be addressed in isolation.

The need for more money was very apparent, and we spent Friday afternoon talking about the need to continue recovering the gold at both the Caballo Mountain and Colorado River sites. I also reminded them that we had other, even longer-term plans regarding land in the Texas panhandle, that would require funds. So, it was critical we continue recovering gold from the La Paz site before it was “discovered” in early 1862. Tom suggested we get the cousins to help. He was quite surprised to learn that trying to get the cousins to help would be worse than getting the gold in the first place.

To the Apache, gold was the color claimed by the creator, Ussen, and the metal was exclusively his. There was no other reason for gold as far as they were concerned. After all, unlike silver, it was too soft for decorative use, couldn’t be used as arrowheads, and wouldn’t hold an edge. Finally, the Apache believed that the various earthquakes, tremors, and cave-ins, were all caused by white men digging in the ground for metals, instead of using what was provided by Ussen on the surface.

I did let them know that Anna and I had a few other ideas we were working on to get limited help, but they needed time to develop. In the meantime, we could only rely on ourselves.

The last thing we did Friday afternoon, was come up with a schedule for gold trips Tom and I would take. The trips to the Caballo Mountain site were relatively easy to schedule and we all agreed one trip a quarter for no more than thirty days, with the first trip to start in two weeks.

The trips to the La Paz site were much tougher. Neither Tom nor I wanted to leave Anna and Yolanda behind for three to five months at a time; at least, not for the next few years. After much heated discussion, Anna and Yolanda’s view finally won out, and Tom and I resigned ourselves to taking an annual trip starting in mid to late April returning before mid-August.

We also discussed the need to make an annual trip to Santa Fe to make substantial deposits and to hold discussions with the Judge and Tom Stevenson. We decided that those trips would be made every October by the four of us, all the kids under five, and at least two teams with us, for security.

The next two weeks were busy for everyone. Tom and I took our morning rides over the Estancia, and we spent the afternoons in the caves melting gold nuggets into bars. Anna spent her time with Nantan learning what he could teach her while Yolanda started developing the new refresher course for next year built on the evasion and hiding portions of the Scout/Sniper training.

Tom and I left as scheduled using the excuse that we were going on an eastern swing of the Territory. I’d sworn Tom in as one of my part-time Deputies, so both of us wore badges as we left the Hacienda. We would go to Socorro first and spend a day or two to show the flag, so to speak, before going to the Caballo Mountains for the remainder of the thirty days.

Nothing had changed in Socorro, and all was quiet with no reported raids of any kind since August. We spent the night, leaving for the Caballo Mountains early the next morning having done our duty.

My campsite in the little bowl was undisturbed, with no evidence of anyone having been there since Anna and I had last been there. We spent the next two and a half weeks digging up and melting enough gold to fill the panniers of the four pack mules we’d brought with us. When we finally returned to the Hacienda the mules were fully loaded with nuggets and bars, so we both considered it a good trip.

Tom and I rode up to the Hacienda, and with the help of the cousins manning the lower corral, we lugged all the panniers into the study. That major task done, we went in search of our ladies and found them in the kitchen. Both struggled to get up as we walked in, with Anna beaming me one of her super megawatt Anna smiles. I couldn’t believe how beautiful and radiant she was. I told her so as we hugged and kissed. The hugs were light, and the kisses were short as we were separated by pregnant bellies.

The four of us adjourned to the study, where Tom and I gave them the short version of our trip, while we moved the burlap bags of gold nuggets and bars from the panniers into the RV cave. We spent the afternoon cuddled up with our ladies on the couches, just talking to each other and snuggling.

With the start of December, I began to get more serious about the greenhouses. I had Tom help me pull the boxes for two plastic greenhouses out of the trailer in the cave and into the study. While everything was made entirely of plastic, they were far from the flimsy temporary things I’d expected.

Each greenhouse consisted of a heavy-duty PVC type of frame, that when assembled measured fifty feet long and twenty feet wide. The sides and roof were one-foot by one-foot squares of individual clear plastic panels, that snapped into the frame. For the most part, the panels were interchangeable, with only the door and venting panels going into specific locations. Once both Tom and I understood the instructions thoroughly, we put both sets into burlap bags and hauled them up to the upper courtyard.

Everyone seemed to want to help with the preparation for building the greenhouses. Even with all the help, it still took three weeks to get everything ready to actually put up the greenhouses. Giuseppe laid out the two greenhouses on the North side of the Hacienda on the upper plateau. Tomas had the ground inside the two areas prepared for planting.

Tom and I spent two days with one of the teams, moving two stoves from the village storehouses to the upper plateau using the lifting rigs Giuseppe had designed and built. The week before Christmas, we were finally ready to build the greenhouses. Tom, Giuseppe, Tomas, and I put up the greenhouse frames in less than five hours and started snapping the side panels into place. At that point, we realized we’d overlooked not having ladders to stand on to put the upper wall panels and roof panels in place.

We solved that by using one of the wagons as our platform and moving it around both inside and outside the greenhouses by hand as we went. When we were done at the end of the day, we were all proud of the work but very tired from the effort. At supper that night I turned the greenhouses over to Tomas and told everyone that we needed to come up with a list of what we wanted planted in the greenhouses for Tomas to use as a guide.

The rest of the evening we listened as the ladies discussed the list they wanted, and Tomas either agreeing with an item or rejecting it for various reasons. By the time we all retired, the list stood at lettuce, tomatoes, onions, carrots, potatoes, beans of various types, cantaloupe, watermelon, and various cooking herbs.

Early the next afternoon we received three expected and welcome visitors. Cousin George rode in with Esteban and Ed. They’d all been invited to spend the holidays with us on the Estancia. I had ulterior motives for all three of course but spending time with these three men was always a pleasure. We got a quick greeting from George, who then disappeared looking for Celia. I raised an eyebrow at Anna and asked if I needed to have ‘the talk’ with him. Anna laughed radiantly and said the time was soon coming, and Cristina would appreciate it.

With George out ‘heing and sheing’, the rest of us moved to the lower living room where we were met by Cristina and Carla with coffee and biscochitos. Once we were all settled, Esteban began talking.

“Pablo, a few days ago we received word from one of our friends that a group of suspected Comancheros was in one of the saloons, in Mesilla. When we got there, we found eight men drinking at the bar. We had warrants for two of the eight, and when we tried to arrest them all eight went for their guns. We killed three of them, wounded two others, and captured the other three. The two with arrest warrants were unharmed. All five are being held in the county jail for now. The Doc expects the two wounded men to recover sufficiently enough to travel by the middle of January. We wrote up a report and sent it to the Judge in Santa Fe but based on his previous letters to us he will expect us to bring the prisoners to Santa Fe. How do you want to handle transporting them?”

This was good news. In fact, it was great news! The information network was finally beginning to pay off!

After a moment’s thought, I replied, “Well done, you two! The Judge will be very happy to have prisoners to bring to trial. When you go back to Mesilla, stop by Mr. Mendoza’s stable in Las Cruces and see if he has a freight wagon we can rent or buy, as well as a driver to transport the prisoners. I’ll pay for any modifications you’ll need to have made to it, to secure the prisoners and stop them from reaching the driver. If he doesn’t have anything, check with the other freight haulers in Mesilla; and, if necessary, El Paso. Once you have a suitable wagon and a driver, I want both of you to escort the prisoners to Santa Fe.”

The always irrepressible Ed grinned. “I figured that’s what you were going to say. Mr. Mendoza has a wagon and driver for us to use, and he’s already making the modifications to the wagon I asked for. It should be ready for us by the time the holidays are over. Mr. Mendoza said to tell you he’d put it on your bill.”

Anna, Yolanda, Tom, and I all laughed at the standing joke between Mr. Mendoza and me.

“There you have it. Take a few days to enjoy Santa Fe after you’ve delivered the prisoners. I’ll give you enough money before you leave for a week at the best hotel in Santa Fe, as well as a temporary club membership. You’ve both certainly earned it.”

George joined us in the living room just as I was finishing and asked about the shootout with Colonel Watson in El Paso. We spent a few minutes describing what happened, and his last words.

“I’m still not sure what he meant or who his brother is, but I can’t remember ever meeting anyone in Santa Fe or elsewhere with the last name of Watson,” I said. “I wrote the usual report to the Judge and in a separate note asked him to look into it for me, but so far I haven’t gotten any word back from him. I have a suspicion that there is much more going on here than meets the eye, but I have no idea what it is. I guess time will tell but it’s awful worrisome, nonetheless.”

We spent the next three weeks relaxing as Christmas and New Year came and went. We celebrated at the Hacienda, instead of the village, as both Anna and Yolanda wanted nothing to do with riding horses or wagons for any distance. I was able to spend quite a bit of time with George, and it soon became apparent that something was on his mind. Two days after Christmas George finally broached the subject that was weighing on his mind.

We were out riding, touring the Estancia when he suddenly started talking.

“Paul, I’m thinking about resigning my commission and staying here. I’m in love with Celia, and I believe she feels the same about me. I’ve come to believe that the Army and a family are incompatible, at least for me. If I decide to resign, is that job we talked about still open?”

“George, you’re not only family but you’ve become a close friend. There will always be a place here for you and yours, should you want it. To answer your question; yes, the job we discussed is still open, and I can’t think of anyone better to fill it than you. However, there is one question you have to answer to yourself and to me before I’ll offer it to you,” I replied.

“What question is that?” he asked, visibly concerned.

“George, you know that I believe war between the North and South is coming in the next few years. The signs are getting stronger and stronger, every time I pick up a newspaper. The question you have to answer for yourself is, what are you going to do when that war starts? If you feel strongly about Virginia and the South, then you will ride for Richmond and get a commission in the Southern Army. If your feelings are stronger for your wife and family as well as New Mexico, you will stay here and protect them from the aggression of the Southern Army, as they try to take control of the Territory for a base to launch attacks against the Pacific states. “Until you can answer the question of what you will do with certainty, I can’t offer you the job,” I said.

George looked at me thoughtfully as we continued riding and I couldn’t help but wonder what was going through his mind. Based on our conversations over the last couple of years, he knew where I stood on the issue of state’s rights, and my belief that we were Americans first and foremost, owing our allegiance to the country and not to the state of our birth.

Finally, George broke his silence. “What if I can’t give you the assurance that I’ll stay here and fight for the North?”

I smiled at him. “George, you will always be welcome here, regardless of what you choose to do when the war starts. If you can’t give me your word, then I won’t be able to offer you the job. What I will offer you instead, is the job of training the men of the Estancia in both offensive and defensive operations. You will not lead them, you will not be part of planning, or developing the strategy and tactics we will use, and you will have no responsibility to the Estancia nor any expectation of staying when the war breaks out.”

George made a sour face at my statement and then broke into a grin. “I kind of thought that would be your feelings on the matter. I guess I have some serious thinking to do. Thank you for the straight talk, Paul.”

I nodded, and we rode on finishing our ride back at the Hacienda. We didn’t talk about the job or the war I predicted again during this visit. I made sure to discuss the conversation with Anna, Tom, and Yolanda so that they all knew where I stood, and which job to offer George if I was away when he came back.

All three of our visitors left to return to their duties on Thursday morning, the 3rd of January 1856. Anna and I watched from the terrace, with our arms around each other, as they rode away down the Camino Real.

As they disappeared from sight Anna turned to me, gave me a kiss, and said, “I know he doesn’t know that much of our future is riding on him making the right decision. I hope for our sake as well as his and Celia’s, that he comes to the same conclusion we have.”

“We’ve given him the reasons and arguments for reaching the conclusion we want, my love. All we can do now, as with so many other things, is wait and see,” I replied.

Things began to pick up once again, the following Monday. The annual reports were completed and the four of us spent two days reading and discussing the results of the previous year, and the plans the three Segundo’s had come up with for 1856.

Thanks to all the cattle sales, the Ranch had covered its entire annual payroll, as well as the coming year’s payroll, and even a few of the Finca’s expenses. The Finca, of course, didn’t have any income, so we were still investing in it. However, we all fully expected some small level of income this year.

None of us saw any issues with their planning, although I was a little concerned they were overestimating what they could get done this year. After a little discussion, I agreed that based on what we’d accomplished so far, their plans were valid. As none of them would interfere in our private plans, we gave the go ahead at the next weekly meeting.

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