Retreat (Robledo Mountain #3)
Copyright© 2020 by Kraken
“Damn Paul! None of this was here two years ago! How many people live in this village?” The questions were coming rapid-fire from Steve, as we sat on our horses looking out over the village from the hills.
We’d insisted that Steve spend his first day on the Estancia recovering from his trip. The only thing remotely resembling a discussion of our plans was getting him to accept that he would need to ride a horse to Austin and back. Well, that and convincing him that his chances of surviving the trip alone, were slim to none. He’d finally given in and agreed to have ten of the Estancia vaqueros accompany him when he left for Austin.
This morning, after breakfast, we had started his regimen of slowly lengthening morning rides to toughen him up for his trip. This morning’s ride was limited to two hours, which was almost perfect for a slow trip to the village and back. On the ride out from the Hacienda, I’d told him that when he first met Anna and me, the only thing that existed on the Estancia was the Hacienda which was only completed a couple of days before we were married.
At Steve’s outburst, I turned towards him and answered his questions, and then gave him the short version of the Estancia story, as we walked our horses down the hill to the plaza. Like all visitors, he was amazed at the number of the people living on the Estancia, the size of the stables and wagon yards, and all the activity that was going on around us.
We dismounted, and Tom and I gave him a tour of the buildings surrounding the plaza. I let Tom do most of the talking as we walked around. When he’d seen everything, and all of his questions had been answered, we returned to our horses and rode back to the Hacienda.
Ensconced back on the terrace with fresh coffee Steve asked, “So what’s on the agenda for tomorrow’s ride?”
I pointed out over the river and replied, “I thought we’d ride to the Ranch tomorrow, and you can see where most of the rest of the people on the Estancia live and the Ranch operations.”
“More people?” he asked incredulously. “How many more people? What do you mean most of the rest?”
Tom laughed at his rapid-fire questions and the look on his face as I answered. “There’s just short of five hundred more people at the Ranch. By the rest, I mean the cousins who decided to live a more traditional lifestyle for them. That’s another thirty or forty families living around the Estancia in small groups, mostly in and near the mountains.”
“How far is the Ranch from here?” Steve asked after a few moments of thought.
I stood up and motioned him to join me at the terrace rail. When he’d joined me, I took out my monocular and handed it to him, as I pointed towards the Ranch buildings.
“Look through this almost due east of us and you’ll get a taste of what you’ll be seeing tomorrow.”
When he’d seen what there was to see of the Ranch at this distance, he handed me the monocular and we returned to the table. As I was pouring myself some more coffee he said, “This is so much more than we expected. None of us had any idea of the scope of what you were doing. No wonder you turned down the Marshal’s job the first time the Judge offered it to you or that you put the limitations on it that you did.”
I shrugged. “How do you tell people about something like the Estancia if they haven’t ever seen it?” I asked.
“You did try, that’s true enough. I’m not sure I could have done any better but I’m sure going to try when I get back. So, what’s the plan for the rest of the day? Are we just going to sit here and relax or actually do some work?”
I couldn’t help but laugh. For such a focused disciplined mind Steve bounced from topic to topic without any apparent thought or focus.
“We’re going to try and get some much-needed work done, Steve. But, before we do, there’s some background we need to give you and some things we need to discuss.”
He cocked an eyebrow in question.
“Did you bring the paperwork for the various projects we asked for in the letter Esteban brought you?” I asked.
“Of course, I did. I figured you’d want to see them,” he replied.
Anna and Yolanda came out on the terrace and joined us at the table.
“Your timing couldn’t be any better, my love. We were just about to start talking business and I wanted you both here for this,” I said.
Anna grinned as Yolanda replied, “It’s not our timing anymore Pablo. It’s the boys.”
We grinned at her remarks and I resumed the conversation. “Steve, we’ll want to go over each of the three documents in detail with you, to make sure we all understand them. The Land Corporation document may have to have some changes made to it, but we haven’t reached a decision on that yet. Before we get to those though, we have some serious questions for you.”
Steve nodded and said, “Ask away.”
“The first question is how much do we need to pay you to make us and our businesses your primary, if not only, clients?” Anna asked him.
Steve sat back in his chair looking stunned at her question for a few moments before replying, “Anna, you all have given me quite a bit of business, but I just don’t see enough work to justify that.”
“What my wife is trying to tell you, Steve is that we want to hire you as the full-time Legal Counsel and Comptroller for the Rio Grande and New Mexico Land Corporation. That position, combined with the other work the family will be giving you, will occupy all your time for the foreseeable future,” I told him.
Anna grinned at Steve’s expression. “Steve, there’s lots of things going on here that you don’t know anything about yet. Paul and Tom will talk you through everything, but suffice it to say for the time being, that Estancia Dos Santos will be opening many businesses over the next few years.
“The railroad is the first, the largest, and the most expensive. Hiring you full time just makes sense. You know the law, you’ve a well-deserved reputation for being as honest as the day is long, you’re well respected in Santa Fe, and you have innumerable contacts in the North and East.
“We need all those things and we need them now. If we can get it all worked out you’ll be traveling north and east to find us the right people to build this railroad and to coordinate our orders for three steam engines with Baldwin in Philadelphia, not to mention arranging for purchase and delivery of the rails, spikes, freight cars, and passenger cars.”
Anna stopped talking, and I was just about to start explaining a little more when she piped back in with, “Oh, and yes, we will need you to set up some unrelated businesses for us as well.”
We could all see that Steve was having problems processing everything Anna had told him, so we sat and quietly talked among ourselves as we enjoyed the morning sunshine and drank our coffee.
After a long twenty minutes or so Steve finally spoke up. “When do you expect to start working on this railroad? There’s a lot to do besides what you mentioned, first and foremost is getting a charter so that you can have the land you need to build it.”
I gave a slight shrug, and said, “Steve, we are starting now with trying to hire you. We won’t be applying for a charter as we don’t want the government involved if at all possible. Not because we don’t appreciate the free land a charter would mean, but because it would take years to get it approved.
“By my estimate, we will be done with construction and will start full-time operations by the time Congress even brought it to a floor vote, and that’s only if something more politically important, which is almost everything, doesn’t come to the floor and take their attention.
“No, we will buy the land we want outright, once you’ve agreed to join the team. Our goal is to start construction early next year and have the Las Cruces to Santa Fe portion operational with stops in Fort Thorn, Fort Craig, Socorro, and Albuquerque, by the end of 1860. When that’s a reality we’ll look at extending the line from Santa Fe to Raton Pass on Lucien’s land and perhaps beyond to someplace in Kansas. We’ll also look at expanding east and west to other parts of the Territory from Las Cruces.”
He looked at all four of us and asked, “Do you have investors already lined up for this? If so, what level of funding do you have?”
Anna smiled sweetly at him. “You’re looking at all the investors Steve. Between the four of us, we have ten million dollars which should cover everything from the land, to the construction, to the operations for the initial Las Cruces to Santa Fe route that Pablo talked about. It should also be enough to cover extending the line to Raton, but that will depend on Lucien. Extending the line east and west from Las Cruces will have to be evaluated after the Raton decision is made.”
Steve looked at each of us, one after the other, with cold unblinking eyes for a moment. “The four of you have ten million dollars?” he asked.
In a serious and quiet voice, I replied. “No, Steve. Between us, we have more than that. Not a whole lot more, but we won’t be destitute if we lose the ten million dollars we are investing in the railroad.”
Steve gave an explosive sigh before asking, “Why in the world would you want to invest that much money in such a risky venture?” He gave a brief pause shaking his head and continued, “There must be other things you could do with that money.”
Tom got up from his chair and walked towards the railing, saying, “Steve, come over to the railing for a minute, and I can help you answer that question.”
When Steve had joined Tom at the railing Tom swept his hand out over the Estancia. “Steve, when you look out over the Estancia you probably only see the river, the desert, and the mountains. The four of us, and the rest of the people who live and work on the Estancia, see something quite different.
“We see more than 10,000 head of cattle that need a market. We see over 10,000 acres of the world’s most productive farmland we will plant and harvest every year. We can sell some of the cattle and produce here in Mesilla, and Las Cruces, as well as to Fort Fillmore, and Fort Thorn. We can, perhaps, sell some to the people of El Paso, and Fort Bliss. What we can sell in the surrounding area will be a small fraction of what we produce.
“A railroad would expand our market significantly! Imagine being able to harvest fresh produce here one day and having it available for sale in Santa Fe the next day! Imagine loading two or three thousand head of cattle here one day and unloading them four hundred miles to the north in Raton before driving them up to Pueblo or Denver to feed the miners there.
“We can’t afford to wait another twenty or thirty years if we want to survive. That’s what the railroad means to us, and that’s why we’ll build it. Imagine the people around Socorro, Albuquerque, and Santa Fe having the opportunity to buy fresh produce and meat almost all year round or moving the products they’ve grown or made to other markets.
“Once the mainline is in operation, we can extend that reach even further inside the Territory, so that everyone benefits. Will we carry a lot of passengers? Probably not. Will we carry a lot of freight in both directions? We certainly hope so, but even if we don’t, the benefits of a railroad to the Estancia are critical to our future plans and even if we are the only ones who ship our freight on the railroad it will be worth it to us.”
When Tom finished talking, he turned and came back to the table. Steve stood there, by himself, looking out over the Estancia for another few minutes before he too rejoined us at the table.
Yolanda poured him a fresh cup of coffee telling him, “It’s a lot to take in, I know; but, just like the Estancia, this too will happen.”
Steve looked at Yolanda for a moment and then turned to Anna. “To answer your original question, I average about six hundred dollars a year, most years. Some years I make much more and some years much less but that’s the average over the last five years. At the moment, I have no work pending and no active accounts besides the Estancia Trust which is why I agreed to make the trip to Austin when the Judge asked me. I know you’ll be good for the expenses and my fee which isn’t cheap.”
Anna gave him a small smile and said, “So a salary of one hundred dollars a month, and a share of any annual profits the railroad makes, would be acceptable?”
Anna’s question startled Steve and he took a moment to recover before nodding his head saying, “Yes, what you offer would be most acceptable.”
“Good! Over the next two weeks, we’ll fill you in on all the plans and the things you’ll be doing to help make those plans a reality in the next few years. I’d like to spend the rest of the day going through the two sets of Valley Trust documents we asked you for, and getting those finalized,” I said.
Steve got up and went to his room to get the documents I asked for. While we were waiting for him, I said, “I’ll leave for El Paso Monday morning after the meeting.”
With concern in his voice, Tom said, “With the Comancheros still out there I hope you’re not thinking of going alone.”
Anna was vigorously nodding her head in agreement with Tom.
“No, I’ll take a wagon and twelve men. A driver, rider, and ten vaqueros. It’s time to quit hiding who and what we are! I want to arrive in El Paso before mid-day, make the deposit, get the bank drafts, and start home before nightfall.”
Anna smiled at me saying, “It’s about time, my love, but please be careful.”
Steve rejoined us just as she finished, and we turned to review the documents. We took a break for lunch after we’d finished reviewing the Mesilla Valley Community Association Trust and continued with reviewing the Mesilla Valley Education Association Trust afterward.
With his usual thoroughness and foresight, Steve had done exactly as we’d asked, and had then improved the language to make them unassailable, should they ever be questioned in court. The Judge had approved and registered them, so we were ready to start on both fronts.
Tom and I continued our morning rides with Steve through the weekend and began filling him in on our goal of Statehood, the impediments we saw that would delay us from reaching that goal, and the various plans we had designed to overcome a large number of those. We also talked about our ice making plans and the cooling plans for entire buildings.
Sunday afternoon I gave Steve the year-end report for 1855, telling him to read it so he would be better prepared for the Monday morning meeting he would be attending. Tom and I left him on the terrace and locked ourselves in the study. We opened the cave door and spent a couple of hours filling up burlap bags with gold bars and hauling the bags out to the study, so we were ready to load the wagon Monday morning before breakfast.
Between the year-end report, and the meeting, Steve got quite an education on the Estancia and our future plans as well as the planning it took to get this far. When the meeting was over, I talked with him for a couple of minutes to get his reactions.
To say he was impressed with all three of the Segundo’s was an understatement. He also realized the full scope of the threats we faced daily as well as the Comanchero threat when George and Miguel gave us their updates on the attack defense plans and the observation/signaling posts.
I walked out of the courtyard to find Anna, Tom, and Yolanda waiting for me at the wagon to say goodbye. I gave Anna a big hug and a long kiss, promised them all to be careful and mounted my horse. Giving the lead vaquero a head nod, I followed them and the wagon down the slope, over the bridge, and down the road towards El Paso.
Tom and the ladies must have talked to the vaqueros while they were waiting to say goodbye because as soon as we turned South off the bridge four of the vaqueros rode off. One rode ahead, one far out to each side and one staying well behind us. The rest of the vaqueros rode alongside the wagon three to a side leaving me just behind the wagon.
We pushed hard and even with the heavily loaded wagon arrived just outside El Paso in the early evening two days after leaving the Estancia. During the trip, we had passed numerous travelers and wagon trains heading North who looked at the guards curiously but otherwise, the trip was non-eventful. We camped in the arroyo Anna had used on our first trip here after being married and remained until mid-morning letting the mule team rest and recover a little before traveling the last five miles into El Paso.
None of the men with me knew what was in the wagon and were quite surprised when I lead them straight to the bank. As I dismounted, I told them to spread out a little and guard the wagon until I returned when I would need seven of them to help me unload it.
Inside the bank, I found Levi hard at work at his desk. I knocked on his door and he greeted me with the usual good cheer I’d come to expect from any of the Greenburg’s. I told him I had a deposit to make and needed several bank drafts in return. He got serious for a moment and as he walked out of his office asked me how long I was staying in El Paso.