Retreat (Robledo Mountain #3)
Copyright© 2020 by Kraken
“What can I do to help?” I asked Anna after breakfast the next morning. The ladies were clearing the family table, to start getting the room ready for the meeting set to start in a couple of hours. Tom, Steve, and I were finishing the last of our coffee, and from the way the ladies were moving through the room, it was very apparent that we were in the way.
Anna beamed me one of her smiles and gave me a small kiss. “Take these other two and go keep grandfather company. You three will only get in the way. We’ll have everything ready a half-hour before the meeting starts, so be back then.”
I grinned, gave her a big hug and kiss, and waving the other two to come with me, I walked out of the dining room and out to the stables. We found Mr. Mendoza out at one of the corrals looking at six coal-black horses with John Benning, from the Bar J ranch. I introduced Steve and John to each other, and the five of us turned to watch the horses.
“They’re fine-looking animals, John, and they move really nice. What breed are they?” Tom asked.
“They’re Tennessee Pacers. They have a nice easy gait and are almost as sure-footed as mules. They were bred as all-purpose farm animals, but most of the time they’re used for riding or for coach work. These are the best I’ve bred. They’re young and need some work, but they’ll do well at either task.” John answered.
Mr. Mendoza looked over at me with a small grin. “John came by yesterday, asking if I knew anyone looking for prime horses, and I asked him to bring them by this morning for a look.”
“Those damn Comancheros really fouled things up for us last year,” John said unexpectedly. “We were just starting to break even when they hit us. Between all the damage they did to the ranch buildings, the horses they stole that we never recovered, and the money we had saved up that they stole, we are falling a little behind. As much as I hate to sell these, they’ll bring enough to set things right and get us back on track.”
“They’re good horses, Paul. Well configured and sound. If you’re going to buy a coach, you’re going to need something to pull it with. These would make a fine team for you,” Mr. Mendoza said.
I glanced over at Tom with a questioning look, and without hesitation, he gave me a small nod of approval. I turned back to watch the horses and tried to visualize them in harness pulling a custom-made coach. I liked what I saw in my mind’s eye and turned to John.
“If you can get Mr. Mendoza and Tom to agree on a price with you, I’ll take all six of them,” I said.
I backed out of the way of the three of them and knowing it would take a while for all three to agree on a price I walked around the corral looking at the horses from all angles. The more I saw of the horses, the more I liked them.
The three were still talking fifteen minutes later. From what I overhead it was pretty clear to me that the price would eventually be somewhere in the vicinity of $350 each. While they continued their negotiating, I went to the house and pulled $2400 from the bag of money Anna had brought for Tom to use to buy the land but hadn’t needed.
When I got back out to the corral, they were closing on a number they could all agree on. Still, none of them were going to be rushed, and it took another ten minutes for them to come to agreement on a price of three hundred and sixty dollars each.
I counted out the money with John watching and gave it to him.
“John, I’m going to need another matched set of six horses for a second coach. Do you have any other horses that would meet that need?”
John rubbed his chin in thought for a few moments. “Well, Paul, I do have another set of Tennessee Pacer’s like these, but they’re brown with black markings. They’re still a little young, so you wouldn’t be able to use them, or even start training them for another six months.”
“That’s perfect, John. Bring them into Mr. Mendoza at the beginning of October and let Mr. Mendoza look them over. If he approves of them, then I’ll pay whatever price you and he agree on,” I said with a smile.
John rode away a happy man, and I thanked both Tom and Mr. Mendoza for negotiating with John.
“Everyone knows how bad you are at negotiating, Paul,” Mr. Mendoza said with a laugh. “It rivals your coffee making skills. It was the least I could do to save Anna the aggravation of you paying too much.”
What could I say? It was all true, so I just nodded my head.
“Let’s talk about how much you are going to charge us for training these beauties. I want to surprise Anna and Yolanda with these guys when we go to Santa Fe, later this year, so I don’t want them at the Estancia until I bring the coach back from El Paso.”
Mr. Mendoza shrugged his shoulders and said, “I’ll just add it to your bill.”
I gave my head a shake. “No, Sir. You’ve put too much on my bill already. If you’re going to do the work, then I need to pay you for it. That’s only fair.”
He thought for a moment and gave me a number for stabling and training the horses for six months. I thought it was a little on the low side but knew better than to argue with him, so I simply said, “Done.”
I paid him in full, from the money left over from buying the horses. We watched the horses for another few minutes before we walked behind the stables and sat down at the mending table. We talked about the horses, the training Mr. Mendoza would put them through, and the harness gear they were going to need. Mr. Mendoza said the Delgados made the finest looking harnesses of any he had seen, and he would talk to them about making a couple of sets for us.
The four of us walked through the back door at the appointed time and stood staring in surprise. The dining room was gone. In its place was a formal meeting room, with paper and pencils at each of the thirteen seats around the table. Coffee and cool tea were on the sideboards, along with some fresh baked cookies.
Anna walked up beside me putting her arm around my waist. “What do you think my love?” she asked with a grin and a twinkle in her eye.
“It looks amazing, Anna. There will be no doubt in their minds when they sit down that this is a serious meeting,” I told her with a small squeeze of her waist.
Yolanda joined us a minute later and the five of us poured our coffee and sat down on the far side of the table. We’d been talking for a few minutes when Mrs. Delgado arrived. She stood in the doorway scanning the room for a moment before walking in.
Anna welcomed her, pointed to the sideboards, and invited her to help herself. Within three minutes the rest of the invitees had arrived and were helping themselves to coffee or tea and cookies. When everyone was seated, and we’d spent a few minutes exchanging pleasantries, Anna stood up to get everyone’s attention.
Once she had everyone’s attention, she addressed the room. “Thank you all for coming to this meeting and thank you, grandmother, for allowing us to use this room. I know all of you are curious about why you’re here. Let me assure you that the purpose of the meeting will become clear soon enough.
“I’d like to introduce our lawyer and close friend from Santa Fe, Tom Stevenson, who for obvious reasons we all call Steve. We’ve asked Steve here to talk to us about statehood. He’ll tell us how it happens, the obstacles we’ll have to overcome to become a state, and the changes we’ll go through after we become a state.”
Over the next hour, Steve did a masterful job of explaining the process of becoming a state, how being a state differed from being a territory, and what it would mean to the citizens of New Mexico Territory to become citizens of the state of New Mexico.
He told them all the arguments that were currently being used to keep New Mexico a territory, and how they could be overcome. Finally, he told them that some very powerful Anglos were working hard to delay statehood as long as they could.
Mrs. Delgado asked why they would do such a thing. Steve replied with one word and then explained.
“Power. As long as New Mexico is a territory, the Federal government makes the decisions. As soon as we become a state, the citizens will make the decisions locally for the state, through the state legislature, and nationally by their representatives in Congress.”
The discussion with questions and answers went on a little longer. When there was a lull, Yolanda stood up.
“Steve, thank you for explaining all of that and for answering all the questions. If any of you have more questions for Steve, he’ll be here a few more days before he leaves for Austin.”
Yolanda paused to see if there were any questions. When there were none, she continued.
“We all know that the territory doesn’t have the gold, silver or other minerals that territories like Colorado and Nevada have. If we do, then they haven’t been discovered yet. We also don’t have any other major resources such as the forests of Washington Territory. What we have is land, lots of land. Unfortunately, much of it is currently valueless. That may change over the years, but for now, that’s the way it stands.
“All of this means there is no compelling reason for Congress to vote for us becoming a state, or for the President to approve it. No, we won’t become a state for our resources. Instead, we have to overcome the objections currently being used against us.”
Again, she paused to allow anyone to comment and again, there were none.
“Pablo, Anna, Steve, Tom, and I along with a small group of influential like-minded men in Santa Fe, all want statehood, and we want it sooner, rather than later. All of the objections to statehood can be overcome. It will take some time, and it will take hard work, but they can be overcome.
“The objections over the size of the territory can be overcome, by advocating that it be split into two equal territories with the Eastern territory retaining the New Mexico Territory name and the new territory to the West being called something else. We know there is already some thought in Washington of doing this and calling the new territory Arizona. We can get our territorial delegate in Washington to support this and not just because it will reduce the size of New Mexico Territory to something manageable. We need to encourage it because it also helps us overcome two other objections at the same time.
“First, most of the Indian problems are happening in the Western half of the territory, what will become Arizona Territory. We do have some problems here of course, but if the Arizona Territory becomes a reality, we can show that most of our problems are coming from it, as well as from Texas.
“The second objection is the lack of people. The majority of the people in the territory as it is now, live in the Eastern half, not the Western half. Most of the population lives along or near the Rio Grande between Santa Fe and Mesilla. That includes Las Cruces, Socorro, and Albuquerque. There are, of course, people in Tucson and Colorado City, but as yet not in large numbers.
“The two objections we don’t have to do anything about at all are the large numbers of Hispanos compared to Anglos, and the predominance of Catholicism. As Steve said, we simply point out that the same situations exist in Texas and California and neither have been a problem.
“That leaves us with two very real objections, illiteracy, and civic status, that we can work to overcome locally. Both of these are in some sense perception issues, that we can address by encouraging visits by influential Easterners, after a little work. We all know that well over half of the Hispanos in this area can read and write Spanish, so they aren’t really illiterate. Unfortunately, English is the language of the United States and that is the standard for judging literacy.
“Likewise, our villages and towns are large dust bowls. We all do the best we can, but there are few outward displays of civic pride in any of the towns in the territory. There are no public libraries, no parks, and the streets are all dirt.
“We believe we can change these things but the five of us and the group in Santa Fe that Steve represents can’t do it alone. That is the reason we asked you to attend this meeting. We want you to join with us in this effort. We want you to lead the efforts in Las Cruces, and Mesilla.”
The room erupted in voices as all the invitees started throwing questions at Yolanda at the same time. All but Mr. Mendoza, who sat quietly drinking his coffee with a small smile on his face. Yolanda looked around the room calmly, almost regally, and held up her hands.
When they had quieted, she said, “The five of us will lead you through what we have planned so far, and answer all of your questions in the process. This will take a few hours and we have made arrangements for lunch to be served here so that we don’t have to stop before we are done.”
Finished, Yolanda sat down, and Anna stood back up.
“Before we go any further in our discussions and reveal the planning that has gone into this, I need your word that you will never reveal the source of the money that will allow us to make these plans a reality.”
She looked at each one of the invitees and waited for them to give their promise. When she had obtained the solemn promise from all the invitees, she waved her arm at Tom, Yolanda, me and herself.
“The four of us are the source of the funds for what we are proposing to do. There are, of course, some strings attached to the funds, and the funds will eventually be reduced but we will fund the initial activity. To do that we have created two Trusts.
“The Mesilla Valley Community Association Trust will initially be responsible for paving the roads, as well as building a library, and a park.
“The Mesilla Valley Education Association Trust will be responsible for building, maintaining, and staffing an elementary school and a secondary school.
“We expect all of these things to be a reality by the end of next year. To ensure that they become a reality each Trust has two Operating Committees, one for Las Cruces and one for Mesilla.
“Most of you are here today because we have selected you to be members of the Operating Committees.
“Specifically, grandmother, Mrs. Amador, and Tia Maria have been selected as the first three members of the Mesilla Valley Education Association Trust Operations Committee.
“Likewise, grandfather, Tia Dolores, and Esteban have been selected as the first three members of the Mesilla Valley Community Association Trust Operations Committee.
“You are each free to turn down the positions we’re offering. If you do, all we ask is that you keep quiet about what you’ve learned so far.
“We’ll take a few minutes now and let you think about everything you’ve heard, while we all refresh our drinks. When we start back up, you’ll each need to tell us whether you agree to serve on the committees or not. If not, you are free to leave.
“Jorge and Juan, although neither of you is on a committee you both are integral to what we are going to be doing and we ask you to remain for the rest of the meeting.”
We were all seated at the table again fifteen minutes later. I gave Anna’s hand a small squeeze of reassurance, this was the part we had the most doubts about.
She stood up and asked each of the six invitees if they agreed to serve on the committees. When all six had agreed to serve, she beamed everyone in the room a smile and gave a brief nod to Yolanda who opened a cupboard under one of the sideboards removing a stack of papers.
Yolanda began handing out the papers to each invitee as Anna spoke.
“First we’ll cover the Mesilla Valley Community Association Trust. Yolanda is handing out a copy of the trust documents in both Spanish and English along with our suggestions, recommendations, and the estimates we came up with, for constructing and maintaining the roads, buildings, and parks.”
Anna took everyone through the trust document, taking great pains to emphasize that the committees were responsible for the detailed planning and scheduling of the actual work. This included selecting a design for the buildings.
She also took great pains to make it very clear that the committees were free to choose any architect and design they wanted, and the construction could be done by anyone they wanted, but the trust would only pay for a design if it came from Jorge, and would only pay for roads and buildings built by Juan. Additionally, all the buildings the trust paid for, must clearly reflect the Spanish heritage of New Mexico while the primary building material must be either adobe or stone. Detailed planning must begin no later than the first of May and construction must begin no later than the first of October.
To say that Jorge and Juan were stunned would be an understatement. The committee members were surprised but didn’t voice any concerns. A few seconds later they were stunned as well when Anna told them that there was only one other string attached to the trust which would be covered later.
She then covered what we considered the committee’s first task, finding two other residents of Las Cruces to become members of the committee. A secondary task was to identify three residents of Mesilla, to form the initial Mesilla Operations Committee. This was a secondary task because everything would be done in Las Cruces before work started in Mesilla.
When everything had been covered, we broke for a quick lunch and then resumed with Anna turning to the Mesilla Valley Education Association Trust. Again, Yolanda handed out copies of the trust document in Spanish and English, along with our suggestions, recommendations, and estimates.
She quickly covered the fact that the same strings from the other trust applied to this trust, as well. This trust also stipulated that the curriculum in all grade levels must include Language, History, Science, and Math and that all courses would be taught in both English and Spanish.
Yolanda pointed out that we had included the curriculum used on the Estancia, as a starting point for them to consider. She also told them that the four of us, with help from our friends in Santa Fe, would provide the initial cadre of six teachers, but it would be up to the committee to find any replacements or additional teachers.
Eventually, Anna finished covering what was in the document and answered all the questions. She sat down with a soft sigh, and Steve stood up to speak.
“There is one other very important string you need to be aware of, and start planning for, almost immediately. The trust will only be fully funded for the first five years. Starting the sixth year the trust switches to a system that will match dollar for dollar the money raised by the residents of Las Cruces up to an amount equal to half of the previous year’s expenses.
“That system will remain in place for ten years after which time both Trusts will have served their purpose and will be discontinued. How the money is raised and who authorizes the expenditure of money after the first five years will be up to you to determine.
“In your packages, we’ve included some suggestions for how the money might be raised, but one thing should be very clear. To succeed in the long-term, you are all going to have to enter the world of politics. You will do a lot of talking, persuading, and arm twisting to make whatever you come up with work. The earlier you start, the easier it will be to get what you want, especially after five years of visible and very public success.”