Copyright© 2018 by Kraken
I was up at first light, ate another MRE, and was on my way back to the RV shortly after 7AM. Although I was paying attention to possible threats, both animal and human along the way, I was replaying yesterday over and over in my mind. Finally, just before arriving at the little plateau and my RV, I decided that I had more information than my pea brain could handle, and I needed to let my subconscious work on it for a while. For now, I would start to act like I was in fact in the Robledo Mountains of 1850.
Pausing outside the cave entrance, I carefully looked around. The only visible tracks were the ones I’d made Monday evening and yesterday morning as I was leaving, and those were barely visible. Satisfied that no one had come calling while I was out yesterday, I started into the cave entrance before suddenly stopping, and looking back outside. Something had been niggling my grey matter all day yesterday, and again today, about the ground outside the cave. It had finally dawned on me that there were no visible tire tracks on the plateau, nor inside the cave!
As I fished my keys out of my pocket and entered the RV, I realized there was no use worrying about tire tracks, now. Whatever caused the time travel, had also put the RV into the cave like a ship in a bottle, and that was that.
First order of business now that I was back in the RV, was a cold Diet Coke followed by a hot shower. Both hit the spot.
I was going to have start rationing the Diet Coke, as I only had a couple of cases. That thought got me to thinking about what I had in the way of useable food, beverages, and gas, as well as an inventory of weapons, ammo, tools, machines, related supplies, and clothes.
I spent the rest of the day building a spreadsheet on the laptop, listing everything in and under the RV as well as in the trailer to include the generators, welding gas bottles, gasoline containers, and diesel tanks. I worked well into the night, only stopping to cook a dinner of chicken strips, corn, and parmesan potatoes. I’d forgotten how much food a growing fifteen-year-old boy puts away. When I finally finished the inventory, it was well past midnight. That and two days of hiking, and I was dead beat. I fell asleep almost as soon as my head hit the pillow.
The next morning after breakfast, I sat thinking while I had two more cups of coffee before cleaning up the kitchen area. I made a fresh pot of coffee, and settled in to review the spreadsheet I had printed out the night before. It went without saying that I had plenty of firearms, magazines, holsters, ammunition, and the necessary tools and supplies to reload whatever I used. Instead of meeting up in Phoenix with the others to split up the spoils of the winning bid, I was sitting here with 600 surplus M4A1carbines (the shortened version of the venerable M16) all with the Advanced Combat Optical Gunsights already installed, 5000 of the 30 round magazines, and 750 surplus Beretta M9A3 semiautomatic pistols with 3000 17 round magazines. The surplus lot also contained two million rounds of .223 ammunition for the M4s and one million rounds of 9mm for the M9s. To go along with all that, I’d bought dies, brass, primers, and powder for .223 caliber to add to my already large inventory of reloading equipment and supplies for 9mm, .38 caliber, .308 caliber, and 12 gauge shotguns.
The trailer also held 40 Remington A-700P rifles in .308 caliber and 200 Remington 12-gauge semiautomatic shotguns, and an assortment of various hunting, skinning, and pocket knives, Leatherman tools with cases, and different types of sharpening tools and stones. I also had my personal Colt Trooper Mark III revolver with 6-inch barrel that I’d bought back in the mid 1970s and usually wore in a western holster during gun shows.
In my built in safe hidden under the floor of the trailer I also had sound suppressors I’d custom built for the M9s and the parts necessary to turn several of the M4s from semi-automatic to selectable semi-automatic, three round burst, and full automatic.
Among the hundred and twenty cartons each of desert and woodland camouflage, were forty cartons each in my size. I had a case of entrenching tools (folding shovels), two mid-size water wheel generators, 30,000 feet of Romex, 80,000 feet of standard electrical wire along with a couple of food dehydrators and a whole lot of miscellaneous tools and junk I’d collected over the years I’d been traveling the gun show circuit. There was a large generator built into the trailer to power the lathes and other tools built into the walls of the trailer, and a large selection of solid round stainless steel stock, solid and hollow rolled titanium alloy stock to make rifle barrels, as well as thick pieces of mahogany and walnut of various lengths and widths to make rifle stocks and pistol grips.
It didn’t take long for me to realize that I wasn’t going to be able to use the RV as I had been, for very long. I only had fifteen gallons of gas for the generator.
Fresh food was also going to be in short supply before long as I only had what was in the refrigerator/freezer. I did have fifty cases of MREs I could use, so I wouldn’t starve to death in the near term. I’d hunted these mountains for over twenty years, so fresh deer, antelope, and rabbit shouldn’t be a problem either. It was fresh greens I was most concerned about, but I did have a few cases of multi-vitamins that would last for a while. I also had cases of assorted vegetables seeds and ten large plastic greenhouses among the prepper gear.
What I didn’t have was money useable in 1850 or anything that could be traded in 1850 that wouldn’t draw attention and result in too many questions. Questions I couldn’t answer.
With all that in mind I sat down with a fresh cup of coffee, opened up the word processor, and started writing down everything I could remember about New Mexico Territory from 1850 to statehood in 1912. Some of the information I was trying to remember was already stored on the laptop in files I’d used to help the Boy Scout Troop. Once I was satisfied that I’d captured everything I could remember, I started organizing it into a timeline to see what I was facing over the next sixty years, if I lived that long. I got so focused on what I was doing, I skipped lunch and dinner, and didn’t realize how late it was until my stomach growled. Looking at the clock on the microwave I found it was well after 11PM. I quickly finished what was left of the timeline, printed it out, and fixed a bowl of tomato soup, two grilled ham and cheese sandwiches, corn chips, and a Diet Coke. For dessert, I had a rare, for me, scotch and soda before going to bed, and letting my subconscious mind work on everything including what the timeline was telling me.
As I slept, my mind churned away. When I woke the next morning, it was with the realization that I had one issue resolved, and one issue I needed to resolve before I could do anything else.
The issue that had been resolved while I slept was which reality option I was in. The answer was: it didn’t matter. I was in this here and now; whether it was real, a dream, or insanity. Unless and until something changed, and I got transported back to my own time or woke up from my dream or my psychotic episode broke, this was my reality. I’d have to deal with the here and now as I perceived it.
The critical unresolved issue was the confusing and highly theoretical impact of time travel. I boiled it down to two schools of thought and a ‘gotcha.’ The Time Paradox school and the Parallel Time school.
The Time Paradox school said that if you go back in time you have to be extremely careful not to change anything or you risk your own future existence. Kill an animal and it might have been something one of your ancestors was supposed to kill and eat, that day. If that happened your ancestor may have gone to bed hungry, not had sex with his or her spouse, not gotten her pregnant with the next generation of ancestors, and died from weakness caused by starvation thereby ending your line of ancestors, causing the future you to never be born, resulting in the now you simply ceasing to exist. Likewise, meeting someone could cause the same type of chain reaction, ending with you not being born in the future. Thinking through everything you do, quickly gets complicated and the logic gets more and more circular.
The Parallel Time school says when you go back in time the moment of your arrival causes changes to begin in the timeline creating a new branch of the timeline off the original timeline. The further you go in the new timeline, the more changes are introduced and the greater the difference between the old and new timelines. Using this theory, the civil war would still happen on time and as I remembered it, since I couldn’t see myself doing anything to change the timeline enough to prevent it. On the other hand, Geronimo’s raids might not happen in this timeline, if I stopped his family from being killed in 1858. I called it the Darwinian time travel theory for obvious reasons. This school of thought was much easier to understand and didn’t require the constant decision making mental gymnastics of the Time Paradox school.
The ‘gotcha’ was that neither was correct, and that I had been transported back in time by some unknown entity for some other reason. Unless that unknown entity decided to contact me and let me in on why I’d been sent back in time, there wasn’t much I could do but live, and see what happened.
I pondered the possibilities for a couple of hours, and finally realized I just didn’t have the knowledge or brain power to constantly develop and update probability trees on every little thing that could change. There was no way I could live and function in this timeline if I had to worry that any thing I did could instantly cause me to cease to exist. I tend to be a realist and I knew I couldn’t survive if I had to worry about every decision I made. I could just imagine becoming more and more confused with every decision I made, and in a short period of time ending up with analysis paralysis, with me being unable to make any decision whatsoever.
Making a conscious decision, I chose to ignore the time paradox theory, accept the parallel time theory as fact, and acknowledged the gotcha as a distinct possibility. Then I’d just let the chips fall where they may.
The whole how and why thing remained a mystery though, and try as I might I just couldn’t come up with answers that made sense. Like the three options of reality, I guessed it really didn’t matter how and why.
With my decisions made, it was time to get on with my day and my new life.
As I returned to the timeline, I remembered a quote from Abraham Lincoln who said, “The best way to predict your future, is to create it.”
Yep, old Abe was a right smart man, even taking a certain amount of poetic license into consideration. In my case though, I didn’t have to predict the future. I already knew what was going to happen at least in a broad sense. No, in my case, I needed to figure out what things I could positively impact or even change completely. I spent most of the day coming up with that list. I put each item I could think of into one of two categories, Major Events or Minor Events.
The items in the Major Events category were things like the Civil War and the Santa Fe Ring. I knew I couldn’t stop them from happening; but perhaps, with a little luck and a lot of planning, I could influence the direction they went, or even redirect them into a more advantageous direction.
The items in the Minor Events category were things like the Salt War, Yellow Fever and Malaria along the Rio Grande and Gila Rivers, Statehood in sixty-two years, universal education, and increasing the standard of living within the Mesilla Valley if not the state. These I could directly impact with luck, planning, and access to the appropriate resources.
Unfortunately, the list went on and on. By the end of the afternoon I knew two things with certainty. First, there was too much on my list for one person to do. I was going to need help, a lot of help. Second, everything on the list required money to make happen.
The most pressing need I could see was getting some form of tangible asset. In other words, I needed money. Money was the central requirement for everything thing else I needed or wanted to do. I figured I had maybe a few years, at most, to build up a bank account before I needed to start buying land and building a ranch or farm to weather the coming events. It wasn’t going to be easy, but I had a place to start.
Back when my youngest son was still active in Boy Scouts, his patrol had become fascinated with the idea of finding gold. I’d taken them on camping trips up around Truth or Consequences where gold had been discovered in 1901. We found the old sites in Trujillo Gulch, Apache Canyon, and Union Gulch, and they’d spent days walking those and other nearby arroyos with metal detectors hoping to find the motherlode. When they didn’t find any gold we moved on to the Orogrande area just East of the Jarilla Mountains. Again, we spent days camping out with them traipsing the original 1899 site and nearby arroyos without luck. That summer I’d taken the entire family out to western Arizona, and we’d all spent two weeks between the 1858 Gila gold sites on the Gila River and the 1862 La Paz gold sites north of Yuma along the Colorado River. I’d marked all those locations on large scale maps of each area. I still had the maps stored with all the rest of my Southwest maps in a plastic storage bin under the RV.
History said that gold was readily available at this point in time, at each of the locations I had marked on the maps. I had a few problems to work out, though. The first problem was getting from here to there. Unless something happened, I’d be walking to at least the first location in the Caballo Mountains, near what would one day be Truth or Consequences.
The second problem was hauling a backpack with forty or fifty pounds of gold on my back all the way to Santa Fe. I couldn’t go to El Paso. It was too young to have the assayers and buyers I needed, and too far from actual gold sites to not raise questions about its source. Santa Fe on the other hand was just north of the existing Cerrillos gold fields as well as South of the future Colorado gold fields for me to claim them as the source. Santa Fe was also large enough and sufficiently well established to have assayers and buyers for raw gold. Traveling three hundred miles over rough country on foot, carrying forty plus pounds on my back, was not something I was looking forward to.
The third problem was staying alive in Apache country, while working in the gold fields. All I could come up with for this problem was raw luck. Sure, I had a lot of training and a little experience that would help, but both the training and experience were over thirty years old. I was rusty as hell and I was sure I’d forgotten big chunks of the training I’d received. In addition to the training, though; I had some really excellent technology, that I was certain would be very beneficial if my luck didn’t hold. It wouldn’t do me much good if I didn’t spot the threat in time or was overwhelmed by numbers. No matter which way I looked at it, it still came down to luck.
Finally, I was also worried about securing the RV and trailer, while I was out digging for gold and taking it to Santa Fe. Based on what I’d seen so far, there was no need to hide the cave. It couldn’t be seen from a distance. All the camouflage netting I had was useless for close up use. It was designed for distance. The only thing I could come up with for close in camouflage was building a house in front of the entrance to hide it. Again, I needed money to make that happen. For now, the only thing I could come up with, was locking everything down the best I could.
I took a day preparing for the trip pulling an M4 rifle, an M9 pistol, magazines and ammunition for both, as well as parts from the trailer. Most of the morning was spent thoroughly inspecting and cleaning the rifle, and replacing the selector switches and internals so I could select single shot, three shot burst, or full automatic, and filling magazines. I repeated the process with my M9 pistol filling an additional eight magazines. In the afternoon, I dug out the maps for the Caballo Mountain gold sites and packed for a thirty-day trip including MREs.
Following a good night’s sleep, I took a last look around before turning everything in the RV off, except the refrigerator/freezer. I’d never tried it before, but the literature said that a fully charged bank of batteries would keep the refrigerator/freezer powered for six weeks. Either they would work and I’d have real meals available when I got back or they wouldn’t and I’d have nothing but MREs for the foreseeable future, there was nothing else I could do.
Filling two camel packs with water, I lugged everything outside and made sure everything on both the RV and trailer were locked up as tight as I could make them before starting the sixty mile walk north to the Caballo Mountains.
A pack full of MREs is heavy! Even with fifty pounds of gold I figured I’d probably be ten to fifteen pounds lighter coming back. Before I was off the plateau I used my monocular to scan north looking for possible threats. Not seeing any I walked down to and then into the river and started wading north against the flow of the river. It was slow cold work but I persevered for a full mile before exiting the river and worked my way inland about three hundred feet before turning north again. I figured that would be enough to keep everyone but the most tenacious tracker from back tracking me to the RV.
As I worked my way north, I continued to remember more and more of the lessons I’d learned in Ranger and Sniper school. I certainly wasn’t an expert at hiding my tracks but those remembered lessons certainly helped. Stopping every half mile or so throughout the day I scanned my back trail in detail with the monocular as well as around me for indications of threats.
Near dark I found a nice mesquite tree near the top of a small hill and stopped for the night. Using the entrenching tool, I dug out a hollow near the roots, keeping watch for any of the nasty critters that like to hide in the shade.
At first light, I was up and moving. I hoped to come within sight of Timber Mountain, the highest peak in the Caballo Mountains, late that evening.
About 10AM I came across a deep arroyo that was perfect for sighting in the M4, since it would mask the source and direction of the sound of rifle fire. I had delayed doing this due to the sound involved but I didn’t feel like I could delay it any longer. Once in the arroyo I got comfortable and fired three single rounds each, at a barrel cacti 100 yards, 200 yards, and 300 yards away. The groups were consistently tight but also consistently high and right of the aim point. I adjusted the scope and tried again this time hitting the aim point consistently at all three ranges. Switching the selector to a three-round burst I fired a single burst at each of the targets and again hit consistently with a slight climb for the 2nd and 3rd rounds in each burst. Satisfied, I picked up the empty brass from the ground to save for reloading.
After making a detailed scan around me, I headed north again. Shortly before 2PM, I spotted what looked like Timber Mountain in the far distance. I also spotted five riders on horseback, about four miles to the west and slightly north of me, heading east. I was hoping to stay out of their way. Continuing north, I stopped every half hour to monitor their progress. At 3PM they were close enough to identify as Apaches. It looked like they would pass well north of me as they continued east, probably heading for the pass near what would one day be Rincon. Then I spotted a wagon coming South down the Camino Real. I quickly swung to check the Apaches Northwest of me. It was apparent they had also seen the wagon and were quickly moving towards the river and road.
I checked again fifteen minutes later. The Apaches had crossed the river and looked to be setting up an ambush. This was not good.
I was the only one standing in the way of the Apaches killing whoever was driving that wagon. Someone who, as far as I knew, didn’t deserve to die just because they weren’t Apache. On the other hand, maybe that someone deserved to die. Damnit, I refused to play judge, jury, and executioner again! The last time I did that, too many men died at my hands and nothing in my world was ever the same again. I hadn’t killed anyone since Desert Storm, over thirty years ago, and I was still trying to recover from the retribution I’d dealt then. No, I refused to be a destroyer.
I heard my wife’s voice, my Laura’s sweet voice, whispering in my left ear.
“Paul, you aren’t a destroyer. You weren’t then, and you aren’t now. How many times do I have to tell you that you were put on Earth to make the world a better place? You know better than to think you can sit idly by and watch whoever is driving that wagon die in an ambush, because you didn’t act. That’s a coward’s way, Paul, and you are no coward.”
I turned to tell Laura to keep quiet so I could make a decision on what to do. I looked around in confusion when I discovered there was no one there. It was only then that I remembered where and when I was. Laura was long dead, and in my past. Great! Now I was hearing voices in my head. The very definition of bat shit crazy. Reality option three was moving higher in probability every day, it seemed.
Whether it was Laura’s voice or just my imagination didn’t really matter, because she was right. I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I didn’t act. That didn’t mean I had to like it.
A few moments of thought later, and I could only see three options. I didn’t like any of them. I could ignore the situation altogether, continue on my way, and let the chips fall where they may. I could ambush the ambushers, killing them in the process, save the driver’s life; and, based on past experience, ruin my own. Finally, I could try to warn the wagon driver. But that would just put both of us at risk. Those six mules were just too tempting a target for the Apaches to back off from the attack. Like every other Indian in the Southwest, the Apache loved mules. Mules carried more than horses, were smarter and easier to handle than horses, were hardier than horses, made better sentries than dogs, and tasted better than either horses or dogs. No, damn it, I was going to have to kill again, and I was going to have to learn how to live with it again, afterwards.