Copyright© 2018 by Kraken
The stable boy had my wagon and mules waiting for me, after I checked out the next morning. I made quick work of loading the door and jambs on the wagon, before heading to the bank. Levi had everything ready to go, and in less than three minutes after I entered, I was back in the wagon and started for home.
I spent another three butt numbing days getting home!
The next morning, I loaded up the empty panniers on the mules, saddled up the horse, closed up the wall and house, and left for Las Cruces.
I hadn’t taken two steps into the restaurant when my arms were full of Anna, who was clinging to my neck. Wrapping my arms around her waist instinctively I whirled her around a couple of times before giving her a quick kiss. All of this was an unacceptable public display of affection in the 1850’s, but I just couldn’t care less. Neither, it seemed, could Anna or Mrs. Mendoza.
“My sweet Dulcinea, you have no idea how much I have looked forward to my ‘Anna smiles’ while I was gone.”
“My noble Don Quixote no more than I looked forward to seeing you again. Did you find any windmills to tilt while you were traveling?”
“No more than usual but that’s a story for dinner, tonight. Right now, I just want to look at you.” Right then, my stomach growled loudly. “My stomach on the other hand, is demanding a hamburger with lettuce and tomato, along with an order of fries.”
With a laugh she led me over to my usual table, joining me after getting us both coffee. We sat down while Mrs. Mendoza was seeing to my order. Mrs. Mendoza brought out the food and sat with us while I ate.
“Ma’am, I missed your cooking almost as much as I missed my ‘Anna smiles,’” I said with a grin as I finished my late lunch.
That drew a laugh and an invitation to dinner from Mrs. Mendoza, and an arm swat from Anna.
“Well, ladies, as much as I’d like to spend the rest of the day in your company it’s time for me to get some errands done. I look forward to dinner this evening,” I said while paying for the lunch.
I spent a pleasant afternoon at Mrs. Amador’s store ordering supplies and browsing the storefront and warehouse looking at the new items she’d received. I left carrying a large glass jar of water, tea balls and tea leaves.
At the stables, I found Mr. Mendoza. After a quick handshake and back slap, he asked if I’d been over to the restaurant yet. I got a laugh when I told him the restaurant had been my first stop. He admonished me telling me that I used to stop at the stable first.
“Mr. Mendoza, when the stable starts serving hamburgers, then it will be my first stop again. Of course, the one serving the hamburgers has to be Anna.”
He laughed and replied, “That isn’t going to happen anytime soon, so I guess the restaurant will be your first stop from now on.”
As we’d been talking I’d filled the tea balls loosely with tea and hung them from the edge of the jar. After throwing in some mint from Mrs. Mendoza’s herb garden, I set the closed jar on top of the closest fence post. When I got back to the table Mr. Mendoza asked what I was doing and I told him I was making sun tea. That obviously meant nothing to him so I shrugged and said we’d try it with dinner.
Back at the work table Mr. Mendoza and I spent the late afternoon talking about my favorite subject: Anna. At one point during our conversation I told him that with his permission I would be asking her formally to marry me. He nodded with a small smile on his face, but didn’t say anything or ask any questions. I took his response, or lack thereof, as tacit approval and permission.
When Mr. Mendoza said it was time for dinner I grabbed the tea jar off of the fence post, where I’d set it earlier, and walked over with him. In the kitchen I retrieved glasses from a shelf near the sink, poured some tea, and asked both Mrs. Mendoza and Anna to take a drink. Mrs. Mendoza said she liked the faint mint taste, but didn’t really care for the drink otherwise. Anna agreed with her. I shook my head, calling them philistines, while stirring a spoonful of sugar into the glass. Both had big smiles on their faces after tasting the sugared version. The jar made four large pitchers of diluted tea, which everyone enjoyed with dinner.
I was quiet throughout dinner, simply enjoying the experience of eating with others while listening to the dinner table talk of the day’s activities, gossip, and plans for the coming days. Asked over dinner about my trips and what I’d been doing; I gave my, by now, standard general response that I’d been earning money and working on preparing the ranch.
Later that night, as I prepared for bed, there was a loud rumbling crash of thunder, and off to the south lightning danced across the skies, lighting the darkness for brief periods of time. The rainy season had arrived. I fell asleep to the sound of heavy rain beating on the roof and against the window.
Dream Laura showed up out of nowhere, just like the last time I’d dreamed of her almost two and a half years ago. She wasted no time on pleasantries. “You’ve done well, Paul. I’m glad to see you finally have started to live up to your promise.”
I smiled at that. Only Laura would be happy I had found some else. “Thank you, my love. It feels so right somehow. Why are you here tonight? I’d just about given up hope of talking to you again.”
“I have two things for you tonight,” she said in reply. “First, you need to talk to Mr. Garcia and learn what you need to do, to open yourself to me. I’ve tried talking to you many times since my last visit but you refuse to hear me. This can’t be allowed to continue. I tried to warn you about the robber in El Paso but you wouldn’t listen. Secondly, now that you have enough gold to make your dreams a reality, I want to show you what it could look like.”
The first item she told me about was disconcerting, but the second was eye opening in a dreamy sort of way. Laura disappeared from in front of me, to be replaced by a bird’s eye view of land between the Robledo and Doña Ana Mountains. The next thing I knew, I was descending at a dizzying rate until the view took in only the two plateaus and my one room adobe house. The scene gradually morphed, with buildings popping up all over the plateaus. A very large two-story Hacienda, built partly on the first plateau, centered over my house and partly on the upper plateau. There was a walled courtyard on both the upper and lower plateau, as well as a terrace built on top of the lower part of the house overlooking the river. Four smaller houses flanked each side of the Hacienda. They were big houses by the standards of 1850, but smaller than the Hacienda. On the upper plateau, stone stables were on one side of the Hacienda while the other held greenhouses. Along both edges of the upper plateau were long storehouses screened by long rows of pecan trees. At the end of the two sets of pecan trees were large vegetable gardens. Directly out from the Hacienda, and between the two sets of pecan trees, were corrals and pasture full of horses and cattle. Stone water retention buildings lined the back of the plateau against the mountain slope. It was a beautiful vision.
Suddenly, the perspective changed again, to just a view of a section of land less than a mile from the Hacienda on the same side of the river. It was a nice flat area covered mostly in grass with just a few small sand piles. I knew exactly where this was, as I’d thought it would make a nice place to build houses for whoever I hired to farm the land. A few seconds later an entire village appeared. There were over 300 houses, paved roads, a tree lined plaza with a large church at the far end, and long buildings on both sides. A huge stable, blacksmith, wagon yard complex was on one side of the village, and a long row of store houses was on the other side.
I was admiring the layout when again, I was suddenly zooming up to see all of the land and then down to an area directly across the river from the Hacienda, about two miles away. A huge apartment type complex was built around an extremely large open courtyard. There was a row of smaller individual apartments off to one side. Somehow, I knew this was the ranch area. Smaller stable and corral areas were behind the row of small apartments; with corrals, feed pens, and pastures spread out around the complex.
Just as I was admiring the ranch, I was zooming back up and then back down to the river, where I saw levees suddenly form on both sides of the river for the full length of the land I owned, and a nice bridge across the river appeared near the Hacienda.
The perspective moved a little higher and I saw stone boundary fences around the entire Estancia and both sides of the Camino Real. All the roads on the Estancia were paved and the various fields were separated by stone fences as well. Numerous water retention buildings were built along the edge of the Doña Ana Mountains supporting nearby alfalfa and feed corn fields. A long thin lake a mile east of the village appeared, along with a much wider lake a few miles further away near the north boundary walls.
The entire vision was entrancing, and I did my best to memorize it all.
The dream ended as suddenly as it had started, yet somehow, I knew I would remember most of it when I woke up. I settled into a deep sleep. Whether I had any other dreams that night I don’t know. If I did, I don’t remember them.
The next morning the sun was out when I awoke, just after daybreak. I shook my head to clear it a little as I remembered the dream, not sure what had happened or how it had happened.
Anna was waiting at the restaurant to greet me with a big smile and a small hug. Taking my hand, she walked me back to my table telling me to sit down, before saying she’d bring me some coffee and my breakfast when it was ready. As I sat down, Juan and Jorge walked in. I waved them over to join me as Anna brought coffee. They ordered their breakfast and she was off again, leaving me one of her big smiles.
“Juan is a little jealous, as he’s never gotten one of those smiles,” Jorge said with a grin.
“I didn’t know how much that smile meant to me, until after I received the first one,” I responded.
They laughed and we chatted until our breakfast came. After breakfast and over coffee, I looked at Jorge as I remembered my Laura dream, and said, “Jorge, I have some buildings in mind I’d like you to design. I can’t really describe them, until you see the land it will be on. Can you take a ride with me in two or three days to look at my land, and let me describe what I see? It’s a half day there, and we’d probably spend a day and half talking before you came back. So, you’d be gone for about three days.”
Thinking it over for a few moments, he said, “I’m not really busy right now, and I’ll need to talk to my wife, but I think I can do that.”
“Well, let me know later today or tomorrow. I hope to be on the way back home the day after tomorrow, if the river goes down enough to cross.”
I finished my coffee, paid for breakfast, and left for the river. I wanted to see how high the flood was. When I got outside of town, I could see that the river was flooded about a quarter mile over each bank. I looked on in wonder, before walking back to the stable.
I found Mr. Mendoza underneath a freight wagon, working on an axle. I asked how long it would take for the river to go down from last night’s rain. He replied as he worked, that it would be down to normal by first light tomorrow morning, unless we got more rain up in the mountains. I’d been wondering so I asked him if the river floods were flash floods or more of a gentle flooding. He came out from under the wagon, scratched his head for a minute, and then told me that it was little bit of both.
“The river itself is more of a gentle flood, with water spreading out as it runs over the banks. The heavy fast flood conditions happen when the water comes down from the Sacramento, Doña Ana, Robledo, and Organ Mountains.”
I let my mind gnaw on that information the rest of morning. With not much else to do, I went up to the hayloft and went through my Tai Chi exercises, as well as some Aikido and Krav Maga katas. By the time I was done, I was drenched in sweat. I rinsed myself down at the trough outside the big door, and then walked back through the stables to join Mr. Mendoza.
Walking to the restaurant for lunch a short time later, I heard Jorge yell out behind me. He came up at a fast walk and told me he was set to go. We agreed to meet at the restaurant for breakfast, before heading out.
As we sat and ate lunch, Mrs. Mendoza mentioned two things of interest. First, the cool tea was a hit so far with the lunch crowd; and second, that an Italian family had moved in behind the church. Both items were of interest to me for the same reason. They both helped me further my long-range plans regarding acceptance of new food items. After lunch, Mr. Mendoza and I went our separate ways. He went back to the stables, while I walked off in search of the Italian arrivals.
A few minutes’ walk from the restaurant, I found the woman sitting in the doorway of the house watching a young girl and boy play with some sticks. I approached her and introduced myself.
“Good afternoon, Ma’am. My name is Paul McAllister and I understand you have recently arrived from Italy. Is this correct?”
“Why, yes, it is. I am Mrs. Sofia Gambino. My husband and I have just moved in after a long trip from near Florence.”
I nodded at that. “I’ve heard of Florence, and that it is home to many artists.”
“That is true. It’s a beautiful city with many works by Da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Botticelli all of whom called Florence home,” she replied with pride.
“Ma’am, the reason I stopped by, was to see if you made marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese. I want to make a special meal for some friends of mine, and you’re the first Italians in this area,” I explained.
With a laugh she said, “Of course, although I didn’t expect anyone here to know what either of those two things are. Mozzarella is difficult as there just aren’t many milk cows around town. Hold on just a second,” she finished as she disappeared into her house.
When she came back she handed me a quart-sized bottle of marinara and a medium sized ball of mozzarella wrapped in paper. I paid what she asked and told her if I was successful with dinner she could have quite a business going. I don’t think she believed me but time would tell.
Walking over to the butcher shop I discovered pepperoni hanging over the counter. He said he’d just started making limited quantities of it for the new Italian family. I bought a half pound of it instead of the hamburger I was originally going to buy. The next stop was the bakery where I bought a ball of slow rising bread dough big enough to fill a round 12-inch pan in a thin layer. My last stop was the blacksmiths shop, where he made me a thin, round pan, 12 inches in diameter, with a quarter inch rise all around it and a small lip.
“Mrs. Mendoza! I come bearing gifts and want to make you something new for your menu,” I said walking into the kitchen.
The women all turned to look at me as I set everything I was carrying on the kitchen counter and asked if the oven was hot enough to cook bread.
“This is a restaurant, Pablo. The stove is always hot enough to cook bread,” Mrs. Mendoza replied with a snort of disdain.
For the next twenty minutes I made and talked about pizza. The expressions on all the women’s faces as they chewed were a delight to watch. After they had all finished their slice, I spent the next hour answering their questions.
My pizza making demonstration out of the way, I joined Mr. Mendoza behind the stables hoping to enjoy a nice afternoon, lazing away in the shade with my back against the wall.
About twenty minutes later a loud argument broke out from the front of the stables. I got up and walked out front to see what the problem was followed closely by Mr. Mendoza who grabbed an old single shot shotgun from where it was leaning against the wall just inside the stable. Walking out front we found two rough looking men shoving the youngest of the stable boys around.
Damn it! Defender and protector time again.
In a loud voice I asked, “What’s the problem here?”
The two men turned toward me and the taller of the two said, “This kid wants a nickel per horse in advance to stable them overnight and that’s just too expensive in our opinion!”
I knew the price for stabling an animal here as I paid it myself. “A nickel per animal is the price gents. If you think it’s too high you’re free to take your business elsewhere.”
In an angry and belligerent voice the tall one said, “Kid, we’re going to stable our horses right here, and we’re only going to pay a penny a piece!”
With that, he took three steps towards me swinging a roundhouse fist at my face. Sidestepping his swing, I gave his right leg a small tap with a side kick and watched him go down screaming in pain.
I turned completely toward the shorter man who’d pulled a knife and was coming at me with the clear intent of stabbing me in the lower back or stomach. Without a thought to what I was doing I batted his arm out of line with my stomach and threw a hard upper thrust to his chin with the heel of my hand. He stopped where he stood, a look of surprise on his face as he fell backward into the dirt of the stable yard, dead from a broken neck.
Mr. Mendoza stared at the two downed men for a moment before calmly turning to the stable boy. “Fetch the undertaker and let him know he has some business at the stables.”
After the boy ran off on his errand I walked over to Tall Man. With anger at the situation the two had put me in; I yanked him up to a standing position. “Quit bellyaching, get on your horse, and leave town.” When he started complaining about his knee, I slapped him twice. “Your knee will be alright in a day or two, but if I ever see you again, I’ll kill you.”
We watched him hobble over to his horse and mount up. As he reached for the reins of his friend’s horse, I took the hammer thong off my Colt Trooper. “That horse belongs to me now, as payment for what he put us through, and to cover the cost of burying him.”
Tall Man didn’t like that answer, but saw my right hand hovering over my gun butt. With a glare of hatred, he turned his horse south towards Mesilla, and galloped off.
The dead man proved to have nothing of value in his pockets or saddlebags. Mr. Mendoza looked the horse over and with a shake of his head said it was good one but it had been ill used for the last few months. With a little time and good feed, it would make an excellent work horse.