Robledo Mountain
Chapter 13

Copyright© 2018 by Kraken

I checked out of the hotel and was at the restaurant a little before eight, getting my Anna fix. Just as Anna was bringing my coffee, Jorge and Giuseppe walked in together. While we were eating, I reminded them I had to get my horse and mules from the stables, and then make a few stops in town for supplies before leaving.

I paid for the breakfasts, said my goodbye to Anna, and walked over to the stables. I spent a few minutes talking to Mr. Mendoza, while the stable boy got my horse and mules ready. On our way out of town we picked up my various orders. At Mrs. Amador’s store, I added two more mattress cases, as well as pillows, sheets, and blankets for my guests.

As we rode to the house, we talked just getting to know each other better. A few hours later we rode up the slope to the plateau and they looked around with interest. Tossing them both an empty mattress case, I showed them where to cut grass out near the river for stuffing them. Once we were done I suggested they both grab paper and pencils and we went outside to the edge of the plateau.

We all turned around to look at the house as I described to Jorge, in detail, my vision of a large walled two-story Hacienda built over the top of my little home, with the upper floor extending onto the next plateau. I described four additional houses, two on each side of the Hacienda near the ends of the plateau, and a four-foot-high stone and mortar wall around the edges of the plateau. He asked questions to clarify what I was thinking, and we talked for about thirty minutes before he was happy with his understanding of what I wanted. I told him we’d go look at the upper plateau, and other areas I had some thoughts on, later.

Turning to Giuseppe and, making sure that Jorge was paying attention, I said, “Giuseppe, there’s a lot of work to be done. I’m just going to list the things I want to do, but not the order they are going to get done as I still haven’t decided on that yet.” At his nod of understanding I began to talk. “I need a bridge over the river, as well as four-foot-high levees for four miles in each direction on both banks of the river, to control flooding. The ends of the levees need to have wings extending out for a half mile at a minimum, to block flood waters from the fields. I want gravel roads from the bridge up the slope to the Hacienda, at the bottom of the cliff face. On the other side of the river, the gravel roads will parallel the levees for all eight miles. I need irrigation ditches made of concrete or cement running under the levees every hundred feet or so, with control gates.” I pointed to a slight rise about two miles away on the other side of the river and continued, “That’s where the ranch operations will be. I envision having a large, square, two story rock and mortar building with thirty rooms on the upper floor. A large common kitchen and dining room will be running along the front of the building on the ground floor, next to a large operations room. I want a stone and mortar stable block with corrals, and breaking pens. There will be a four-foot-high stone and mortar fence running the length of the river on both sides of the road, for the eight miles I own, with entrances through the fence.”

I turned to look at them, and they were both staring out at the desert with looks of amazement on their faces. I asked if they’d gotten everything down. They nodded but I expected them to have a lot of questions later, over dinner.

Looking south I saw a wall of dark clouds coming toward us. Pointing, I said, “Those are the next thing I need to be concerned about. The river floods not just from the heavy rains, but from the flash floods rolling down from the mountains. I want to build a bunch of small dams and retaining ponds on this side of the mountain, to reduce those flash floods and give the Estancia and people who live on it more water to use during the dry season. Let’s head inside or we’re going to get drenched.”

I turned and walked a few feet, before realizing they were still staring out at the desert trying to see my vision. I walked inside and got a fire started in the stove, refilled the wood box, and covered the adobe bricks, wood slats, and the woodpile with canvas covers. I quickly refilled both water buckets with water for cooking and making coffee. When I got back, they had both come in and taken seats at the table. Both were writing things down to talk about after dinner. Closing the shutters on the south wall, I lit the lamp making sure to leave the other windows and the door open, for now.

Making a pot of coffee I cooked up a simple dinner of fried sausages on fresh rolls, with a side dish of beans. Just as we were sitting down to dinner the thunder, lightning, and heavy rain started. Jorge asked how bad it got here when it rained like this.

“I don’t really know. I’ve never been here this time of year, and I’m looking forward to it raining during the day so I can see where the flash floods join the river. That will give me a better idea of where I need to put dams and retaining ponds.”

After dinner, we closed all the shutters and the door before sitting down to talk. They spent the rest of the evening asking me questions and listening carefully to my answers. With their questions answered for the time being, we went to bed to the sound of rain beating against the roof and walls.

The next morning over breakfast I said, “Jorge I’d like you to draw up plans for the Hacienda and the four houses on this plateau, the ranch operations area, the farm operations and village area I’ll show you later today. The various storage and stable buildings will be built on the upper plateau I’ll show you this morning. Finally, I’d like you to do a large color overhead drawing or painting of what the entire area would look like when all the buildings, roads, fences, levees and the bridge are done. Is this work you’re interested in, and if so can you have them done by the end of the first week in November”?

After a few moments thought he said, “Six weeks should be enough time to get them all done.”

Walking out after breakfast, Jorge asked, “What crops are you planning to grow?”

“At the top of the list are sweet corn, feed corn, various beans, peas, chili, onions, lettuce, tomatoes, and potatoes. I’m sure there will be other crops, but I’m mostly interested in produce instead of cash crops like cotton. I plan to sell the produce in Las Cruces and Mesilla, while keeping quite a bit for canning use by the entire Estancia. Eventually, I’d like to have pecan and olive trees, along with a vineyard and winery. I’m going to need quite a bit of acreage in alfalfa and timothy grass, too.”

At the edge of the plateau we looked out to see the river running two feet higher and three times wider than normal. I led them over to the cliff behind the house, where I’d laid the long ladder I’d lashed together to get up to the upper plateau, and we climbed up.

When we were all standing on the upper plateau, they looked out in surprise at the long wide view. I pointed to both sides and told them that they each ended in sixty-foot cliffs down to the level of the river. Where we were standing would be the upper level of the Hacienda. I described how this level would have bedrooms, a small living room, and a terrace overlooking the river. The outside area would be a large courtyard for entertaining visitors, gatherings, and parties. I wanted four-foot stone and mortar walls along all the cliffs on the front, and both sides. In front of those, along both sides, would be long stone and mortar storehouses divided by interior walls into twenty-five individual storerooms. At the far end, I wanted to build water storage tanks of stone and mortar lined, with hydraulic cement, to catch runoff from higher in the mountains for irrigation and household use. I also wanted a stone and mortar stable block to one side of the Hacienda but not directly next to it. I intended to plant three or four rows of pecan or apple trees along both sides in front of the storage buildings, and use the remaining area to graze prized livestock; primarily bulls, stallions, and sheep along with the family’s private horses. When they finished writing everything down, and had looked all they wanted, I led them back down the ladder.

We pulled the ladder down and went to the canyon to saddle the horses for the final area I wanted them to see. We rode out of the canyon and turned north for a mile before I took them up to the top of some low hills and pointed down to a wide bowl of fairly flat desert about a mile wide and a mile long.

Pointing, I said, “This is where I think the Finca Operations and Dos Santos Village should be. I see a wide paved road leading through the center with rows of houses on each side of the road. I see over three hundred single story, four room adobe houses. Each house will have a large front and back yard. The four rooms will be a living room/dining room across the front with a small kitchen and two good size bedrooms across the back. Behind each house will be a large backyard, where each family can grow crops of their own, have a chicken coop if they want and maybe even a milk cow. The houses will be divided up into blocks with five houses on each block and each block separated by a cross street. At the far end of the road will be a large tree lined plaza for holding parties and gatherings. On the far end of the plaza will be a church. Along one side of the plaza will be a school and store rooms and on the other side will be the Finca Operations center. Where the road comes into the bowl will be stables for horses and mules, a blacksmith, a cooperage, and a wagon yard. There will be barns to store plows and other farming tools. This area as well as the ranch operations area will need water wells so we have enough water. That’s the first thing I need to get serious about before anything else.”

We sat on horses for the next ten minutes as they gazed out at the bowl and tried to see what I saw, before turning our horses for the ride back to the canyon.

As we neared the house Giuseppe asked, “What are the small houses up here for?”

I laughed and said, “These won’t be small houses by any stretch of the imagination. They are smaller than the Hacienda, but much larger than most homes. They will be houses for the Segundos.”

“How many Segundos will you have?” he asked curiously.

“Right now, I’m planning on a Ranch Segundo, a Finca Segundo, Facilities Segundo, and an Estancia Segundo. Like so many other things, that could change, but that’s the plan for now.”

Intrigued by my answer, Jorge asked, “What is a Facilities Segundo, and what will they do?”

Without hesitation, I replied. “The Facilities Segundo will be responsible for building and maintaining everything. That includes all the buildings, roads, walls, levees, dams, retaining ponds, and bridges.”

Giuseppe was quiet and thoughtful for the rest of the short ride.

After a quick lunch, they both sat at the table and finished writing up their notes, while asking me questions. When they were finished, I told them to wander around at their leisure and think about the things they’d seen and heard. We would talk more tonight, after dinner.

While they were wandering, I worked on building a porch roof, using the buckboard as a platform to stand on. Just as I walked back up to the house from returning the buckboard and mules to the canyon, the dark clouds that had been threatening all day finally broke loose. I used the last of the water to make another pot of coffee and put the empty pails out to catch the rain.

Jorge and Giuseppe eventually came in the door about ten minutes apart. Both were soaked, but that wasn’t surprising given the thunderstorm raging outside. I mentally added towels to the list of things to bring to the house from the RV. They wiped down as best they could, using a sheet from their bed while I poured each of them a cup of coffee. For the next two hours, we talked about the relative priorities of everything I’d shown them.

“My first concern is finding enough water to support the Hacienda, the Finca, and Ranch living areas. I need to hire someone to build the Hacienda, so that Anna and I will have a place to live out here after we are married next year. I’m leaning towards building the levees as the next priority in hopes of starting farming operations the following year. I want to hire as many farmers as I can at the beginning of the year and start them on the levees. The problem is that I need to find a source of readily available large rocks nearby. If I can find a large enough outcropping of rock I can blast all we need for the levees, roads, walls, and buildings. Once both the levees and village are started, I need to map the flash flood routes out of the Robledo Mountains, the Doña Ana Mountains, and the desert plain to figure out where to build dams, diversion routes, and retaining ponds. Finally, while all that is going on, I want to hire fifty or so vaqueros, and buy the first two thousand head of cattle. I figure I’ll have to make a trip to Texas to buy the cattle, and drive them back. When I get back with the cattle I can start building the Ranch operation area, as well as the bridge over the Rio Grande. While I don’t have any concerns that I can keep people busy, I am worried about supporting the initial herd of horses and mules, as well as wagons I will have to bring in, to support building the Hacienda, Finca and Ranch Operations.”

Done talking, I sat back and waited for questions and comments. They didn’t disappoint me.

“Paul, do you have the money to do all this over the next two or three years?” Jorge asked concernedly.

“I have more than enough to get started, Jorge. Whether I have enough to complete everything remains to be seen.”

Neither one asked where the money was coming from. Giuseppe said he didn’t see anything wrong with the priorities as I’d laid them out, but suggested the top priorities over the winter after building the Hacienda should be:

1. Hire a company to drill wells at the Hacienda, Finca, and Ranch Operations areas

2. Survey and lay out Village and Ranch Operations area

3. Start quarry operations to build up stockpiles

4. Explore Robledo Mountains for flash flood routes, diversion routes, dam sites, pond sites, back road to Hacienda, rock and gravel quarry, and pastures

5. Explore Doña Ana Mountains and desert plains for flash flood routes, diversion routes, dam sites, pond sites, and pasture areas

6. Write letters to big ranches in Texas and Mexico to find cattle

I liked the list Giuseppe had come up with, and told him so. “Giuseppe, that’s a fine list. That’s the kind of thinking and planning I need. How’d you like to hire on to explore the mountains and the desert in between, for items four and five on that list.”

With a smile, he said, “I’d like that idea.”

“Good, consider yourself hired, then. I’ll get with you next week in Las Cruces to talk about the pay and schedule,” I replied.

Giuseppe was quiet for a moment, obviously thinking about something. “I can do that, Paul. If you’re interested I’m also an experienced surveyor with my own equipment. I could complete task number two when you’re ready, too. Oh, and before I forget, there is a drilling company in El Paso with a good reputation that was looking for work, when I left El Paso two weeks ago.”

Before I could reply Jorge said, “Juan knows where to get the timber you will need to build the bridge. He’s been talking about branching out into supplying building materials other than just adobe. He would probably jump at the chance to supply timber or anything else you need.”

That left tasks three and six to worry about. I planned on handling task three myself, with a little instruction, if I could find the right person. As far as task six went, I would talk to Mr. Mendoza and see if he knew of any big cattle ranches in Texas or Mexico. If not, then I’d wait until my trip to El Paso and see what help the Cattleman’s Association could provide.

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