Robledo Mountain
Chapter 16

Copyright© 2018 by Kraken

I woke up, briefly, from time to time, hearing a word or two of conversation, or with sunlight on my face, but all I can clearly remember is wondering who I was, where I was, and what was wrong with me.

Waking up was like climbing a long hill. I’d finally climb the hill to being fully awake, only to be so exhausted that I fell asleep again almost immediately after waking up. I lost track of how often it happened, but eventually I woke up with enough energy to stay awake for a few minutes.

I laid there listening for minutes that seemed like hours trying to get the energy to open my eyes and turn my head. Finally, I managed both, and discovered Anna sitting next to me bent over in a chair holding my hand. As a matter of fact, she was squeezing it hard enough with both her hands that it had to be hurting her because it was sure hurting me.

I laid there more long minutes trying to get enough energy to speak. When I finally thought I could manage it, I opened my mouth to tell her I was here but all that came out was a hoarse squawking that sounded nothing like me. It was enough to get Anna’s attention, though. She lifted her head and blasted me with one of her huge super megawatt Anna smiles. All was right in my world!

I managed to croak out, “water.”

She wiped the tears off her cheeks and poured a glass of water from a pitcher on the bedside table, lifted my head, and helped me take three sips of water that felt great going down my throat. After the third sip, I looked at her with all the love I felt and said, “My sweet Dulcinea, I’m here.” Then I closed my eyes and drifted back off to sleep.

The next time I woke up it was to the sight of Mr. Mendoza. “Water,” I croaked. He helped me take a few sips. “Help me sit up please. I feel like I haven’t moved in however long it’s been since I was laid down on the bed.”

As he helped me sit up against the headboard he informed me, “It’s early evening on the fourth day since you arrived.”

I looked over at him. “I’m sure Mrs. Mendoza disagrees, but it was much more pleasant waking up to Anna’s face than yours.”

He laughed and said, “You’ve still got your sense of humor. That’s good.”

“Where is Anna?”

“She’s been asleep since you woke up the first time, nine hours ago. She was exhausted. She stayed with you constantly from when we started working on you, until you woke up.”

I looked down at my side, but all I could see was bandage. I asked how the wound was doing.

“It looks much better than it did. It’s no longer red and swollen, and no fever either. We pulled out some small pieces of cloth and thread with the bottle brush and within six hours or so it started looking much better.”

I nodded, took another larger drink of water, and looked at the little cup of penicillin to see about half of them gone. Mr. Mendoza started to talk again.

“Your horse is in the stable living the life of a king. Giuseppe and Jorge went out to your place and hauled that man off so that’s been taken care of. They saw the bullet in the back wall just over the bed. They cleaned the blood from the door jamb the best they could for you.”

“Thank you, and please thank them.”

“Already taken care of. Now, do you feel up to eating?”

“Yes, please. After that, if I feel well enough, I need to get up and walk a few steps before sleeping again.”

He nodded and left to get me a bowl of soup. He was just walking back into the room with the bowl, when he was swept aside as Hurricane Anna blew into the room and into my arms.

I lifted up her chin so I could look into her eyes and said, “My sweet Dulcinea, I love you.”

Anna gave me one of my Anna smiles, hugged me tighter, and gave me a small kiss. Mr. Mendoza cleared his throat. “Anna, I’m sure your attention is well appreciated, but this bowl of soup will do much more for him.”

Anna unwrapped herself from around me, pulled the chair up closer to the bed, and held out her hands for the soup bowl and spoon. I spent an enjoyable half hour being spoon fed while looking into the eyes of the woman I loved.

Mr. Mendoza left at some point, but I’m not sure when. Eventually I asked Anna to get her grandfather to help me up so I could try to take a few steps. She started to argue, but I told her that I seemed to have lost my pants over the last four days so unless she wanted to get an eyeful to please get her grandfather and ask him to bring my pants with him.

She came back a few minutes later, handing me my pants and underpants telling me her grandfather was on his way. Then she left, closing the door behind her. I struggled into my underpants and almost wore myself out getting into my pants. Mr. Mendoza walked in just as I was finishing buttoning them, and pulling up my suspenders. I decided I really needed to find a seamstress to make a pair of pants with real pockets and belt loops. Yep, I’d get right on that, given the copious amounts of spare time I had.

Mr. Mendoza helped me get out of bed and stand up. I took four steps to the door and looked in the hall. I turned around and returned, collapsing onto the bed. I lay back on the bed, looked at Mr. Mendoza and told him how much I enjoyed such exhaustive workouts. I was almost instantly asleep.

The next time I woke up it was dark and there was no one there. Damn! No Anna smile. I went back to sleep.

I woke to a beautiful sight. An Anna smile! She handed me a glass of water and a pill from the dish without my asking. I asked her what was for breakfast and she told me it was lunch, and I was having soup and bread if I thought I could tolerate it. That sounded good to me, and I told her so.

Once I was done eating, I asked her to help me take off the bandage so I could see what the wound looked like. She unwrapped me and when I looked down, I could see that it did look good. It was healing well from the inside and she suggested I leave the bandage off for now to let it get some air, and we’d put it back on in a couple of hours.

I asked her to bring me a pail of hot soapy water, a sponge, and a towel, so I could wash myself down a little. If I could smell myself, then I must be smelling ripe to everyone else. She giggled a little, nodded, and left the room. She came back with everything I asked for plus a washcloth. She helped me wash and comb my hair and then proceeded to help me wash my upper body. The rest would just have to wait. I asked her to ask her grandfather and grandmother to join us for a few minutes as I wanted to talk to them all.

A few minutes later Jorge came in to see me. After giving me the once over he smiled and said, “You look much better than the last time I saw you. You smell better, too.”

I gave a short laugh before thanking him and Giuseppe for taking care of tall man for me. He waved it off and said it was what friends do.

“Still, thank you very much. Can you, Juan, and Giuseppe come see me in an hour with all your notes, drawings, and plans?” I asked him.

“If you’re sure you’re up to it, I’ll take care of getting them here,” he said

At my nod, he left as the Mendozas and Anna came in. I suggested they get chairs for everyone, and Mr. Mendoza brought in two more.

After everyone was seated I looked directly at Mr. Mendoza and said, “With your permission, Don Jose?”

He knew exactly what I meant and with a small grin said, “Of course.”

I turned to Anna and looked deeply into her eyes. “Anna Jaramillo, I love you with all my heart. Will you do me the honor of becoming my wife? Will you marry me?”

Teary eyed, she nodded her head emphatically and said, “Paul McAllister, I love you more than life itself. Yes! I will marry you. Just as fast as I can.” Then she leaned over and gave me a tender kiss full of promise.

It took a few moments to shake off the impact of that kiss. Shakily, I asked, “Anna would you hand me the leather wallet from my coat pocket please.” After she handed it to me I opened it up and pulled out the first piece of paper and handed it to her. “This is what your engagement ring will look like when it’s done. I ordered it four weeks ago from Mr. Greenburg, in El Paso.”

She gasped and showed the drawing to Mrs. Mendoza who looked at it and said, “I think it’s time to publish the banns.”

I smiled and nodded. Next, I pulled out the Homestead Claim Deed and handed it Anna. “This is the Homestead deed for six hundred and forty acres of land just north of here on the Rio Grande River.”

She looked at it and handed it around. When everyone was done looking at it I handed her another piece of paper. “This is our Deed for the forty thousand acres surrounding the homestead.”

Mrs. Mendoza and Anna both gasped. I think Anna gasped because she caught my use of the word “our” while Mrs. Mendoza gasped at the total acreage.

While that was still sinking in, I got out the Santa Fe bank book and handed it to Anna. “This, my love, is our account balance at the bank in Santa Fe.”

She opened it curiously, and then gasped, staring at the number in disbelief.

“This is our balance in the 1st El Paso Bank. It’s smaller, but it’s closer to home, so it’s easier to get to. Handing her the wallet I asked, “If you would, please, put everything back in there when everyone is done looking at them.”

As she was putting everything back in the wallet, she asked what the last piece of paper in the wallet was. I had to stop to think, but then I smiled and said it was the receipt for her ring. She smiled, nodded, and put the wallet back in my coat.

I looked at Mr. Mendoza. “Sir, I’m getting tired from talking. If you don’t mind will you please tell the two ladies what I see coming in the next ten years while I rest?”

He nodded and started talking. I sat back against the headboard, took a couple sips of water, closed my eyes, and listened. I had to give it to him; he had a good memory, repeating almost verbatim what I had told him.

When he was done I said, “What I told Mr. Mendoza will happen. There is no doubt in my mind. We have eight years or less to get ready. If it hasn’t happened by the end of 1861 then it may not happen but I’m convinced it will.”

They sat staring at each other for a few minutes. Anna started to ask a question, when we heard a knock at the back door. Mr. Mendoza got up to see who it was. I took the opportunity to ask Mrs. Mendoza and Anna not to repeat that conversation to anyone. They nodded as Mr. Mendoza, Jorge, Giuseppe, and Juan came into the room, the latter three bringing chairs with them.

“Thank you for coming, guys. I really appreciate it. That big reveal I was planning to have in a few weeks, has been rescheduled to now. I’m not up to talking that much, so I’ll ask you each to discuss what I plan on doing and your part in it. Please show everyone your notes, plans, and drawings - in whatever stage those are in - to give them a better idea. Start with Jorge, then Giuseppe, and finally Juan.”

Again, I sat back, took a drink, closed my eyes, and listened. Jorge started the tale with a description of the land the house was on, and went from there. I could hear the surprise when Jorge pulled out a color drawing of the Hacienda and showed it to the Mendozas and Anna, along with the plans. I took that opportunity to tell Anna it could be any color she liked, and to work with Jorge on that. She nodded, and Jorge continued talking about the Hacienda area showing them plans for the houses, stables, storehouses, and water storage buildings on the lower and upper plateaus. Next, he described the Ranch Operations area with plans for that area; and finally he described the Finca Operations and Village area with plans for them, too.

Giuseppe took over at that point, and started talking about the survey he had just finished of the Hacienda area, and those he was going to be doing for the Village, the Ranch, and the various construction projects he was going to be working on. These would include levees, dams, water retention ponds, irrigation, roads, stone and mortar fences, and the bridge. As he discussed each area, he used the journal I’d asked him to start, to illustrate.

When he was done Juan took over, talking about ramping up his adobe brick and lime mining operations, as well as his efforts in preparing to expand into all the other building materials. He looked at Mr. Mendoza and said he wanted to talk to him later about hauling adobe bricks, lime and finishing materials out to the Hacienda, village, and ranch sites.

Mrs. Mendoza and Anna were completely stunned, and even Mr. Mendoza looked a little floored at everything they’d just heard and seen. I laughed and said those were the looks that the other three had had on their faces, the first time they understood how each of the pieces I was working on all fit together. Jorge, Giuseppe, and Juan laughed and nodded.

When the stunned looks began to wear off their faces, I said, “There are some things Anna and I will need help with, and I’m hoping you can provide that help. We need people. We needed a Finca Segundo closely followed by a Rancho Segundo. If you think of anyone who can fill those jobs please let us know. At the same time and probably more important is the need for farmers and vaqueros with the most important being the farmers. Married farmers! These farmers need to understand a few things before they come here.

First, they must be willing to fight. If they already know how to fight, that’s good, but the willingness to fight is more important. We will train them to fight and give them the tools to fight with. They may never have to fight and I hope they won’t but if they aren’t willing to protect their family and what’s theirs then I don’t want them.

Second, they need to understand that they probably won’t be farming for at least the first 12-18 months they work for us. They will be building their houses, hauling stone, building levees, dams, and fences.

Third, they need to understand they will be paid twelve dollars a month in wages, whether they are farming or doing other work. They will be paid that wage whether we have a bumper crop, or complete crop failure. In addition to that wage they will own their house after working for us for twenty years, with the understanding that they must sell it back to us at a price comparable to what the same sized house and land in Las Cruces sells for. The only time they can sell us the house is if they are leaving the Estancia. They can live in the house the rest of their lives if that’s what they want but when they and their widow die the house and land gets sold back to us.

Finally, they need to understand that anyone who doesn’t work out for whatever reason will be escorted off the Estancia with any wages due them.

If you know any farmers who meet our criteria and think they are willing to work hard then tell them about our offer. But please, stress that we won’t be in any shape to start hiring until February. The last thing we need is for people to start showing up here before then, expecting immediate work.”

I looked around the room getting nods of understanding from everyone. “The same will be offered to the vaqueros we need. We currently plan on running two thousand to four thousand head of cattle. I figure we’ll need thirty vaqueros to start. Eventually, we plan to run eight to ten thousand head, and will need a total of a hundred vaqueros. That will mean having around four hundred horses, and they will need wranglers to manage them. The vaqueros will be given the same wages as the farmers and an apartment at the ranch with the same ownership rights after twenty years. The main difference between the farmers and vaqueros is that we will start buying cattle in late spring so the vaqueros will be busy tending cattle with a little time assigned to non-vaquero duty. Each single Vaquero will be given a private room and will eat meals in a common dining room. Meals will be available three times a day with snacks available any time they want them. If you know any vaqueros who meet our criteria and think they are willing to work hard then tell them about my offer. But again we won’t start hiring until February at the earliest.

We will also need a blacksmith and assistants, a wagon yard master and assistants, as well as an equipment manager and assistants for the Finca Operations. We’ll also need a school teacher to teach the children.”

Again, I stopped and got nods of understanding. “The Hacienda will need a cook, a head housekeeper, and two housekeepers to start with. We’ll also need a stable master and quartermaster who will be responsible for keeping the storehouses stocked with food, and rotating that food out with fresher material. Once the storehouses are full, the food that is rotated out will be available to the entire Estancia without charge. If you know anyone who meets our criteria for these areas, and you think they are willing to work hard, then tell them about my offer.

All of you now have a common overview of our vision and what we’re trying to do. Some of you also have a few bits and pieces that only you know but the others could find useful. Please ask each other any questions you may have. If there are any questions you can’t get answered, then please see me anytime, and we can talk. Finally, for your own sake, please do not indicate in any way that I am the one behind all this. Thank you for your time, today. I know you all have other things to do. I’d like to talk to Anna for a few minutes alone if possible, and then I need to sleep some more.”

When they had all left, I turned to Anna and held out my arms to her. She was off the chair and in my arms in an instant. We cuddled for a few minutes and then I said, “Anna my love I hope you can forgive me for not telling you all this earlier but I was still missing major pieces of it, until just a short time ago. I wasn’t trying to deceive you or keep secrets from you, but I did want to surprise you. I don’t ever want us to keep secrets from each other.”

“My Don Quixote, you think so deep and dream so big, it takes my breath away. I promise I will always support you.”

“Anna, you are in charge of the wedding date and everything dealing with the wedding. If you want to be married tomorrow, then get the Padre to agree and have him here and we’ll do it. If you want to wait a more respectable amount of time, up to one year, then so be it. Regardless of when we are married, I’m not moving you out to the Estancia until the Hacienda is completed. I’m more than happy to take you out and show you the land and house anytime you want. I’m going to have to leave as soon as I can, and get some work done before I go pick up your ring in El Paso. You might think about asking your grandfather and grandmother to go with us to El Paso the first week in November to start looking for furniture for the Hacienda.”

I got my Anna smile!

Anna helped me put new pads and the bandage back on before I lay back down and slept.

The next four days passed relatively quietly. I ate, slept, did limited exercises, and answered questions that were brought to me. I also had daily visits from Great Grandfather Jaime Garcia.

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