Robledo Mountain
Chapter 17

Copyright© 2018 by Kraken

I stopped at Mrs. Amador’s on the way out of town to pick up some towels and a pair of leather work gloves. I made a mental note to sit down with her when I got back from El Paso, to talk about the expected influx of people and work up a regular supply list.

I pulled up to the house in the early afternoon and looked around the plateau. It looked much different than when I’d left. I wasn’t sure what Jorge and Giuseppe had done with tall man but I really didn’t care. What I did care about were all the surveying stakes and string lines tied out all around the plateau. Giuseppe had made a lot of progress while I was recovering. I opened up the house’s door and saw the bullet hole in the wall above the bed. I supposed that it would make a rather unique conversation piece for visitors if nothing else.

The hot shower didn’t last as long as I wanted, because I was low on water. I vowed to myself to check into well pipe when I went into El Paso. Then, stunned by my thoughts, I stopped. I had just realized if I ran wire from the cave to the upstairs section of the house and used well pipe to run a water line from the cave stream up to the house I could reuse the water heater from the RV in the new Hacienda. I could use the water wheel to power the water heater and use it as a water pump, too. This was going to take some thought but I was sure I could do it.

After dinner, I went out to the house, started a fire in the stove, and started working on a plan to run electricity and water into the Hacienda as well as running waste lines out of the Hacienda.

The next morning, I made sure to include the meditation and the practicing to open myself up to the spirit world. Somehow, Mr. Garcia seemed to know what was happening, and I wasn’t going to disappoint him again. When I was done I went out to the house, restarted the fire, and put a pot of coffee on the stove. I went back inside, got some eggs and bacon, took them back to the house, and cooked breakfast. I hoped Anna made better stove coffee than I did. When I was done, I cleaned up and left the coffee pushed to the back of the stove. I spent the rest of the day melting and skimming, trying to get the mound of gold nuggets down to a size that wasn’t blocking the trailer so much.

For the next three days all I did was melt and skim gold, making a significant dent in the mound of nuggets while I watched the stacks of gold bars grow.

Deciding it was time for a break from melting gold I loaded the wagon with a trenching tool, partial bins of sand and lime, an empty bin, and the mixing bin, and headed to the canyon. It was time to make the canyon a corral.

Digging 18 inches down through gravel and caliche is tough work but I finished digging and had set the posts in concrete inserting the rails as I went. I used mesquite and cottonwood branches to prop the fence posts as straight as I could by eyeball and called it a day.

I spent a couple of early hours the next day putting stucco on the porch boards, then it was back to melting gold.

A week later I’d had enough of melting, for now! I’d managed to reduce the pile of nuggets by half. I had eight days left before I had to be back in Las Cruces and I decided that was enough time for a quick trip to Apache Canyon. I had the wagon packed and was on the way by mid-morning. It felt good to be back in desert cammies, floppy hat, and desert boots full time again.

Six days later, I was back at the house with six hundred pounds of gold nuggets to add to the mound of nuggets in the cave. I spent a day cleaning up around the house and in the cave unpacking and cleaning weapons as well as moving ammo, magazines, and boxes of clothes into neat stacks. With everything looking spic and span I headed to bed and dreamed of my reunion with Anna.

I hitched up my mules to the work wagon the next morning, put the bundle of weapons along with the guitar in the seat box, and headed to Las Cruces. I pulled up to the stable just after one, jumped down, grabbed the guitar, and went in search of Mr. Mendoza. I found him in his usual spot.

“Good afternoon, Mr. Mendoza. Can I use the hayloft for a few days? I really don’t think I can stand the beds at the Drovers Inn, anymore.”

He just gave me a small smile and a quick nod, while continuing to work on the harnesses.

“Has anything happened that I need to be aware of?” I asked curiously.

After a few moments of thought he shook his head. “I don’t know of anything but the day is only half over, so who knows?” I laughed and agreed with him before he asked, “How is the wound doing?”

“It’s about healed, although it still gives me a twinge every so often if I over use it.”

“Good, it’s nice to see you almost back to normal.”

“I’ll be back in a little while. I’m going to the restaurant and see Anna,” I said with a wave as I walked off.

When I walked into the restaurant I got an armful of Anna, and a supercharged Anna smile! The hug and kiss soon followed. She pointed back to my table where Jorge, Giuseppe, and Juan were waiting for me. I thanked her and gave her another hug.

“How did you know I was coming today?” I asked the three men curiously.

They all chuckled and Giuseppe said, “Anna told us you’d be here today by one o’clock. If you hadn’t driven to the stable first, she’d have been completely right.”

I noticed a large flat package wrapped in butcher paper next to the wall by Jorge. I nodded at it asking, “Is that was what I think it is?”

Jorge grinned and said, “It is.”

My immediate impulse was to open it, and take a look but my better instincts took over and I held off. Instead I nodded at Jorge and thanked him. Anna brought me a cup of coffee and refills for the others. I thanked her and after she’d left, I asked them how they were doing on their tasks.

Jorge led off by handing me a stack of papers, and pointing at the wrapped package. “I’m done with the plans and drawings.”

“That’s fantastic, Jorge, thank you. I might make a small change to the interior of the Hacienda, if I find what I hope to in El Paso.”

“Oh? What kind of change?”

“A surprise for Anna. If I find the right kind of pipe and enough of it, I want to put indoor plumbing in the Hacienda. The change will be adding a few rooms and mapping out water supply lines, waste lines, and vent lines in the walls and floors.”

He nodded and stayed quiet. I handed him three double eagles. “That’s for the drawings and painting.”

“Pablo! You haven’t even seen the painting yet,” he objected.

“Jorge, if it is anywhere near as good as the drawing of the Hacienda you made, it’s well worth the money.”

I turned to Giuseppe and he handed me a journal. “It’s completed and I’m ready to explore the Estancia and start surveying when we get back from El Paso.”

I quickly looked through it and was impressed. All the sections were there and extensively documented with detailed drawings.

“This is impressive, Giuseppe, thank you.”

I looked over at Juan. With a huge smile, he said, “I’ve started the adobe brick making and lime operations with a vengeance. I currently have fifteen thousand bricks drying in my yard which should be ready by the end of next week, and another six thousand in a neighboring empty lot that should also be dry by next week. I’ll start making more when I have the dried bricks stacked.”

I asked Jorge, “Do you have an estimate of how many bricks it will take to build one house”

“Each house will need roughly three thousand bricks,” he replied.

Juan spoke up at that point. “With the current drying space available I can provide bricks for seven houses a month. However, I’m close to getting agreement with a farmer outside of town to use his land to mix and dry adobe and that will add another twenty-one thousand bricks a month. That adds another seven houses. If I reach agreement with the farmer in the next few weeks then I will have the initial inventory to build forty-eight houses. I also added six more men and three wagons for making lime. I have a large pile of it near my brickyard, and should be able to keep up with demand.”

“Are you going to supply the roofing materials I need like vigas and thin wood slats?” I asked.

“Absolutely, Paul. I’ve already worked out supply levels and costs, so that’s all covered.”

“Good. Do you need me to pay a partial advance for everything you’re making and buying?”

Juan’s smile grew even bigger. “An advance payment of one hundred and fifty dollars will guarantee exclusivity of my entire inventory through February.”

“Okay, consider it done,” I replied.

Anna came by to check on me, and I asked her to meet us in the family dining room with a small sheet or blanket. She nodded and left, while I led the others into the family dining room. Jorge put the wrapped picture on the table. Anna joined us with a small blanket a few minutes later.

With a glance at the wrapped bundle she asked, “What’s that?”

“It’s one of those surprises we talked about. Open it up and find out,” I responded.

She handed me the blanket and tore into the butcher paper. The more she saw of the painting the more excited she got. Of course, so did I. It was fabulous! I turned to Jorge. “You missed your calling. You should’ve been a painter!”

Jorge grimaced. “No! Painters starve. Architects make a living.”

We all laughed, agreeing with him. The painting was everything I asked for and more. It showed most of the Estancia centered on the Hacienda on the two plateaus and the Segundo ‘s houses, the stone walls, storehouses and stable with a few rows of fruit trees and some horses in the grass field. Below the Hacienda was the Rio Grande, plowed farm fields with rows of crops on both sides, with levees, roads, and the bridge with a wagon full of crops crossing it. On the right side of the farm fields was the Camino Real bordered on both sides with stone fences. The village and Finca Operations were shown near the top laid out as I’d described with people having a party in the plaza. The right side of the painting had the Ranch Operations area including a large stable area, and corrals with horses. Vaqueros were out herding cattle towards some empty cattle pens. Towards the outer edge were hay fields. Dotted all around the entire painting were water retention ponds.

Anna was speechless! “How long will it take to make this real?” she asked breathlessly.

I turned, looked in her eyes, and quietly told her, “Estancia Dos Santos will look like that in five years or less.”

Giuseppe and Juan had obviously already seen it, but they seemed entranced nevertheless. When Anna had finally looked long enough to turn away from it I asked her to help me put it up on the sideboard. We leaned it against the wall and covered it with the blanket. I stacked the plans, drawing, and journal next to the painting.

Taking Anna in my arms I said, “That is our surprise tonight at the family dinner.”

Megawatt Anna smile!

Giuseppe cleared his throat to get our attention and asked, “What time are we leaving in the morning Paul?”

I turned to Anna. “Are you and grandparents going with us?”

At her excited nod, I said, “Please ask your grandmother what time we are leaving in the morning.”

She left and rapidly returned. “She said she’d be ready after breakfast which she would serve promptly at eight.”

“The general has spoken, Giuseppe. We’ll see you here at eight tomorrow morning,” I said with a smile. “Since Anna is going as well, do you mind riding a horse on the way down? I hope Anna won’t find keeping me company in a wagon to be too objectionable on the drive down and back.”

Anna gave me a smile. “If it’s too onerous I’ll ride with grandfather and grandmother in the wagon they’re taking.”

A laughing Giuseppe said, “Riding a horse down and driving a wagon back, is no problem.”

I thanked them all again for all their hard work and wished them all a good evening as they walked out. Anna left to get us some coffee returning seconds later with two fresh cups. She sat down next to me, asking me to play “Impossible Dream.”

“Why that one and why now, my love?” I asked while tuning the guitar.

“Because that’s what my life has become. An impossible dream. Especially after seeing the painting because that’s what it represents to me – an Impossible Dream. Is that really what we’re going to build?”

“Yes, Doña Anna, that is our future.”

She gasped and I had to ask. “What would you call the lady of an Estancia like the one in the painting?”

Thinking for a moment she replied. “I would call her ‘gifted by God!’”

I laughed. “Yes, that too, my love, that too.”

I sang “Impossible Dream” as she had requested and followed up with “Keeper of the Stars.” When I was done, I asked her if she’d set the wedding date.

She beamed me an Anna smile and sat down on my lap. “I have, Pablo. We will be married on the 15th of March and it’s already been confirmed by the Padre.”

I told her I couldn’t wait, but I would do my best to restrain myself. She laughed and cuddled for a few minutes before leaving telling me she needed to help the others get dinner ready.

As I was finishing my coffee, I glanced over at the blanket covered painting. After a minute’s thought, I put down my coffee cup, picked up the painting while keeping it covered, and carried it out of the restaurant and over to the woodwright’s shop.

I uncovered the painting and asked the owner if he could make a frame for it. As we were talking, he stopped the conversation and told me he’d be right back. He disappeared into his workshop and came back out a few minutes later carrying a few small pieces of wood.

“I just remembered a few pieces of mahogany I got about a year ago. There’s not enough to build furniture with, but I’d hoped to use it for some inlay work if it came up. It will make a great frame for the painting,” he said.

I had to agree. “Can you fancy it up a little with a bead along the top and bottom edges, and a small valley between the two beads?”

We discussed what I meant in detail, and he finally said he could do what I wanted. He gave me a price that wasn’t too unreasonable but it was clear he expected to negotiate, so we dickered for a while and finally settled on a price that made him happy.

As I was standing the painting back up on the sideboard, I looked at the stack of plans, drawings, and the journal. I realized that I needed a way to carry them, so that they would last longer during my travels, and the heavy use I expected to put them through. Picking them up, I left the restaurant and walked down the street, looking for the leather shop I remembered seeing in this end of town.

It was a little farther in town than I remembered, but I eventually found it. Walking inside, I was greeted by the owner who asked how she could help me.

I lifted up the stack of drawings and journal. “I’m looking for a portfolio that I can store these papers and this journal in, as well as a courier style pouch with a shoulder sling that I can use to carry the portfolio.”

As I described what I wanted the smile on her face grew bigger and bigger. “You’re in luck, young man. I have just the thing. A lawyer came to town about six months ago and ordered exactly what you described, so he could carry his papers as he walked around town. One of his clients had a party after the lawyer had successfully argued a claim for him. The lawyer got drunk on his first taste of Tequila. He wandered out in the desert at some point, and fell into an arroyo just outside of town breaking his neck.” She pulled out the two items from behind the counter as she was talking.

I checked to make sure everything would fit into the portfolio, and the full portfolio would fit into the pouch. They were perfect. On a whim, I asked, “Can you emboss the pouch flap and the front of the portfolio with my brand?”

When said she could, I drew the two slightly overlapping stick figures with halos for her. She gave me a reasonable price for the two pieces and the embossing. I figured she was making money on it twice since the lawyer had probably paid at least part of the price in advance, but I wasn’t going to begrudge her making a profit. She also said the embossing would take about thirty minutes.

I decided that now was a good time to have an initial talk with Mrs. Amador about future supplies. When I walked into her store, she was at the counter working with a couple of ledgers. Seeing me, she closed the ledgers and asked how she could help me today.

“Mrs. Amador I’m expecting to hire some people at my place in late winter or early spring, to start preparing my land and I need to provide all their supplies, at least initially. I wanted to buy them from you, but I need to better understand the types, quantities, and frequency I would need them, as well as an estimated price.”

She nodded. “How many are you expecting?” She asked.

“That’s one of the areas I’m having a problem with. Perhaps we can simplify things a bit. Let’s look at coming up with an item by item list of things ten families of four would need on a monthly basis, a projected total monthly cost for everything on the list, and determine how many standard work wagons I would need to pick up the supplies. Then we can use that as a basis if I need more.”

She liked that approach but said she also wanted to think about it for a few days.

“That’s fine ma’am. I’m going to El Paso tomorrow with the Mendozas and will be back in a couple of weeks. We can talk more about this when I get back.”

As I was walking to the blacksmiths, I thought about the food situation and realized I needed a supply of beef and milk as well as dry goods. Damn! Now I had to find someone to figure out how much beef I’d need every month, and find a supplier as well as figure out how many milk cows I’d need and where to get them. As I reached the blacksmiths’ shop I decided to broach the subject with the Mendozas at dinner.

I ordered four branding irons from the blacksmith and left him a drawing of the overlapping stick figures with halos. He said they would be ready in a week and I paid for them before beginning the long trudge to the leather shop. I stopped at the restaurant, dropped off the stack of papers I’d been carrying, and drank a glass of cold tea before setting out again.

Back at the leather shop, the owner proudly showed me the embossing work she’d done. The embossed figures were almost a perfect match to my saddlebags. I was extremely pleased, and told her so. She handed them to me and I was off to the restaurant, making a quick stop at Mrs. Amador’s store on the way to buy two pads of paper and pencils, so I would have something to make notes with.

When I got to the restaurant Mr. Mendoza and Mr. Garcia were already seated and drinking coffee as they waited for dinner. I greeted both while I put all the papers and the journal inside the portfolio and bag before sitting down to talk before dinner. Anna came in with a cup of coffee for me before hurrying back to the kitchen.

I filled them in on what I’d been doing at the house and todays activities. I turned to Mr. Garcia. “I’m hoping to get some Apache families on the Estancia. Do you know of some that are willing to work with white men? If so, I would appreciate knowing who and where they are, so I can talk to them.”

He thought for a minute and then asked, “What kind of work will they be doing?”

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