Robledo Mountain
Chapter 18

Copyright© 2018 by Kraken

The five of us arrived at the hotel in El Paso in the early evening of the second day after leaving Las Cruces. The empty wagons allowed us to make good time, which passed even faster for me with Anna riding beside me. Anna and I spent most our time during the ride talking quietly about my plan for the Estancia, such as it was; and our place in the future, if it should play out as I expected.

As pleasant as the trip was, we were all tired from two days of jouncing in the wagon seats. With relief, we checked into the hotel and met in the dining room, where our talk turned to each of our specific plans on this visit.

Mrs. Mendoza had a long list of things to buy from other family members, as well buying more tables, chairs, plates, and silverware for the restaurant. Mr. Mendoza was just along as a strong back for Mrs. Mendoza, and didn’t really have anything he wanted do, besides check in with his cousin Raul. Anna was focused on her engagement ring, furnishings for the Hacienda, and some new dresses and other personal things. Giuseppe was here to make our introduction to the well diggers, buy shotguns for himself and his new apprentice, and fill a list Sofia had given him.

The length of our stay was determined by my own rather lengthy list. I had a host of things I hoped to accomplish during the visit, including the well diggers, ordering wagons, finding some masons, and blasting powder; but Anna’s engagement ring was the most important, as far as I was concerned.

The next morning, with Anna on my arm and followed by the Mendozas, I retraced the route to Mr. Greenburg’s jewelry store without making any wrong turns. I introduced the Mendozas and Anna to Mrs. Greenburg, who took us into the showroom. Mr. Greenburg walked into the showroom less than a minute later, setting a small black bundle of cloth on the counter.

Mr. Greenburg waved Anna forward. The four of us gasped as the cloth fell open. The ring was exquisite! Picking it up, I placed it on Anna’s finger with a soft kiss. It was a little large on Anna’s finger. Mr. Greenburg carefully measured Anna’s finger and told her he would resize it to fit and it would be ready by lunchtime.

We spent the next thirty minutes discussing designs for wedding rings, as well as signet rings I wanted made for Anna and me. The wedding rings took up most of that time, as Anna and Mr. Greenburg made drawings of what Anna described.

The signet rings were much quicker, as I had only the basic outline of what I wanted. I took Mr. Greenburg’s pencil and drew the Dos Santos stick figures explaining that we wanted the signet rings also in gold, with the figures as the central component of the ring surrounded by the Latin phrase ‘Aude Somnia, Quod Pervenire Non Pervenit’. He asked if there were any embellishments we wanted on the rings. Neither us could think of any and left it to him to determine. My biggest requirement was that the rings be useable for stamping wax seals, for letters or official documents.

On our way to the bank, Mrs. Mendoza wanted to know what the Latin phrase meant. I smiled at Anna when she told them it meant: ‘Dare to Dream, Reach for the Unreachable’.

At the bank, I introduced everyone to Levi before telling him I wanted Anna to have access to my account. He was a little surprised as it wasn’t common, but said that wouldn’t be a problem. Taking us to an empty teller position, we completed the necessary paperwork.

I warned Levi as we were leaving, that we would probably be making some large purchases over the next three or four days including some in El Paso del Norte and I wanted to debit my account. He assured us we shouldn’t have any problems; but if we did, to let him know and he would go with me to straighten it out.

Back at the hotel, the buggy I rented for our stay was ready. I asked Mr. Mendoza to drive since he knew where we were going. With the Mendozas in front and Anna in the back with me, we set off for El Paso del Norte.

I’d known that buying furniture in 1853 was going to be different than what I was used to, but I guess subconsciously I was still expecting to walk into a large storefront with different kinds, types, and styles of furniture on display. Reality turned out to be much different. In this time, all the furniture was custom made to order. The first furniture ‘store’ we stopped at specialized in kitchen and dining room furniture. It turned out to be representative of all of them, regardless of what the type of furniture, or what it was made of. There were no examples of finished furniture on display. Instead, there were six-inch square wood blocks for each type of wood they specialized in, showing the various finishing details and skills of the wood workers.

We all examined the samples and after some discussion between Anna and her grandmother we ordered a dining room table big enough to seat ten on each side with a chair at each end. We also ordered twenty-two chairs and three matching sideboards for the back wall. My only real participation in the whole process came after Anna had haggled with the owner over delivery dates, and the price, delivered to the Mendoza Livery Stable in Las Cruces. When everything was finalized, I countersigned a receipt that authorized 1st El Paso bank to debit my account and we moved on to the next store, where the entire process was repeated. In the first of the next two stores, we ordered wrought iron tables and chairs for the terrace and both courtyards. They even added the Dos Santos brand in the middle of the wrought iron table tops. At the second store we ordered leather couches, love seats, and chairs for both living rooms, and also for my office and our bedroom. So far, everything we’d bought at all three stores would be delivered to Mr. Mendoza’s Livery Stable by the end of February.

On the way back to the hotel, we made a quick stop at Mr. Greenburg’s store to pick up Anna’s ring which I gently placed on her finger.

We arrived back at the hotel just in time to meet Giuseppe, who had spent the morning at the well drillers and getting a head start on filling Sofia’s list. During lunch, I reminded Anna she now had signature authority at the bank. I encouraged her to buy whatever she thought we needed for the Hacienda, as well as for her personal use while we were in El Paso. I was going to be spending the afternoon with Giuseppe, talking to the well drillers; which, unfortunately, meant Mr. Mendoza got to play chauffeur for the afternoon.

Lunch over, we were standing in the lobby while waiting for the ladies to return from using the facilities when I turned to Mr. Mendoza and Giuseppe.

“I really need to find some good stone masons who are available and will travel to my place to start working on the Hacienda as soon as possible. I’m worried about having it finished in time for the wedding.”

Mr. Mendoza said, “I don’t see any reason to worry about that. You and Anna are talking about leaving almost immediately for Santa Fe after the wedding, and you’ll be gone for a few months.”

“Sir, everything we’ve ordered so far is being delivered to your stables and that is one of the major deciding factors in needing the house done.” He looked at me with a look that said that was no problem. “Sir, were you paying attention to what has been ordered so far today?” When he shook his head ‘no,’ I handed him the receipts with the furniture descriptions on them. “We still have bedrooms to fill, as well as all the kitchen furniture and supplies to buy. You won’t have any room in your stables for animals if everything arrives, and the Hacienda isn’t ready. Finally, if I know Anna, she will want the furniture settled in the house before we leave for Santa Fe so she can tell what we missed and have an idea of what to buy.”

“I see your point, Pablo,” he said with a shake of his head.

When the ladies rejoined us, we went outside. I handed Anna into the buggy after a quick kiss and they were off, back to El Paso del Norte.

I turned to Giuseppe and asked, “What do you have planned for us this afternoon?”

“First, I want to take you to the drilling company, have you meet the owner, and evaluate them for yourself. I already confirmed they are available and willing to drill on the Estancia. Then I’ll take you to see some masons I know. Hopefully, they’re still here. Finally, if there’s enough time left before dinner, a gun store or two,” he replied.

I nodded. “Sounds good to me, Giuseppe. I’m in your hands the rest of the afternoon.”

A short ride later, Giuseppe was introducing me to John Gillespie, the owner of the drilling company, who turned out to be a real find. He had four drilling rigs, the men to operate them, and everything was idle until late spring. As Giuseppe had said John was not only available but willing to haul the rigs up to my land and drill all the water wells I needed, although he stopped short of guaranteeing that he would find water. We agreed on a price, and then agreed that he would meet me at Mendoza’s Restaurant in Las Cruces with his rigs and men, on the morning of the fifth of January. On our way out, I asked John how much pipe he had in stock.

Letting out a small groan, he said, “I have too much, and most of it will probably never be used.”

At my raised eyebrow, he led us around back and past the drilling rigs to a row of very large open sided barns. The first barn was empty and the next barn was about three quarters full, but the last four barns were stuffed full of racks of pipes.

“The partially full barn and the full barn next to it, are standard drilling and pumping pipes. The last three barns are full of a much smaller pipe that my supplier assured me was much more efficient and was replacing the larger pipe back east. The problem is no one around here wants the smaller pipe, preferring to stick with the larger pipe they know will work,” John explained.

The more he talked, the larger my smile grew. The smaller pipe would be perfect for indoor water supply and venting, while the larger pipe could be used for waste.

When John was done explaining I said, “John, I’m about to make you a very happy man. I want you to use the small pipe exclusively when you come out to drill all our wells. I still want you to bring a wagonload of the large pipes, because I’ll need it for other things. Additionally, I want to take a half wagonload each, of both the large and small pipe with us when we leave in a few days.”

By the time I was done talking, John’s smile was as big as mine. After making arrangements to pick up the pipe before leaving town, we were on our way to the other side of town to meet the masons.

Giuseppe led me Northwest just outside of town, and pointed to four large prairie schooner wagons grouped around a fire area. As we rode up he explained he was taking me to see a group of four families totaling fifteen men, who were all expert masons. He and Sofia had been in the same wagon train with them. The masons had stopped in El Paso to earn some money for supplies, before going further west. We pulled up and dismounted hitching our horses to the back wheel of one of the wagons. An older man with arms as large as a blacksmith’s came around one of the wagons and broke into a grin welcoming Giuseppe in a heavy German accent.

Giuseppe introduced me to Heinrich Schoenfeld, the leader of this group. Heinrich invited us to have some coffee. As we arranged ourselves at a small table under a dining fly, Giuseppe asked Heinrich if things were going any better than when he’d last seen them.

Heinrich snorted and in his heavy accent said, “No, we’re getting by with doing odd jobs, but no one wants to start a major project during the winter. We are making do, but it’s going to take us a while before we can move on.”

I nodded, looked at Heinrich, and asked, “Where is everyone?”

“All the men are out, either working odd jobs, or looking for work; while the women and children are all down at the river, washing clothes. Today is my day to stay behind and guard the camp.”

I nodded again, removed the Hacienda drawing and plan, and put them both on the table in front of him. “You’re looking at my Hacienda. I want it built of stone.”

His eyes grew larger as he looked at it. “It’s a grand design. I would be honored to bid on it.”

“How long would it take you and your crew to build that at this time of the year, if all the materials were close to the site,” I asked.

“If it doesn’t turn much colder than it is now, it will take about ninety days to build,” he replied after just a few moments of thought.

“How would you want to be paid, by the job or by the day?” I asked.

“That’s really up to you. I can bid it either way, but the price comes out the same. Where is the job?”

He didn’t bat an eye when I told him it was a half days ride north of Las Cruces.

Making a decision I asked him to look at the drawing and plans closely, and then give me a quote for the entire job. Giving me a concerned look to see if I was serious he picked up the papers while I sat back and drank my coffee. After about twenty minutes he looked up at me and gave a price that was way too low.

When I retired from the Air Force and opened up the shooting range in Las Cruces, I had gotten some sound advice from my foster father. He told me if I was serious about the business, then I needed to get the very best people I could find, let them do the job I hired them to do without second guessing, and make sure to pay them more than they would get elsewhere. If I did those three things and nothing else, then I would have extremely loyal employees and they in turn would make sure the business succeeded. It turned out to be very solid advice, and my shooting range was a success from the day it opened.

Thinking about that advice now, I asked Heinrich, “Is that the going rate for El Paso or is it discounted because you and your group need the work?”

“It is a discounted rate,” he said uncomfortably.

I asked him what the going daily rate for mason’s in El Paso was, when there was work. His answer was, in my opinion, still too low.

After a few moments thought, I said, “I have a problem with the going rate. It’s much too low. Give me a quote using twenty dollars a month for masons and thirty for yourself as the master mason.”

“Are you serious?” he exclaimed with a startled look.

“I’m very serious.”

He looked at me for a few seconds and then gave me a number that was half again higher than the last.

I nodded. “You’re hired. Do you accept the job for your entire group, as offered?”

“Thank you. I accept on behalf of the group,” he formally replied. “When should we be ready to leave and will you have someone guide us to where the work is?”

“Please be ready to leave at nine o’clock, in four days’ time. In the meantime, you and your wife are invited to dine with us at Cattleman’s at five this evening. Don’t thank me, yet. Where you’ll be building is dangerous country, as Giuseppe can tell you. By the way, Giuseppe is my Facilities Segundo in charge of all buildings, levees, dams, roads, irrigation facilities, and fences. You and your crew will be working for him. We’ll see you and your wife for dinner, where we can discuss the other projects we are planning on building. You can then start thinking about whether you want to move west after the Hacienda is built, or stay and work for Estancia Dos Santos.”

He nodded and said he’d be there.

On the way back into town, I told Giuseppe he’d done extremely well with both the drilling company and the masons. So well in fact, that he’d earned himself a ten-dollar bonus. He was pleased with both the praise and the bonus.

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