Copyright© 2018 by Kraken
I finished my breakfast, basking in the glow of my morning Anna smile, hug, and kiss. Just to make my day even better I got another Anna smile when I paid for breakfast. I was on my way to find Mr. Mendoza when I ran into Juan. After exchanging pleasantries, I asked him to send a wagon of lime, all the scaffolding he could spare, and the longest ladders he had out to the Hacienda. He said he could do that but wasn’t sure exactly where the Hacienda was being built.
“Juan, if you travel up the Camino Real about twelve miles you will see a camp just across the river, with four prairie schooner wagons and next to that a small Apache camp. That’s where everything needs to be delivered.”
“It will be there today, Pablo. By the way, everything that was ordered has arrived so we’re all set,” he replied.
I thanked him and then, on a whim, asked, “Do you know anyone who has rose bushes for sale, or can you order rose bushes?”
He looked at me curiously. “There aren’t any around Las Cruces that I know of but I can order them from Maes Freight in Mesilla.”
The name Maes tickled the back of my memory somewhere deep in my mind. Then it came to me. Poor Mrs. Maes, killing her son’s lover Inez with a pair of scissors in a fit of extreme anger, and accidentally killing her son Armando in the process. She’d eventually suffered a complete breakdown, and the Maes family had disappeared from Mesilla. In my original timeline, the Maes mansion would ultimately become the Double Eagle Restaurant.
“Has anyone heard from the Maes family since they left?” I asked curiously.
“No, not a word but so far the company is continuing to run smoothly,” he replied.
I nodded, and then got back on track. “Juan, I’d like to order enough rose bushes to fill the planters in both courtyards as well as eight large pots for the terrace. I know red roses are Anna’s favorite so just red roses Juan, no other color.”
He smiled. “For Anna, I will find them. It may take a while but you’ll have them as soon as I can get them here.”
I set off for the stables, once again in search of Mr. Mendoza. I found him in his usual spot working on another set harnesses.
Sitting down I asked, “Sir, have you had an opportunity to talk to the farmer and his wife about meeting with me and Mrs. Amador?”
He nodded. “They will be at the restaurant for lunch, and I will introduce you.”
I thanked him and said I was going to let Mrs. Amador know we’d be coming by after lunch to talk.
I walked into Mrs. Amador’s store to the sound of Martin’s deep laugh, somewhere in the back storeroom. Mrs. Amador came out of the back smiling to herself and greeted me.
“Mrs. Amador, I’ll be coming over after lunch with a lady to talk with you about supplying our future needs,” I said after returning her greeting.
“That’s fine, Pablo. That’s usually a pretty slow time in the store so I should have time for uninterrupted discussion.”
Before I left I ordered sixty days of my standard supplies, and eight sets of heavy leather work gloves.
On the way back to the restaurant, I got my other errands out of the way: ordering supplies, picking up my orders, and a quick stop at the gun store to place a standing order for both 12 gauge and 20 gauge weapons as well as shells.
I walked in the restaurant with my hands full, trying to juggle the branding irons and picture frame I was carrying while opening the door. Anna, beaming one of her magnificent smiles, opened the door, and relieved me of the picture frame, giving me a one-armed hug and a quick kiss before walking me back to the family dining room. I leaned the branding irons against the wall by the sideboards.
Anna and I put the painting in the frame, and admired it for a few moments before she looked over at me with the devil dancing in her eyes.
“Mi Pablo, you know I love you with all my heart and I would do almost anything for you. However, there is one thing I refuse to do.” I must have had a concerned look on my face because she hurriedly continued before I could interrupt her. “I will not marry you until you have appropriate clothes! What you are wearing now and what you wear at the Estancia are fine for everyday activities, my love, but not for attending Church and especially not for our wedding.”
“Hmm. You’re right, of course. One of the many things I’ve either forgotten about, or let slip. I probably need a few suits for conducting business in Santa Fe and El Paso, while we’re at it,” I mused.
Anna nodded. “Good. I’m glad you agree,” she said with a grin. “As you know, we don’t have a tailor in town yet, so I’ve made an appointment with the seamstress for tomorrow afternoon, to talk about suit designs, colors, and fabrics. Once that’s done, she can take your measurements, and I will take care of the rest; except, of course, the intermediate and final fittings which you can do on your trips into town.”
I groaned inwardly at the thought of spending half a day talking about fabrics, colors, cuts, and styles, but gave Anna a smile.
With that out of the way I asked, “Do you know where Hector is? I need to talk to him.”
“The last I saw of him, he was on his way to see grandfather at the stables,” she replied before disappearing back into the kitchen.
As expected, I found Hector with Mr. Mendoza at the table behind the stable. I sat down, greeting them both, and asked Hector if now was a good time to talk. At Hector’s nod, Mr. Mendoza started to get up.
“Please stay as well, Sir, if you aren’t too busy,” I quickly said.
He sat back down without a word, and started working on his harnesses again.
“Hector you said yesterday that you would be leaving tomorrow to return to the Rancho near Chihuahua, to get your vaqueros and bring them back here to work for me. Is this still your intention?”
“Yes. I want to bring my vaqueros and everything we talked about back here. I also need to get married, gather wagons and supplies, and talk to my friend Tomas Salazar at the Finca and ask him to come with us.”
“Hector, if your intention is to come back here then is there any reason I can’t hire you now as Rancho Segundo for Estancia Dos Santos?”
“No, not that I can think of. I told the idiot sons when I left, that I was going to find a new job for myself and the other vaqueros so I don’t really work for them anymore,” he replied after a moment’s thought.
“Excellent! Then as of now, you are the Rancho Segundo of Estancia Dos Santos. Your first job is to go back to Chihuahua. Hire vaqueros and wranglers, buy cattle and horses, brand all the livestock with the Dos Santos brand, and find a wagon load of alfalfa and timothy seeds. If possible, find and hire an experienced Finca Segundo you trust. Once you have as much of that list as you can get, you will drive the livestock from Chihuahua to Rancho Dos Santos, bringing the families of everyone you hire. Do you have any questions?”
Hector’s face had broken into a big smile as I was talking, but now he got serious as he thought. He nodded and said, “I have a few. First, what will the pay be for the various positions? Second, how much do you want to spend on the cattle, horses, and seed? Third, what do I use to pay for everything? Fourth, what do you want to do about wagons and supplies for the families? Fifth, how do I pay the men while we’re getting ready, and during the trip here?”
I told Hector those were all good questions. I reached into my coat, pulled out the leather document wallet, and pulled out a piece of paper handing it to Hector.
“This is a list of all the positions I thought you would hire, and the pay for each. Look it over today and make sure I didn’t miss any positions. We’ll talk after dinner tonight and add any I might have missed. We’ll figure out the pay based on what the other positions are paid. If your friend agrees to come work for me as Finca Segundo his pay will be the same as yours.”
When he nodded I reached into the wallet and handed him another piece of paper that listed the numbers of cattle and horses I thought he should buy, and a range of what I thought he should pay for each head of livestock.
“Look that over today and see if you agree with the numbers and price ranges. Obviously, I’m looking for the lowest price I can get, but I also want to be realistic about what you may find when you get back. If the prices have gone up above the range I’ve given then don’t buy any. Just bring the people and their families back. I’m not sure about the price of alfalfa and timothy seed but perhaps your friend can give you some guidance on that. As for wagons and mules for the families, I want you buy them for the Estancia and lend them to the families for the trip. We will talk more about that this evening as well.”
When he nodded I reached into the wallet, and handed him a third piece of paper.
“This is a letter of introduction and authorization, naming you Rancho Segundo of Estancia Dos Santos. It gives my authorization for you to conduct business on behalf of the Estancia to include hiring, buying and selling cattle, horses, and grain as well as to conduct any other business transaction you feel necessary to complete the tasks I’ve given you.”
When he was done reading the letter I handed him the final piece of paper.
“This is a bank draft for twenty thousand dollars, drawn on the 1st El Paso Bank. That will be honored by the bank in Chihuahua. Keep it safe. You will use that to open an account at the bank, and you will use the funds to pay for everything you need. Before you leave Chihuahua, you are to close the account, and either get a bank draft for the remaining funds or the money, and return that to me. After dinner tonight, I will give you enough money to cover five months of payroll while you are gone.”
Hector was holding all the paper in his hands with a stunned look on his face. I handed him the leather wallet, and told him to use it to carry the papers in. As he was putting the papers back in the wallet, I reached over and picked up two of the branding irons I’d brought with me.
This is the brand for Estancia Dos Santos. It’s already registered in Texas. Placement is on the right rear flank,” I said as I handed him the irons.
He absently took the branding irons, while still wearing the stunned look on his face. “How can you trust me with all this responsibility and money? You hardly know me.”
I looked over at Mr. Mendoza who had a grin on his face and asked him, “Do you trust Hector, Mr. Mendoza?”
When he said yes, I looked at Hector. “That’s all I need to know.”
Hector sat looking back and forth from me to Mr. Mendoza to the wallet. Finally, he stood up. “I’m going back to the room to look everything over, and think about what I need to do. I’ll see you this evening.”
A few minutes after he left, Mr. Mendoza and I walked over to the restaurant for our meeting. Walking into the restaurant had always been a bright spot in my trips to Las Cruces because that’s where Anna was and where I got most of my Anna smiles. Today’s lunchtime entrance was no different.
Anna pointed back to my normal table where a man and woman were sitting. “Your guests arrived a few minutes ago, Grandfather.”
Mr. Mendoza introduced me to Jesus and Lupe Sanchez. As we sat down Anna brought us all coffee.
After Anna had left, Mr. Mendoza said, “I’ve told Jesus about the Finca you are starting, what the pay will be, and the house in Village Dos Santos that goes with it.”
At my nod of understanding Jesus added, “From everything Mr. Mendoza has told me I’m looking forward to working on the Estancia.”
We talked generally about the Estancia for a few minutes before I asked Jesus to tell me his story. He looked at me obviously not understanding what I was asking. I clarified it by asking where he grew up, how he learned to be a farmer, what crops he had learned to grow, and what else he did besides farming.
After a few moments of thought, Jesus began his tale. “I grew up on a finca on the Rio Grande, Southeast of El Paso, where my father worked in the apple and pecan orchards. When I was old enough I began working with my father learning how to plant, care for, and harvest the orchards. At fourteen, I was considered capable of doing a man’s work. I was hired by the finca, and assigned to work the alfalfa and timothy grass fields. Lupe’s parents opened a small store near the finca around then, and the first time I saw her I was in love. Eventually we married and started a family. At the beginning of the most recent war, soldiers came and burned the finca taking everything that had been harvested with them. Times were hard during the war, but they became tougher when Santa Ana lost. The finca owners discovered they were on the wrong side of the river, and their land was now in the US. Like many others, the owners sold the land and moved back into Mexico, well away from the border, leaving those that had worked for them without land to farm or a way to support themselves. We took our daughters and four bags of seed and worked our way north along the Rio Grande, looking for a place to farm. We eventually found some empty land along the river between Mesilla and Las Cruces where we set up our farm. The first two years went exceedingly well, with good harvests of six cuttings each year from the alfalfa and timothy grass I planted. Two years ago, after getting two good cuttings, the fields were killed by early flooding. Last year I only planted half my normal fields and only with timothy grass as that was all the seed I had. Things went well at first but then blight started killing the timothy grass, and I’m now left with no hay to sell and no seeds to plant. We have and will continue to survive, as we grow and can all our own produce in our large garden and the chickens in our coop produce more than enough eggs. We also make a little money selling honey from the bees I keep to pollinate my fields. I am a farmer though, and my work is farming, not just surviving. If you have a place for me where I can work, then that’s where I want to be.”
When he’d finished I said, “It’s an all too familiar story for farmers: either feast or famine. Your experience with pecan and apple orchards, as well as alfalfa and timothy grass are of great value to me. You can rest assured that you will have a job with me. I’m also interested in the bee hives. Tell me more about them, please.”
We talked for a few minutes about the hives, how many he had, when they last swarmed, and how much honey each hive produced. I told him I was looking to buy some hives, and move them to the Estancia if he was interested in selling a few of them. He had five hives that were swarming now and he was very interested in selling the new hives. We haggled for a few minutes, settling on a price we both could live with.
“Jesus, bring the new hives with you when you bring your family out to the Estancia.”
He thought for a moment and then asked, “What should I do with the old hives when we move?”
“Why bring them, too! I can never have enough bees on the Estancia. If you have no objection we can scatter the hives out over the Estancia. That way the Estancia gets the benefit of your bees pollinating the crops, and you can harvest and sell the honey for a little extra money. I’ll also buy any new swarms you want to sell in the future,” I said with a grin.
Both Jesus and Lupe liked my solution.
Turning to Lupe, I asked, “Tell me what you learned growing up as a store owner’s daughter.”
With a light shrug, she replied. “I guess I learned what most kids whose parents own a store learn. How to keep track of inventory, stock shelves, identify items that aren’t selling and items that should be added, how to price items to make a fair profit, and how to keep the books.”
“Does that mean you can read, write, and do sums?” I asked.
“My parents insisted I learn, and I insisted my children learn as well.”
I nodded and thought for a minute. “Lupe, one of the things I overlooked in my planning was a village store. I think you could help me correct that oversight. Are you interested in running the village store, and making extra money in the process?”
She looked at Jesus and that silent husband and wife communication happened. Turning back to me she said, “I’d be very interested.”
“Good! Right now, I’m leaning towards you owning the inventory, and taking all the profits that are made. I will, of course, lend you the money for the original inventory and you will repay me a small amount every month until the loan is repaid. If you are still interested after hearing that, then I’m meeting with Mrs. Amador right after lunch. I would like you to go with me.”
Lupe looked at me and asked, “Why are you involving Mrs. Amador, and what role will she play in the store?”
“Lupe, Mrs. Amador, along with Mr. Mendoza, were very kind to me when I showed up in town with almost nothing but my name. They took it upon themselves to help me get on my feet, and this is my way of paying them back for that kindness. As far as I am concerned, Mrs. Amador will be the village store’s wholesale supplier. That relationship could change in the future if there is a solid business reason for it to change, but for now that’s what I want to do. As for Mr. Mendoza, his freight line will carry the supplies from Mrs. Amador’s warehouse to the village.”
Lupe smiled. “I’m glad that both Mrs. Amador and Mr. Mendoza are involved.”
I walked up to pay for the meals, getting my Anna smile, hug, and kiss. She gave me a questioning look and glanced at Lupe. I nodded and my Anna smile went to high beams! Anna gave Lupe a hug and told her she was glad that things were working out. Lupe smiled at Anna and thanked her. Before leaving the restaurant, I walked back to the family dining room and picked up the painting, covering it with the small blanket.
Lupe and I walked into Mrs. Amador’s store a few minutes later, and found Mrs. Amador behind the counter unpacking a new shipment of clothes. She gave us a smile and came down the counter to where we were standing. I started to introduce them to each other, but Mrs. Amador quickly stopped me saying that she and Lupe were old friends.
Turning to Mrs. Amador I said, “Mrs. Amador, instead of just ordering supplies as we discussed, I’ve decided what I need is a store. Lupe has agreed to be the store owner and I will lend her the money for the initial inventory. Would you consider acting as the wholesale supplier to Lupe for all the store’s needs?”
Both of them looked at each other for a few seconds, before smiling and nodding yes to my questions. I smiled back and said, “I will leave in a few minutes to let you get to your planning, but first you both need to understand what’s going on, and a little about the initial timing.”
I put the painting on the counter, took off the blanket, and turned it so both of them could see it clearly.
“This is Estancia Dos Santos; or, more correctly, it’s how it will look in a few years. Right now, the only thing on the land is my Hacienda which is under construction. My Facilities Segundo and his assistant are out there right now surveying and laying out the Village of Dos Santos which is where the store will be. The village is currently sized to hold three hundred farmers as well as their families. A drilling company will start drilling water wells the second week in January. They will stay until they’ve drilled enough wells to support the people and activities in the Hacienda, Village, and Ranch Operations areas. Selected farmers have been told to start arriving on the fifteenth of February to begin building the Village. More farmers are scheduled to arrive every month after that, and begin building the levees which must be completed before we can plant a single crop.
Sometime after late summer somewhere between sixty and a hundred vaqueros herding a minimum of eight thousand head of cattle will arrive from Mexico. They will arrive with their families, and a remuda of around four hundred horses.
That’s the plan, but things can and will happen. Some families will show up with enough supplies to last them thirty days while other families will arrive with no supplies at all. The store needs to be flexible enough to handle both too many people, and not enough people. In the first six months of operations I want it to be able to provide some level of basic food, clothing, and cooking supplies; with a few other items thrown in, like candy, as luxury items. I specifically want the store to carry a large inventory of heavy leather work gloves for the first twenty-four months. The farmers and vaqueros will be working with heavy stone for most of that time, to get all sixteen miles of levees built along the river as well as other construction projects. After the first six months, I expect the store to meet most of the needs of the villagers with the added ability to special order items from Mrs. Amador.
Jorge Ortega has designed all the buildings on the Estancia, and I have authorized him to modify one end of the Finca Operations building to meet the needs of the store. I would like both of you to sit down with Jorge after dinner tonight, and talk to him about any specific needs you have, and look at what he comes up with for the design.”
Mrs. Amador and Lupe were alternately staring at the painting and me with glazed eyes. I covered the painting up to get their attention refocused.
Mrs. Amador asked, “Why haven’t I heard anything about this before?”
Ma’am, only six people in town knew the details of what I was planning, and they gave their promise to keep it quiet. Just as I am now asking you to keep it quiet. People I trust are recruiting selected farmers to come work on the new Estancia. Those farmers are told it will be hard work, that they will be paid well, and will be provided housing. Most importantly, they will be told not to expect to plant a single crop for the first two years. They are told the Estancia is near Las Cruces but they are not told my name. I want it kept that way for as long as possible.”