Robledo Mountain
Chapter 26

Copyright© 2018 by Kraken

I was sitting in the restaurant the next morning, finishing up breakfast and thinking about how Anna’s smile seemed to make my day. I’d just taken my last bite when Anna came over with fresh coffee and sat down, giving me another one of my Anna smiles, and asking me what I had planned for the day.

Swallowing my last bite and taking a sip of coffee I said, “I was hoping to talk my fiancée into spending the morning riding with me, and perhaps start learning to shoot. Do you think she would like that idea?”

Anna was beaming me a super charged Anna smile. “I think your fiancée would definitely like that.”

She bolted out of the chair, gave me a hug and a kiss, and said she’d be back as quick as she could.

She was back in minutes, wearing one of her new riding sets. We walked over to the stable to get our horses. I let Mr. Mendoza know that Anna and I were going riding, and while we were out I was going to start teaching her to shoot. I invited him to go with us but he waved me off, telling me to enjoy our ride. I nodded, retrieved the weapons from the hayloft, and rejoined Anna.

Mounting up we rode north behind the stables. After waving to Mr. Mendoza at his table Anna asked me, “Why are you carrying the rifle, when you told me you don’t like carrying it in town since it only invites questions?”

“There are very few people back this way to see us, so the risk is minimized as much as possible. We’ll also go back to the stable the same way,” I replied.

We chatted as we rode north, and eventually west. We talked about the Hacienda, the village store, the farmers and what they would need, as well as the philosophy both of us hoped to foster on the Estancia. Finally, we rode down into an arroyo that met our needs, and dismounted.

Anna helped me pick up sticks for our targets, and we stuck them in the sandy bottom of the arroyo near a bend in the wall. I drew the pistol and handed it to Anna, asking her to hold it for a few minutes and then took off my belt and unthreaded the holster. I put the belt around Anna’s waist to get an idea of where to cut a new hole. Once I’d cut a new hole, I rethreaded the holster for a right hand cross draw, and handed it to Anna taking the pistol back. Anna put the belt on, and I had her reposition the holster forward nearer to the buckle. I handed her the pistol and told her to holster it.

“Anna, half the battle in learning to shoot well and shoot quickly, is getting comfortable with the weapon; and that includes wearing it. After we’re married, you will almost always carry a pistol with you. The cross-draw holster will help you with speed in drawing, as well as keeping the pistol more secure and accessible from a sitting position, and on horseback.”

I had her practice drawing and holstering the pistol as we talked about muscle memory, and its effect on speed and action in an emergency.

When she was looking comfortable we walked out thirty yards from the targets, and I told her to draw, fire at one of the targets, and holster the pistol. Damn! The girl could shoot. When she’d gone through two magazines, hitting seventy-five percent of the targets, I had her reload the two magazines and we moved back another ten yards before she started again.

This time I talked about speed versus accuracy, and how accuracy was much more important than speed. If she had to sacrifice one over the other then speed should always be sacrificed for better accuracy. I gave her tips on firing stances to limit the target she presented, but again warned her that some stances provided better accuracy than others. We also talked about aim points, and how she should always aim for the center of mass, between the neck and belly button for humans. When she’d gone through two magazines, we stopped again.

I was marveling at her accuracy. She’d continued to hit over seventy-five percent of her targets and those that missed were near misses. She reloaded, and we moved back ten more yards which put us fifty yards from the targets.

Before she started shooting I said, “Anna, this is beyond the maximum range for most snap shots. Most people don’t practice enough at any distance and don’t have the hand eye coordination to handle the speed and distance involved.”

I showed her the modified Weaver two handed stance I used at this distance and beyond. While I was at it I explained the sights and drew what a good sight picture should like in the sand. I had her draw and shoot three times at the same target using the new stance and the sights. This time she missed all three shots slightly to the left. When I asked where on the stick she was aiming she told me at the center. I nodded and told her to do it again. She missed just to the left again.

I asked her for the gun and when she handed it to me I fired three quick shots using the same stance she had been using and hit the target all three times. Anna was beginning to get upset, now.

“Anna, the primary problem with sights on pistols, is that it takes a lot of practice to figure out how far the sights are off and to learn to compensate for that. The designer of this pistol figured out a way to raise and lower the sights as well as move them right and left to make the sights adjust to the person firing the pistol, rather than making the person learn to adjust their aim. The reason you missed those last shots was because the sights were set for my style of shooting, not yours,” I explained.

I showed her the little screws on the top and right of the rear sight and explained that we needed to adjust the sights to the right and down showing her how to do it.

When that was done I handed her the pistol back. She drew and shot three more shots, hitting every single one. My reward was the biggest super megawatt Anna smile I had ever seen.

I smiled back at her, congratulated her, and told her to finish off the two magazines she had. She missed one shot by a hair! When she was done, I gave her a big hug and kiss telling her she’d done extremely well. Score! Another humongous Anna smile. Five minutes later we’d picked up the empty brass, and were riding back to Las Cruces.

Just before we reached the stable I said, “If we go riding tomorrow, I’ll start teaching you to use the rifle.”

With a jerk of the reins she stopped her horse. “Why wouldn’t we go riding tomorrow?” she asked with a frown.

“I don’t know your plans for tomorrow, Anna. I don’t want to make demands,” I quickly responded.

She beamed me an Anna smile, nodded, and started her horse forward again. “You are one of only a few people who can make demands of me, Pablo. Of course, whether I meet those demands or not is a different story!”

I led her to the courtyard between the restaurant and her house, and told her I’d see her soon for lunch. I got my Anna smile, a nod, and a thank you before she turned and went inside to change.

Taking care of the horses and the weapons was a matter of a few minutes. I hurried over to the restaurant looking for my Anna smile. Anna was standing by my table with lunch waiting for us.

A little later we walked down the streets of Las Cruces, with Anna on my arm for the first time. The experience was highly enjoyable, but slightly surreal, given my thoughts of the first time I entered Las Cruces over three years ago. However, the experience with the seamstress was even more surreal.

During the entire three hours we were there, I found myself continually comparing this experience with clothes shopping with Laura in the 20th century. With the exception of staying in one shop, instead of going store to store, it wasn’t really any different. The discussions of colors, cuts, styles, and stitches, were just as boring now as it would be in the future. I did manage to maintain my sense of humor, and amiably answered all questions I was asked. When the seamstress asked for my thoughts on a particular cloth, color, or style I was always careful to parrot Anna’s opinion or ask her for her thoughts.

When the torture had concluded, it had been decided that my wedding suit would be what I called a Vaquero Mariachi suit. You know the ones I mean. Black pants with silver embroidery down the sides of the legs, and a matching short waisted coat also with enough silver embroidery on it to fund an entire cottage industry! A white shirt with black string tie completed the suit. My church and business suits were more normal, with full western cut coats. I also insisted that all my pants fit just above my hips, what hips I had, and include belt loops.

I dropped Anna off at the restaurant before leaving to find Mr. Mendoza. Mr. Mendoza was in his spot at the table repairing another bridle, accompanied by Mr. Garcia. I sat down and gave them an account of the torture I’d endured this afternoon, before turning the discussion to how good a pistol shot Anna was.

Mr. Garcia handed me a pouch and asked me to give it to Lion Killer, the next time I saw him.

At my confused look he said, “‘Lion Killer’ is Giuseppe’s Apache name. The mountain lion claws and teeth have all been cleaned, polished, and strung on a necklace with silver beads. Please tell him to put it on immediately, and take it off only when absolutely called for, as it contains great spirit medicine.”

I nodded and put the pouch in my pocket, while thanking him for the gift on Giuseppe’s behalf and for conducting the spirit ceremony over the necklace. Mr. Mendoza picked that moment to stand up and tell us it was time for dinner.

We walked in the back door and watched the kitchen dance as normal, before deftly making our way through it and into the family dining room. Watching the kitchen dance reminded me, and when Anna brought us coffee I asked her how much dancing there would be after the wedding. She told me that she and I would have to dance for about an hour during the reception, before we could leave.

I gave out a big groan. “Anna, after your quinceanera, I shouldn’t have to remind you that I don’t know how to dance. I’m going to need some lessons.”

“Good point, Pablo; but don’t worry, I’ll gather the musicians, and we can start practicing tomorrow afternoon,” she replied with a large smile as she disappeared back into the kitchen.

I picked up the guitar and started playing, nothing in particular, just strumming the strings, and thinking about the torture I’d gone through this afternoon, and the torture I was sure I was going to experience tomorrow afternoon.

Mr. Mendoza asked what I was thinking so hard about. I started at his question, looked at him, and sang “Mi Vida Loca.” That brought a grin to everyone’s face. Then I got serious, and told him it was getting harder and harder to leave Anna after every visit. He nodded, thought for a minute, and then told me to take her with me. I was shocked! I know my jaw must have been on the floor.

He and Mr. Garcia laughed loudly, and when I’d recovered he said, “It isn’t like she wouldn’t be chaperoned. There are the mason families, the wagon teams, and her Garcia cousins are there, too. While I trust both Anna and you, it is a simple matter to arrange for you to sleep with the masons, like you did the night we all used your house during our visit.”

“I really like the idea, Sir,” I said enthusiastically. “Before I bring it up to Anna though, I want to check with Heinrich and Anya to see if they will act as formal chaperones.”

He nodded and went back to work mending the harness in front of him.

Anna was animated and dominated the dinner conversation. I really enjoyed seeing her so happy as she told everyone about our ride, the shooting lessons, the time with the seamstress and the suits we’d ordered. When she was done with that, she went into the plans for tomorrow, and enlisted her aunts help in teaching me to dance. I rolled my eyes at Mr. Mendoza and he grinned.

Luckily, I wasn’t caught, or I’m sure I’d have gotten a good arm slap. After dinner, the little ones wanted a couple of songs, so I sang them the “Unicorn Song” and “Puff the Magic Dragon.” When I was done they thanked me, and went off to bed. As the adults started drifting out, I was strumming a melody trying to remember what song it was to. Anna asked what it was, and suddenly I remembered. I smiled at Anna and sang “Seeing My Father in Me.”

I woke up the next morning remembering my goodnight Anna smile, hug, and kiss, and was looking forward to the good morning versions. The actual versions were even better than I’d imagined. Anna joined me for breakfast again, and this time she was already dressed for riding. I checked that she had the pistol on before leaving the restaurant. When the stable boy led our horses out we mounted up and rode north out of Las Cruces again. Anna had her smile going at full wattage, and her eyes were twinkling.

We used the same arroyo as the day before for today’s rifle practice starting at a hundred yards. As she had yesterday, she was hitting high and to the left before she adjusted the scope. The girl was going to be dangerous in a fight, if she kept her cool and didn’t let the adrenaline rush get her. She was dead on target with every shot from all three positions up to four hundred yards.

After two hours of shooting at various distances, I had her walk down to the wall with me and we leaned a series of two sticks into the wall about waist high one a bit above the other.

We went back to the first firing position, and I had her to flip the selector switch to the three-round burst position. I reminded her this option was usually only used in the standing position, because it allowed the best control of muzzle climb. It took a few tries, but she eventually learned to lean into the rifle at a slight angle, and aim just above the bottom of the upper stick. The first time she did it correctly, the first bullet hit where the belly button would be, the second hit in the middle, and the third hit just below the neck. I had her fire another magazine, then told her it was time to head back.

I dropped Anna off at the courtyard a few minutes before noon, took the horses over to the stable, put everything away in the hayloft, and went over to the restaurant to rejoin Anna.

Anna wasn’t back when I got to the restaurant, and I headed for my table where I saw Tom Murphy sitting talking to Juan. Shaking hands with Tom and Juan, I sat down and exchanged pleasantries. Tom commented that Mr. Mendoza had been extremely helpful when he arrived.

“From everything Juan has been telling me, I’m looking forward to lunch,” Tom added.

“The food here is absolutely the best,” I replied with a big grin.

Juan chuckled and said, “You might be just a little biased, but the food is very good here.”

Anna arrived with coffee, and I introduced her to Tom as she sat down with us.

“Tom this is Mr. and Mrs. Mendoza’s granddaughter, Anna, my fiancée,” I said.

“Well congratulations to you both. Now I know why I received such good treatment from Mr. Mendoza.”

When we were done laughing, Juan told me that the lime and scaffolding had been delivered and that he had ordered all the material Jorge had asked for. We talked for a few more minutes, before Anna got up to get our lunches.

“We’re probably going to have to find a new quarry site when we go out to the Hacienda tomorrow, because the one I have been using has a water seep in the wall. I certainly don’t want to chance hitting a spring, yet,” I told the two of them while we waited.

Tom gave a shrug of his wide shoulders. “Finding water is always a good thing, but not for running a quarry. Is a new site going to be hard to find?”

“It may take a couple of days, Tom, but we have a whole mountain to choose from. The only thing we really need to consider, is accessibility for wagons,” I replied.

Anna arrived with our lunches: cheeseburgers and fries with cold tea, and we all settled into enjoying the meal and conversation.

“Anna, where are we going to practice dancing?” I asked.

“It’s such a pleasant day, I thought the courtyard would be nice,” Anna responded with a grin.

I groaned at the thought of my public humiliation. Juan and Anna laughed. Tom looked interested and asked what we were talking about.

Juan took the opportunity to answer. “Pablo does many things very well, Tom, but dancing is not one of them. He needs a lot of practice if he doesn’t want to embarrass Anna, or himself, at the wedding reception.”

Juan and Tom decided to join the fun and watch Anna and her aunts try to teach me to dance. The three musicians were laughing so hard they had a difficult time playing the music, and keeping a beat. After four hours of stumbling around I was finally starting to get the steps down on three different dances.

Anna flashed me one of my Anna smiles, laughed, and disappeared inside the restaurant. She returned a few moments later, carrying a big pitcher of cool tea and glasses. As we sat and talked about the dances I couldn’t help but acknowledge that I needed a lot of practice.

Tom asked where the hotel was, as he still had to check in. I told him where it was, and then told him that I found the hayloft more comfortable than the hotel beds. He thought about it, and decided to ask Mr. Mendoza for the use of the hayloft as well. I thanked everyone for their time and help in trying to teach me to dance, and then told everyone I was going to go get a bath before dinner.

The hot bath felt really good, but reminded me how much I was missing my hot showers in the RV not to mention better soap. I mentally added milder soap and shampoo to the list of things I wanted to get in Santa Fe. After the bath, a trim, and a shave, I rejoined Mr. Mendoza and Tom at the table behind the stable.

Tom had been regaling Mr. Mendoza with stories about my dance lessons, and I grumbled that it was torture. They both laughed, and Tom said it was certainly torture watching me. After a few minutes of joking around at my expense Mr. Mendoza asked me if I’d given any more thought on my discussions with my cousins, tomorrow. Tom took in the exchange with a concerned look on his face as soon as the word Apache was used.

“Tom, my parents died when I was young. The Apache Garcias found me, and adopted me. All the Garcias are my family, to the Apache way of thinking.”

For the rest of the afternoon we talked about the Apache, the white man’s perceptions of them, and the truth of how the Apache lived day to day. We were losing light fast when Mr. Mendoza said it was time for dinner. Apparently, Tom had been invited to the family dinner.

We walked over to the back door and entered the kitchen, stopping as usual to marvel at the kitchen dance before Mr. Mendoza led us back into the family dining room.

Tom was looking around, saw the painting sitting on the sideboard, and moved over to examine it more closely.

“Tom, that’s where you’re going tomorrow, although it doesn’t look like that, yet. None of what you see in the painting has been built yet. Only the Hacienda has started construction. The farmers, vaqueros, cattle, and horses are on their way,” Anna said in explanation.

Tom gave a nod. “Now I understand why you want all that rock.”

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