Robledo Mountain
Chapter 28

Copyright© 2018 by Kraken

Six weeks later I was again laying in Mr. Mendoza’s hayloft. Tom’s even breathing and soft snores provided background accompaniment, as I marveled at everything that had happened in such a short time.

With the exception of the six days Tom and I spent on a trip to El Paso, and a two-day trip to the Hacienda, the four of us had spent virtually all of our time together. The first morning of our two week visit at the Hacienda they’d seen me practicing Tai Chi on the plateau in the early dawn. From that point on, we started our mornings with Tai Chi followed by breakfast, a morning ride, shooting practice, lunch, camp chores, Aikido practice, dinner, and dance practice.

Through all this, the bond between Anna and I grew ever stronger. At times it seemed like we’d been married for years as the unspoken communication of long time lovers came so naturally to us. More and more often, a shared look, a small squeeze of the hand, or touch of a knee; was all it took to let the other know what our innermost thoughts on a subject or question were.

The friendship between and amongst the four of us also blossomed, with a level of trust I wasn’t used to, outside of my relationships with Laura and JT. We learned much about each other sharing our childhoods, adventures growing up, and future dreams.

Anna hadn’t been kidding when she’d told me that she and Yolanda were like sisters, rather than cousins. It didn’t take long for Tom and I to come to the understanding that there were absolutely no secrets between those two. That is, no secrets other than the fact that I was born in the future, the existence of the cave, and the source of the gold. I’m sure if it had been up to Anna, she’d have shared those as well; but she told me that those weren’t her secrets to share, and I would be the one who would have to share them, if and when the time was right.

Last Christmas, Anna had told me that Yolanda was the smartest person she knew, and was capable of learning anything she wanted to learn. I hadn’t really dismissed her claim, but I had discounted it somewhat in the belief that Anna just hadn’t met all that many people. In our two weeks at the Hacienda, it became obvious to me that Anna hadn’t been exaggerating at all. Yolanda was the only one, besides her grandmother, who was fluent in Apache. Thanks to a Padre at one of the El Paso missions she was also conversant, if not fluent, in Latin, Italian, and French.

Yolanda was also well versed in higher math, including algebra, geometry, and calculus. This became very apparent when she corrected a small error in Giuseppe’s survey notes of the village, as well as one of Heinrich’s calculations for the forms he was designing for the stairs. Her knowledge of calculus also came out during our daily shooting practice. While she was better than adequate with a pistol and rifle, her skill at long shots was apparent the first time she picked up the scoped A700 sniper rifle. It was obvious to me after her first few shots that she had that almost magical ingrained instinct combining the weapon, scope, target, environment, and math, that I’d seen in all the really good snipers over the years. Our morning shooting practice for the last six weeks had quickly devolved into a few minutes of all four of us practicing with the pistol and rifle before Yolanda and I would move to another area to practice with the A700. Most of that time Yolanda was the one doing the shooting while I gave her tips and spotted her shots. I also helped her set up range tables for different distances in a small notebook I gave her.

It finally got to the point that I gave both Tom and Yolanda their own pistols and rifles, with Yolanda also receiving her own A700 in addition. Yolanda was just too good of a long distance shot not to be armed with an A700. By then, I also knew that Tom was going to stay on to run the quarry, and strongly suspected that Yolanda would be moving to the Hacienda after Anna and I were married.

The biggest revelation about Yolanda, however, was the fact that she was neither a shrinking violet nor shy. By the time we returned to Las Cruces, Tom and I had learned Yolanda simply didn’t say much, preferring to listen and watch, unless she felt something was important enough for her to speak. As a matter of fact, there were times she was downright loquacious.

The attraction between Tom and Yolanda strengthened more every day, until it soon rivaled the bond of love between Anna and me. Although the four of us were usually together, there were times that Tom’s interest in engineering drove him to spend the afternoons with either Giuseppe, learning how to survey, or with Heinrich, learning more about concrete, making and pouring forms, or discussing weight distribution techniques for multi-story houses. Most of those times, Yolanda was with him once she discovered that all those activities often involved the use of complex math.

Tom proved to be as complex as I’d suspected, with a past family life that made him reluctant to open up to others. The two weeks all four of us spent at the Estancia finally broke through his normal reserve. He revealed his story to us as we rode back to Las Cruces.

“My parents had a ranch in central Texas, where my older brother and I were born. My mother died when I was two during a Comanche raid. My father was heartbroken, never did remarry, and, even now, is extremely bitter. When I was twelve, he sold the ranch and bought another one, southeast of El Paso. The move was a great experience, as the three of us drove five hundred head of cattle over rough country to our new ranch. Things were better the next few years and the ranch prospered. That all stopped with the start of the Mexican American war. My older brother decided to join the 1st Texas Volunteer Cavalry, and rode into Mexico with the rest of the army. He was killed somewhere deep in Mexico near the middle of the war. My father was devastated at the news and railed against all Mexicans, firing the few hands we had on the ranch because they were all Mexicans. I was able to keep the ranch going for another year but doing it single handed proved to just be too much. Dad finally sold the ranch and we moved to El Paso, opening the gun store and specializing in blasting after I got the job in the quarry.”

Something told me that Tom hadn’t told us everything though, and I asked him for the rest of the story that evening as we were preparing for bed.

Tom sighed and said, “When we make that trip to El Paso for the new wagon in a couple of days, I’m going to tell my father I’m leaving him to run the store completely on his own, so I can move to a new job outside Las Cruces. And, oh yeah, by the way, I’m in love with a Hispano lady with Indian blood who I love more than life itself.” He gave a deep sigh and finished. “I really understated the level of his hatred for all things Indian and Hispano. I’m not hopeful that Dad is going to take the news well.”

Tom continued to talk in a subdued voice for a few more minutes. Finally, he ran down and I offered the only thing I could come up with.

“Perhaps if you told your father that you loved Yolanda as much as he loved your mother, it might start to get through to him. It might be best not to mention the Indian blood just yet. You’ll tell him eventually of course, but giving him everything at once might be too much for him to handle. You might also extend an open invitation to your father to visit Las Cruces, and the Estancia, so he can get to know the people involved including the woman you’re in love with.”

Tom said those were all good points, and thanked me for letting him talk before he turned on his side and fell asleep for the night, seemingly drained of energy from our short talk.

As he’d anticipated, his next visit with his father started out unpleasantly. Tom told me the morning we left El Paso that after two long days of uncomfortable silence from his father, broken only by Tom having one sided discussions, that things had finally started looking up, and he was fairly certain that it would work out.

Our relationship with the cousins was also looking up. Our first night in camp, the four of us had paid our respects to the cousins, with a short visit just after dinner.

Miguel welcomed us and I introduced Anna and Yolanda as Mr. Garcia’s great granddaughters to the entire group. I was pleasantly shocked to hear the improvement in Anna’s Apache, and at how well Yolanda spoke it as well. The two girls were whisked off by the rest of the ladies, while Tom and I remained with the men making small talk. I’d been thinking about the attack, and took the opportunity to bring up the subject of combining the two camps. Miguel agreed it was something to think about, especially for those who were going to stay and live in the village.

I also promised to take Miguel and a couple of others to see the quarry the next afternoon as they were interested in seeing where the rocks were coming from. The ladies finally reappeared and we wished everyone a pleasant night, before we all turned in. Miguel escorted us to the edge of the camp where he quietly told me that all of the families currently in camp were leaning towards staying. He also said that there were five or six more families coming in the near future.

The quarry visit was an eye opener to both the cousins and the ladies. The ladies were suitably impressed, but our cousins were almost overwhelmed. They kept looking at the pile of rock, the changed contours of the canyon walls, and back at Tom. I had no doubt that this little demonstration, more than anything else, convinced them that their way of life was going to change as I had said it would.

Our next chance to strengthen the relationship with the cousins occurred a few days later. We stopped by their camp, and dropped off two antelopes Yolanda had shot during our morning ride. Miguel accepted the gift with thanks, and invited us to lunch the following afternoon, which we readily accepted.

Miguel had arranged our lunch the next day as a communal affair, with everyone in the camp sitting near the central cooking fire. Once seated, we were all served a bowl of what turned out to be a delicious antelope stew. As we ate, there were various conversations going on with Yolanda acting as Tom’s interpreter.

Someone asked Tom why all the white men weren’t working together to build the big house. This prompted a rather lengthy discussion on how white men liked to specialize, to take a single thing and learn everything they could about it. Tom used the example of building things to explain the differences between surveyors, architects, masons, and engineers.

Maco, a young man barely old enough to be a warrior, said that he didn’t understand the white man’s need for houses. In the 20th century, I had always laughed at the fact that to an Apache anyone who wasn’t an Indian was a white man regardless of ethnicity. Now however, I used it to our advantage in helping both sides understand a little more about the other.

I explained that houses had many uses, but the primary one was to protect those that lived in them. All people built some kind of house to provide that protection. The kind of house depended on many things, like what materials were available, what kind of weather or other threats they had to protect themselves from, how long they planned to live in the house, and how many were going to live in it.

“To an Apache, houses are temporary things that they don’t spend much time in and leave behind when they move, which they do frequently. Wickiups take very little time to build, and because they aren’t going to be lived in for long, there is little maintenance required. Tipis are also used by some Apaches, and they are easily moved, but they also require more maintenance. If an Apache is going to stay someplace longer than a few months then they might build a hogan. A hogan is much sturdier, more permanent, and provides better shelter than a wickiup; but, it also takes longer to build, and requires some maintenance. The wickiup, tipi, and hogan are single rooms where everyone sleeps, eats, and socializes together. Furniture in all three is almost nonexistent, because the Apache value the ability to move frequently, more than they value the comfort furniture affords. All three are good houses for the Apache lifestyle.”

Everyone, including Maco agreed with what I’d said.

“White men on the other hand, tend to live in one place for a very long time. They rely on their houses to provide protection from not just the weather but from other men as well. A white man’s house is also designed and built to provide more comfort, and the drive to specialize is at work here as well. A white man’s house can have separate rooms with specially designed furniture for sleeping, cooking, eating, socializing, and reading. A white man’s home, whether wood, adobe, or stone is good for his lifestyle.”

When I was done Maco scoffed, “I have never seen the need for a white man’s home, and in fact have never even stepped inside one.”

“I suppose the next thing you’ll tell us is that you’ve heard that white men eat strange things, and you’ve never eaten white man’s food before,” I replied.

As his nod of agreement I pointed to his bowl of stew, and asked him how he liked his white man’s food. He stuttered a bit and then belligerently said he was eating Apache food.

I gave a small shake of my head. “Food is food, Maco. The only difference between white man’s food and Apache food is how it is prepared and the spices used. The only thing I can think of that you eat that white men don’t is mescal root and that’s only because there isn’t any mescal where they were originally born or raised. There are many foods that white men from different parts of the world eat, that aren’t available here, but that doesn’t mean that other Indians don’t eat them. Indians on the coast eat mostly fish while Indians far to the north eat moose and elk. None of those are available here, but it is still Indian food, and still white man’s food. I can prove it if you will come to dinner with us, tonight.”

Looking around the group of his friends and family, Maco swallowed hard once, and nodded his acceptance of the invitation.

The teaching moment was over for the time being, and based on the thoughtful looks on the faces of most of the Apaches and Tom, I thought I’d been pretty successful. Seeming to have read my mind, Anna beamed me one of my special Anna smiles in agreement.

Ten minutes later another teaching moment occurred when Miguel said, “We’ve been watching you the last few afternoons between the camps, and wondered what you were doing.”

“Paul is teaching us hand to hand fighting, so we can protect ourselves when we don’t have a weapon,” Anna explained.

Miguel gave a nod, but the puzzled look remained on his face. “Some of us saw an example of that type of fighting when we went after the bandits, but what you’ve been doing the last few afternoons isn’t anything like what we saw Paul do.”

“What you saw the last few afternoons are the beginner’s lessons, cousin. What you saw me do against the bandits is much more advanced, and requires a significant amount of training and practice,” I said.

“Tell us more about this way of fighting,” Miguel said to the accompanying nods of every warrior.

I gave him the short version. “Long, long ago, a ruler far to the west and across the sea, banned anyone but soldiers from owning or carrying weapons. A group of shamans in this land got tired of being bullied, beaten, and killed by the soldiers, so they developed a way of fighting using just their bodies. Over many lifetimes, they refined this way of fighting and began teaching it to those that wanted to learn. Of course, since they were shamans, they integrated their philosophy of life into their fighting. This way of fighting emphasizes knowledge of how the human body works, and focuses on disabling the attacker by temporarily paralyzing or wounding the attacker’s joints, muscles, and pressure points. The philosophy behind it is to do the least harm possible, and still achieve the objective of living in peace. It acknowledges that against some enemies this is impossible, as they keep coming back; or that the wrong that has been done is too great to let the opponent live, so many of the strikes can also kill, as you saw.”

Maco, whose pride was still stinging from our previous verbal exchange, now stood up and proudly said, “What you did was against bandits who ran at the first sign of resistance. An Apache could beat you, no matter how you fought.”

I looked at Miguel who shrugged his shoulders, “The boy has to learn, but please do not kill him. He is, after all, a cousin.”

I looked at Anna who gave me a small smile and a brief nod, but more importantly there was a twinkle in her eye. Maco had eagerly moved in front of me, and was now standing about ten feet away. I sighed, handed Anna my bowl of stew, and got to my feet. As I walked over to him I remembered a scene from a long-forgotten movie, and I couldn’t help myself.

I stopped in front of him and said, “Before we do this, I want to tell you exactly what is about to happen.” I tapped my right leg and continued, “I’m going to hit you with this foot on your right cheek.” I reached out with my left hand and patted his right cheek. “The hit is going to knock you unconscious and you are going to fall, there.” I pointed to my left between the fire and where people were eating. “The thing you will remember most, is that there was nothing you could do about it. Do you still want to do this?”

Grinning, he nodded and started to answer. He never got the chance. My spinning back kick hit him on the jaw. He was unconscious before he hit the ground. I reached down to make sure he was still breathing, and then walked back and sat down. A murmur was going through the group, but I ignored it. Anna handed me my bowl of stew with a small smile. As I finished the stew, I quietly told Anna that we needed to serve him a hamburger and fries at dinner tonight, as his jaw was going to be too sore to chew harder food. She nodded and said she’d take care of it.

Maco finally came to, sat up, and looked around with a puzzled look. Looking at Miguel, he asked what happened. Miguel told him that I had done exactly what I said I was going to do, and that I had been right, there was nothing he could have done to prevent it. The young man rubbed his jaw a couple of times, looked hard at me; then smiled, and said he’d like to join in the lessons this afternoon. I told him all were welcome.

Miguel walked us to the edge of camp after lunch, and told us that combining the camps was a good thing for protecting the families. I nodded and we agreed to do it tomorrow morning after breakfast.

As we walked back to camp with our arms around each other, Anna looked up at me and said, “You accomplished much more at lunch than we talked about.”

“Sometimes, my love, things work out just right.”

That afternoon Maco, Miguel, and three others joined us for Aikido practice. When practice was over, I invited them to join us on the upper plateau just before sunup for a special set of stretching exercises. They were all noncommittal except for Maco who said he would be there. Since he was to be our guest at dinner, Maco stayed with us when we all split up to return to our camps.

Dinner started with some trepidation on Maco’s part, but after the introductions and his first taste of a hamburger and fries, it became quite a party. Since some of the masons spoke only German and English, and Maco spoke only Apache and Spanish, either Anna, Yolanda, or I acted as a translator keeping Maco involved in the conversations.

Anna explained to Maco that the bread was made of flour, just like the flour tortillas he was used to eating, but it had some added ingredients that made the bread rise up. While the Apaches didn’t eat much beef or potatoes they did eat them once in a while. He was also familiar with the tomato and mustard spreads, so Maco did understand what he was eating. After two bites he admitted that I had been right, it was the same food he had eaten before, just prepared differently; and it was also really good!

One of the masons at the table with us saw Maco’s bruised jaw, and asked what happened. Maco was surprised that no one knew the story yet, but Anna told him it was his story to tell not ours. Maco thought for a moment, nodded, and told the story, through Anna’s translation, in a light, self-effacing, and humorous manner. The table was extremely quiet when Maco got to the part about me telling him what I was going to do, and that there wasn’t anything he could do stop me. He told them he had nodded and was about to say no one was that good a fighter, when he saw me start to move. When he said he woke up a few minutes later, laying on the ground and trying to figure out what happened, the table erupted in laughter.

Maco spent the evening asking the masons questions about the houses they built, how they did it, what made them stick together, and if what I had told him about specific rooms having a single function was true. To understand why Maco was asking these types of questions, Anna explained to the masons about the Apache lifestyle, and how it valued ease of movement and travel, over the stability and comfort of a fixed dwelling with heavy furniture. Anna pointed to the mason’s wagons, and told them that an Apache family moved everything they owned on their backs, or with a few horses, hundreds of miles, two to six times a year. The differences in lifestyles were eye opening for the masons, as was the Apache outlook on life.

Eventually someone asked Maco why the Apache were here. Maco pointed to me and told them that the Garcia family shaman had asked them to come and listen to their cousin Thundercloud, speak words of the future. Anna had to explain that her great grandfather was the Garcia family patriarch and shaman. Then I had to explain that I was raised from a young boy by one of the Garcia families, who adopted me after my parents were killed, and I was therefore a cousin to all the Apache Garcias. I had to remind the masons that the Apaches took family very seriously, and a request from their shaman was almost a command that couldn’t be refused.

The masons asked me why I was called Thundercloud by the Apache. I gave a sigh and explained that when I was still a young boy, I had quite a temper. The old one I was living with told me he always knew when I was losing my temper, because the look on my face reminded him of the way the thunderclouds looked as they rolled in during the rainy season. Maco liked the story, and let the masons know that it was the Apache way. I reminded everyone that Giuseppe now had an Apache name, Lion Killer, that was based on his killing a mountain lion with a rock.

Maco returned to his explanation, and told them that most of the families had been there the night I spoke of my visions, and now each family’s elders were discussing what they thought about the visions and how best to respond. One of the ways they could respond was to accept the offer I made, while another was to continue with their lives as they had in the past and adopt a wait and see attitude.

The table was very interested in what these visions of the future were. I explained that to the Apache, these were visions; but to white men, it was just taking what I saw and heard in my travels, and projecting out the likeliest actions in the years to come. I talked about the issue of slavery, its effects on the economy, the war I saw resulting from all the tensions, the recall of troops from the west back to the east, what the loss of the war would mean to the Southern states, the ensuing years of westward migration, and the Indians rebelling against the loss of their way of life, as more and more of the land they were used to using was settled on.

The after-dinner talk went on for quite a while, and it was late in the evening when we finally broke up for bed.

We started combining the camps shortly after breakfast the next morning. There really wasn’t much to do, besides move the wagons out from the wall into a broader circle. I had the wagon teams fill in the gaps with my two work wagons, and made sure the team leaders understood that the wagons were to be parked there every night. When the cousins started arriving, they selected their spots and rebuilt their wickiups in about two hours. The mason’s wives and kids were fascinated by the construction, and some of them volunteered to help with Anna and Yolanda translating for the two groups. The volunteers ended up slowing down the process; but the laughter was contagious, and helped to begin solidifying the two groups into a single community.

Combining the two camps seemed to settle the issue of which cousins were staying, and which weren’t. Anna and I watched with interest as new families of cousins arrived and were told by Miguel to set up their camp where the original camp had been. They were invited into the combined camp, only if they decided to stay with the promise to quit raiding. Those that stayed, which were the majority, were quickly moved into and were integrated with the combined camp.

In addition to building relationships between the four of us, those with our cousins, those with the masons, and those between the masons and the cousins; we also had an opportunity to begin building a relationship with one other important group I was keenly interested in.

The four of us, along with, Miguel, Heinrich, and Giuseppe were sitting under the dining fly having coffee and talking about the concrete forms we’d watched the masons pouring the previous day. One of the cousins ran up to Miguel, and told him there were twelve soldiers riding up the Camino Real. I asked Heinrich and Miguel to let the others in camp and working on the Hacienda know about the visitors. I suggested they tell everyone to go about their normal afternoon activities, but to keep their weapons close as always.

When Heinrich and Miguel left I turned to Tom and Yolanda and asked them to go get the M4 and A700 respectively and set up on the lower plateau as our backup. They were not to shoot unless things went bad. If they did shoot, then they were to shoot to kill. If I brought the visitors up to the camp, they were to bundle up the weapons in the canvas and put them under the bed. I asked Giuseppe and his assistant to go with them, with their shotguns, and help protect them if necessary.

When everyone had left, I held my hand out to Anna and asked, “Shall we go greet the first visitors to Hacienda Dos Santos?”

Without saying a word she beamed me a super megawatt Anna smile, and took my hand.

We rode down to the river and waited to see if the riders were indeed coming to see us or not. Less than five minutes later, the mounted column appeared on the road coming our way at a canter. We sat quietly, holding hands, and waited. The soldiers did indeed swing off the road, and cross the river to meet us.

When they pulled up in front of us, the leader gallantly introduced himself, bowing in the saddle to Anna, as Lieutenant Colonel Dixon Miles, commanding officer of the newly established Fort Fillmore near Mesilla. When Anna bowed her head in return, Lieutenant Colonel Miles introduced the officer next to him as Captain Henry Stanton.

I introduced myself and then Anna as my fiancée and asked, “How may Estancia Dos Santos be of service to you today, Colonel.”

Colonel Miles got a funny look on his face, and after taking a quick look around him said, “I was told in Las Cruces that there were some masons out here working on a house, but no one said anything about an Estancia.”

“Planning for the Estancia has recently been completed, and we are now proceeding with the implementation; so, you and the good citizens of Las Cruces can be forgiven the confusion,” I replied with a smile.

“Well, at least I know I’m in the right place,” he replied. “I came out here to see if the masons would be available for a job at Fort Fillmore in the near future.”

“I can’t speak for the masons, Colonel, but I can take you to where they are working so you can talk to them.”

At his thanks, Anna and I turned our horses back towards camp and rode next to the colonel.

As we rode I quietly said, “Colonel, I expect you to keep your men in line during your visit here. We have people from many different cultures in our camp, and I won’t tolerate any disrespect towards anyone.” When he rose an eyebrow in question, I said, “The camp contains Germans, Hispanos, Italians, and Apaches.”

At the mention of Apaches, he raised an eyebrow in concern. Regardless of his obvious concern he replied graciously. “I’ll ensure that my men behave themselves, Mr. McAllister.”

“Thank you, Colonel,” I replied. “I hope you’re planning on staying the night. By the time you get done with your discussions, it will be too late in the day to ride back to Fort Fillmore.”

“I was hoping you’d offer, Sir. We’d be pleased to camp here for the night and thank you.”

“I hope you and the Captain will join us for dinner, tonight,” Anna said with a charming smile.

“It would be an honor, Ma’am,” the Colonel replied as we came to a stop outside the wagons. Turning his head slightly, the Colonel called out loudly, “Sergeant, have the men dismount and set up camp outside the wagons. Remember that we are visitors, here, and I’ll not tolerate ANY disrespect to anyone in this camp.”

“Yes, Sir!” barked the sergeant before turning to make it happen.

We led Colonel Miles and Captain Stanton up the slope to the lower plateau. As we crested the slope and they saw the extent of the Hacienda, their jaws dropped.

“It’s an impressive sight the first time you see it,” Anna said with a laugh from beside me.

“Now I understand why you called it an Estancia,” Colonel Miles said in wonder.

I shook my head at him and replied, “The size of the house isn’t what defines an Estancia, Colonel, but the amount of land, and the types of activities performed on that land.”

He threw a puzzled look at me, and I told him we’d talk of it later. He nodded and we walked into the lower courtyard and up the steps to the upper courtyard, where we found Heinrich. I made the introductions all around, and suggested they hold their talk in the house.

Anna and I led everyone down to the lower courtyard where we found Tom, Yolanda, Giuseppe, and his assistant waiting for us. I made the introductions again, and then motioned the two officers and Heinrich into the house. Everyone else followed me down to the camp, where Anna left to find Anya while the rest of us sat down and resumed drinking coffee and talking. Anna returned with Miguel and coffee, and sat down next to me.

I let everyone know that the colonel had come out to talk to Heinrich about a job at the fort, and was spending the night here before going back to Ft Fillmore. We’d resumed our discussion on the forms and concrete, when the sergeant came around one of the wagons and demanded to know where the colonel was.

“He’s up at the house talking with the masons. It’s probably not a good idea to disturb them though, Sergeant.”

He gave me a hard look. “The colonel needs to know that there are Apaches here.”

“The Colonel already knows that, Sergeant; which is why he instructed you to make sure none of the soldiers disrespected anyone, here,” I replied returning his stare as I stood up. “I’m holding you personally responsible for the conduct of your soldiers while you’re here.”

He looked up at me with a hard look for a moment, before breaking into a crooked smile. “Fair enough, Sir. If you’ll excuse me, I need to get back to the idiots the Army sent me to make into soldiers.”

The two officers and Heinrich came down about thirty minutes later. It was almost comical to see both officers do a double take, when they realized there was an Apache sitting at the table drinking coffee with us. When they sat down one of the Apache ladies brought them all a cup of coffee, which startled them again. The two officers started looking around the camp more closely.

We were the only men in the camp, so what they saw were the masons’ ladies and the Apache ladies, working together on various camp tasks or taking care of the very small children, who were all together. They also saw the older kids of both groups together under another dining fly, being taught something by another group of women.

Pointing to the group of older kids, Colonel Miles asked, “What are they were doing?”

“That’s a temporary school,” Anna told him. “At the moment, the kids are learning English. They spend a large part of the day learning Spanish, English, and Apache, as well as learning to read and write Spanish and English.”

As Anna was explaining the colonel was nodding. He stopped nodding when she said they were all learning Apache and looked confused. Both Anna and Colonel Miles started to say something, and then both stopped to let the other speak. Miguel chose that moment to confirm something that most of us had long suspected.

Looking the Colonel straight in the eyes he said, “Our cousins have decided that all who live on the Estancia must learn all three languages, and be fluent enough in them to clearly communicate,” he said in almost perfect English waving at Anna, Yolanda, and I.

I’m not sure what surprised the two officers the most. They were clearly shocked that Miguel spoke English almost as well as they did. They were also shocked that he called Anna, Yolanda, and I, his cousins.

After a few moments, Captain Stanton asked, “How many are currently here, and how many more are you expecting?”

He was clearly asking about the Apaches, but I decided to answer him by talking about the entire Estancia population.

“Captain, starting in mid-February, the first group of what will eventually be somewhere between two and three hundred farmers and their families will begin arriving. They should all arrive by the end of the summer. By late summer or early fall eight thousand head of cattle, being driven by somewhere between sixty and a hundred vaqueros and their families will arrive. By this time next year, there will be over four hundred men and their families working on Estancia Dos Santos. These will include some Apaches. How many I’m not sure as of yet, but at least a handful,” I explained.

Turning to Miguel I asked, “How many of the cousins are currently here?”

“There are twelve families here, and another five spread out over the Estancia. If nothing has happened to them the other eight Southern families should be here in the next few weeks. I expect most of the Northern families to arrive in late spring or early summer in a single group. That’s another twenty to twenty-five families. How many will stay I can’t say,” Miguel responded.

Again, the two officers were startled and surprised. Colonel Miles asked where all these people would live, while Captain Stanton wanted to know what offer I’d made to the Apaches.

Holding up my hands I said, “Captain Stanton, all of your questions will be answered over dinner. As for where all these people will live ... Colonel, let’s take a ride, and we’ll show you. Tom, Yolanda, I’d appreciate it if you two stayed and looked after things here while we’re gone.”

Anna and I stood up, followed by Miguel and Giuseppe and the two officers. We went down to the corral, got our horses and rode out to the hills until we were overlooking the village. The two officers looked down on the area with interest. The village layout was obvious, but they appeared to be more impressed by the thousands of adobe bricks neatly stacked around the outside of the village area.

“No wonder I’m having such a hard time finding adobe bricks,” Colonel Miles finally said.

“By mid-February there will be enough adobe bricks here to build the first fifty houses,” I said in agreement.

“How many bricks will that be?” he asked curiously.

“Each house will use about three thousand bricks, so the total will be a hundred and fifty thousand for the first group of houses. The entire village area will need over a million bricks before we’re done,” I answered with a shrug.

“Is there enough water close by to support a village this size?” Captain Stanton asked.

“There will be, Capitan. I have four drilling rigs coming out here the first week in January to start drilling wells for the village, ranch and Hacienda.”

Tom met us at the corral on our return, and let Anna know that Yolanda had gone up to the house to change clothes. Anna hurried off to change while Tom, Miguel, and I began gathering blankets and pads for the afternoon’s Aikido practice. Curious as to what we were doing the two officers helped us carry all the blankets and pads up to the practice area, where Tom, Miguel and I spread them out for practice. Colonel Miles had just started asking us what we were doing, when two loud yells of male fury and pain came from up on the lower plateau.

Tom, Miguel, and I were instantly running towards the yells, followed by the two officers. At the bottom of the slope we looked up to see Anna and Yolanda pushing two of the soldiers down towards us. The soldiers were both limping heavily, and bleeding from smashed noses. Seeing us Anna holstered her pistol and gave the two soldiers a shove down the slope.

The sergeant joined us, and seeing the two soldiers, muttered a few curses under his breath. Anna and Yolanda stopped the soldiers in front of us, before coming around to Tom and me putting their arms around our waists for a small hug. At my inquiry, they both assured us they were fine. I asked them what happened.

“Yolanda and I were coming out of the house after changing clothes, when these two grabbed us from behind. We stomped on their insteps, gave them a head butt with the back of our heads, and then threw them over our shoulders,” Anna replied with a grim look at the two soldiers.

With a raised eyebrow, Colonel Miles silently questioned the sergeant.

“Sir, these two were supposed to be down at the river getting water for the camp,” the sergeant quickly replied.

We’d been joined by most of the camp at this point, and I decided it was time to make a point to everyone.

I turned to the two soldiers. “You two are lucky you aren’t dead.”

“What do you mean, Mr. McAllister?” Colonel Miles asked in an alarmed voice.

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