Copyright© 2020 by UtIdArWa
The rest of our mission was quiet. Don’t get me wrong. There were dangers and emergencies. But the second half of our trip wasn’t anything like the battle at the arroyo.
I didn’t say anything to the others, but I think most of them knew. There were times when I saw riders on our flanks. These were not our people, although they were dressed the same. I had the feeling that Colonel Anderson might be making sure that nothing else would interfere with us. Neither Ellenwood nor Pointer mentioned them, and I didn’t bring it up.
After another month and a half, as we approached Wilcox, a poll was taken of the group. They decided that they didn’t want to stop in Wilcox. They were dusty, dirty, and tired. Most everybody wanted to go home, to sleep in their own beds. We did stop on the way and do the best we could to get cleaned up and into shape.
As we rode into sight of the Hacienda, mounted troopers were lining both sides of the road. As we rode by, they offered congratulations and admiration for the job that we were completing. As we rode past our honor guard, they fell in behind us, following us onto the parade ground.
The parade ground was crowded too. It seemed that every person in the Hacienda had turned out to welcome us. The crowd wasn’t silent, either. There was applause, whoops and hollers, Yankee shouts, and rebel yells. Most of the civilian members of the Regiment were grouped on one side, near the civilian gate. There was even a Mariachi band banging out lively and festive music.
As we approached the Command gate, the entire Command Group was standing by. Colonel Anderson was at the center and slightly ahead of the rest. To one side, the staff from the hospital was standing by. Doctor Blanchard, Corporal Wheaton, and Miko in front.
As the muleskinner stopped the ambulance, I climbed down and joined Lieutenant Ellenwood and Sergeant Pointer when they reported to the Colonel.
As he dropped his salute, He said, “Welcome back, Gentlemen, Doctor. I hope that the conclusion of your mission was as successful as the start.”
I snickered and said, “I think you are well aware of the conditions of our travels. One of the things I have learned is how to be observant. I spotted your babysitters early on. I would have invited them in, but they seemed to be having too much fun playing hide and seek.”
A look of mock surprise came over the Colonel’s face. “Babysitters? I don’t know what you could mean, Doctor. The only patrols that have left the Hacienda have been our standard reconnaissance patrols. Now, if they happened to be riding in the vicinity of a small wagon train, well, so be it.” He was smiling as he said this, and I couldn’t carry the illusion of anger any further.
He gripped my upper arms and stepped around me. He raised his voice, “Ladies and Gentlemen, please join me in saying welcome back to the First Regimental Medical Circuit Patrol. The Command Group intends to continue this concept into the future. Providing medical treatment and care for our friends and neighbors.”
He then turned to Ellenwood, Pointer, and Myself. In a quieter voice, he said, “OK Folks, A job Well Done, But not yet over. Please see to your stock, equipment, and personnel. We’ll begin debriefings tomorrow.” With that, He saluted us again, and after we returned them, He turned and went through the command gate.
The next two weeks were busy ones. Not only was I supervising the recovery from our mission, but I also needed to get caught back up with my medical practice. There was also the on-going mission debriefs that were conducted. Lieutenant Ellenwood, Sergeant Pointer, and I met with various members of the Command Group.
The S2, Captain Burgess, was the most interested. He had us detail each and every person, ranch, and farm we contacted. Were they friendly or hostile? Did we see or hear anything suspicious?
The most detailed meetings were with Captain Reynolds. Not only were we asked about the supplies we had brought with us. We also went over what we had acquired while on the road. Where did we get our supplies? What was the quality? Was there a shortage? An abundance?
During those two weeks, I noticed something unusual. The troopers started calling me Captain and saluting me. The ones that hadn’t been on the medical tour saluted crisply. The ones that knew me were more casual about their salutes. Like they were more acknowledging me as an equal, rather than my rank.
Going into the Suttler’s store was different also. Before, I might be acknowledged by the troopers inside. But more than likely, I would be ignored. Now I was recognized and welcomed as I came in the door. I was even offered drinks. All the attention I was getting was flattering.
I was finally called into Colonel Anderson’s office. “Good afternoon, Doctor Barrow. I just wanted to call you in and let you know that the worst of the debriefings are over. It turns out that your idea has had a multitude of unexpected benefits for the Regiment. We have been getting letters and telegraphs from all around the territory. They are universally asking if their communities and regions could be included in our next circuit. This is something unexpected, and the Command Group will need to consider our course of action. As the resident expert, please expect to be included in these meetings.”
“Next, I need to give this to you.” He reached into a desk drawer and pulled out an envelope. “It turns out, Doctor, that there was a bounty on Yellow Eye. A bounty of $1000.00. According to all the information, we could gather, you are the one who put paid on his account. So, the US Marshals have rewarded you.”
I opened the envelope. It contained ten crisp, new, $100.00 bills. I sat for a moment, thinking about what I could do with the money. It confused me for a moment. Then I realized that I didn’t really need anything. My work with the Regiment provided me with everything I needed to do my job. I could hide it in my mattress or put it in the bank. But that wouldn’t solve the problem. Then I remembered a situation from several months earlier. “Colonel, If I could, I’d like to give this to Mrs. Olsen for her teachers’ fund. I think I’d rather have it put there than gathering dust in a piggy bank.”
A cloud formed on Colonel Anderson’s face. “Ah, Yes, Martha Olsen, this would be a bit of a problem, Doctor. You see, Mrs. Olsen is no longer with the Regiment. When we moved out here to Nevada, the Command Group allowed the Ladies Auxiliary authority over our children’s education. We had our watchers and associates looking for suitable candidates for our schools as we did with you and other professionals. Unfortunately, Martha didn’t approve of any of our selections.”
“The Command Group finally gave up and turned the selection over to Martha. She was allocated funds for her search, and, other than confirming her choice, we left her to her own devices. She told us that she had a broker that was going to help her. I had Captain Burgess do a background check on this ‘broker.’”
“Unfortunately, the funds that we had given Mrs. Olsen had been sent to a confidence man in Philadelphia. Before that check was completed. The money was gone. When word got out about the situation, other issues about Martha’s handling of the auxiliary came up. The ladies held an election, and Martha was replaced as the President. The new President is Linda Price. She is one of the regimental widows and has taken several of our orphans in as foster kids. We now have most of our teachers in place, and hopefully, by the end of the year, our schools will be up to speed. The last anybody has heard from Martha was that she was headed towards Seattle.”
That afternoon, when I arrived home, I found a minor riot in progress. Corporal Wheaton was arguing with a portly man, about 50 years old. They seemed to be arguing about uniforms. Miko was standing in the kitchen doorway. A look of concern and fear on her face.
As I came into the room, everybody fell silent and looked over at me. I looked around the room and noticed that Robert, the Regimental Cobbler, was seated in the living room corner chair. He seemed unconcerned about what was happening. He was sitting with his hands folded in his lap, a slight smile on his face.
“Good afternoon Robert. How are you doing?”
“Hhhiiiiiii, Dddddoc. I’m fffffffine.”
“That’s good to hear, Robert. Would you like something to drink? Some tea? Coffee? Wait, I know what you’d like. How about some hot chocolate?”
At the mention of hot chocolate, Robert’s face beamed. “Ssssuuurre, Ddddoc. I like cccccchocolate.”
Chocolate was a relatively new item in the community and almost universally liked. I had acquired a large supply from Gumbles Emporium in Wilkins soon after our return. I motioned Miko over and asked her to make some for Robert and myself.
Turning to the others, I asked, “Corporal Wheaton, who is our visitor? Have you offered him refreshments?”
I looked at our visitor. He was a portly man, his cheeks were rosy, and he sported a large handlebar mustache. He was dressed in a well-made suit. The material was top shelf. I walked up to his with my hand extended. “Doctor Louise Barrow, Sir. How do you do?”
The stranger took my hand and bent over it. “Mademoiselle Doctor, it is an honor to meet you. Your fame as both physician and warrior is well known. I am Miguel Rossi. I am the tailor for the Regiment.”
The French accent took me by surprise for a moment. “Monsieur Rossi, would you prefer tea or coffee? I have some excellent blends.”
“Mademoiselle, If I may be so bold, I heard you offer hot chocolate to my young friend. If I could, I would be delighted to sample that delicacy.”