Railroad (Robledo Mountain #4)
Copyright© 2020 by Kraken
I awoke, as I usually have since Anna and I had been married, cuddled up with her. I’m not sure why we bothered with a pillow since she started and ended her sleep with her head on my right shoulder. Not that I was bothered by that. As a matter of fact, I rather enjoyed it.
As I lay there listening to her deep even breathing, I thought about last night’s unexpected visit with Dream Laura. Pancreatic cancer took her fifteen years ago in 2008. Well, fifteen years ago, if you discount the fact that for the last six years, I’ve been living one hundred and sixty years in the past. Confusing, I know. Throw in the fact that I was now fifty years younger than I was before I came back to the past and you might begin to understand why things like a spirit dream don’t faze me at all.
Most of her visits revolve around the back patio of our home, outside Las Cruces, or at the table in the RV we used for camping trips in our later life. This one was different though.
As usual, I went from blissful sleep to being completely immersed in, what to my mind, was a real setting. Laura and I were sitting around a campfire just before twilight. With just a glance it was easy to tell that the setting was Lake Roberts, back when it was still a wilderness area, with only a single lane dirt road leading to it from Silver City.
That lake was one of our favorite camping areas when we got married. It was a wilderness area with no designated camping spots. Tents were the only form of protection available as camping trailers couldn’t make it over the rough single lane track. The last time we were there, a couple of years before Laura died, it was almost surreal. Paved roads in and out, concrete pads for camping sites, raised metal grills for cooking. You get the idea.
Now though, everything was perfect. I sat, sipping coffee from an old, beat up, enameled porcelain mug, listening to the tinny sound of the small, portable, transistor radio playing “Dream a Little Dream”, and gazed up at the sky, as the Milky Way, in all its wonder, began to peek out with the setting of the sun. The combination of shadowy landscape, the night sky, the song, and the dancing fire was absolutely perfect. Well, perfect if I overlooked the fact that radios and Lake Roberts didn’t exist in 1857.
“This is well done Laura, I must say,” I said looking over at her, as she sat down on the other side of the fire, just as the song finished, to be replaced by “Angel in Disguise”.
Laura’s giggle in response to my raised eyebrow wasn’t completely unexpected nor unappreciated.
“I enjoy spending any time I can get with you, but you’ve outdone yourself with this one. It brings back a lot of memories of the good times we shared. Thank you for this,” I said taking another sip of coffee. “And the coffee is pretty darn good as well!” I added.
“Paul, as usual, I don’t have much time, so, while I too enjoy our time together, let me get this out. We both know Mr. Greenburg is hiding something. More importantly, we both now know not only what he’s hiding, but that he knows your secret as well.
“His reaction to your secret leads me to believe he’s met other time walkers. Time walkers who weren’t doing things for the good of the people around them. Perhaps really evil things.
“You need to get him to tell you his story and the stories of the other time walkers he’s met. Once those are out in the open you must convince him that you aren’t like the others he’s met. While I don’t believe he’s evil or a danger to you, he’s too important to your plans to allow him to remain antagonistic.”
Laura took a sip of her coffee when she’d finished speaking, waiting for me to respond.
“I reached the same conclusion before falling asleep, Laura. When Anna and I wake up, I’ll talk it over with her, and we’ll come up with a plan. Most likely we’ll invite Mr. and Mrs. Greenburg into the study for a meeting after breakfast and go from there. From the reactions of Hiram and Levi, it doesn’t seem that they know their father’s secret, but I can’t imagine he’s never told his wife,” I mused between sips of coffee.
Laura was nodding her head in approval as I finished talking. “Good. I’m glad to hear you already figured it out and decided to address it head-on, as soon as possible. I’ll listen in to the conversation and give you my thoughts if I think you need them,” she said and then added, “it’s time to go,” as the song on the radio changed to, “If There Hadn’t Been You”.
“Thanks, Laura. You know, there doesn’t have to be a problem for you to bring me into one of your visions. I wasn’t kidding when I said I enjoy spending all the time I can with you.”
As the scene began to fade, I heard Laura’s smiling voice say, “Count on it, Paul. But if that happens, I’ll bring Anna with you so we can compare notes.”
“Like you haven’t already been comparing notes with her through her great grandfather!” I replied with a smile of my own.
The only response I received as the scene turned black was Laura’s laugh echoing in the vast dreamscape.
Turning my thoughts from the dream to all the conversations and planning that still needed to be done before our guests departed for home in the next few days; I continued to lie in bed despite hearing others beginning to move around as another day started on the Estancia.
“Deep thoughts, mi Pablo?” Anna said as she shifted her head off my shoulder and stretched what looked like every sinuous muscle in her body.
Watching her lithe body as she stretched, I was momentarily dumbstruck.
“Hmmm? What was that?” I asked when she was done.
With a girlish giggle, she rolled back toward me putting her head back on my shoulder.
“What were you thinking so hard about when I woke up?” she asked again.
Rubbing my eyes, while shaking my head, I tried to clear the memory of the sight of her stretching and the subsequent thoughts that immediately sprang forth in my mind. I stopped myself just short of saying, ‘Damnit Anna, I’m a rancher, not a eunuch!’ She wouldn’t have understood the reference.
After another moment of silence to compose myself, I said, “I was thinking about the best way to confront Mr. Greenburg.”
“Confront him? Why in the world would you want to confront him?” she said with wide eyes before I could explain.
“Because, my love, I figured out what’s been bugging me about the elder Greenburg,” I replied smiling down at her. “It came to me last night just as I was about to fall asleep.”
“Well? Don’t keep me in suspense! Why do think you need to confront him? What did you figure out?” she rapidly asked in a rising, questioning voice.
“Because he’s like me. He’s what your great grandfather called a time walker.”
“What?” Anna asked, jerking her head up off my shoulder, as she sat completely upright, staring at me with a stunned expression.
“Yep,” I nodded at her. “I’ve been trying to figure out what caused Mr. Greenburg to go from a calm, even-tempered friend, to a grouchy, suspicious, antagonistic, old man.”
“So, what caused you to decide he was a time walker?” Anna asked, in an exasperated voice when I paused.
“There were three clues my love. The first two clues were so subtle that I completely missed them. The third clue wasn’t so subtle, but I still missed it. Taken all together, the three clues lead to no other conclusion than he’s a time walker.”
“Pablo, quit beating around the bush! What were the clues?” Anna said as she fetchingly folded her arms under her breasts and glared at me.
Impure thoughts again sprang, unbidden, in my mind. How she thought I could rationally answer her, given the picture she presented, I had no clue. I closed my eyes and turned my head so that when I reopened them, I was looking at the curtain covered French doors. I felt the bed move as Anna shifted impatiently while I tried to get that picture out of my mind.
“Bear with me here, my love, it will take a few minutes to fully explain. The first clue happened just before we were married. It was when I was in El Paso and picked up our signet rings. I was enthralled with my first look at them and told Mr. Greenbug that he was an artist. He replied something to the effect that it was the least he could do for a fellow Cervantes admirer. I was so busy admiring the rings that I completely missed that reference. Looking back, it’s obvious there was no way he should have connected the rings with Cervantes. I think Mr. Greenburg suspected me of being a time walker at that point and was looking to see what kind of reaction I would have to what he said. Because I wasn’t really paying attention, I didn’t give him any kind of reaction, so he decided I wasn’t what he suspected.
“The second clue was his reaction to my singing “Impossible Dream” on our way back to the Hacienda from the party in the village plaza just before Christmas. He recognized the song and knew it wouldn’t be written for another hundred years. He knew, without a doubt, at that point that I’m a time walker. That’s what’s been causing his strange behavior since then.
“As I said, those two clues were subtle and because I was in a good mood both times, thinking about other things, I missed both of them. The third clue though wasn’t subtle. I should have picked up on it immediately. I think the only reason I didn’t was that I was angry, really angry, not to mention confused by his reaction to our plans.
“The third clue happened near the end of our revealing our plans for statehood and the railroad to the group. He used an expression that, while common in my time, won’t even be thought of for another fifty years, and certainly won’t enter into common usage for another thirty years after that.
“Take those three clues, connecting our rings to Cervantes, knowing that “Impossible Dream” is from one hundred years in the future, and using a phrase that won’t be around for another eighty years, and there’s really only one conclusion I can draw. Mr. Greenburg is a time walker!”
I finally looked over at Anna to see her open-mouthed look of astonishment.
“Dios Mio,” she whispered, crossing herself in the process. She gathered herself after a few more moments and, with her composure regained, asked, “What was the phrase he used?”
“It’s from a board game that will become popular in about eighty years, near the end of a worldwide economic depression. The game is called Monopoly. ‘Don’t pass go, don’t collect two hundred dollars’ is the phrase.”
Reminding myself to focus, I quickly turned my head back towards the French doors. Trying to have a serious discussion with Anna while her charms were on full display was proving to be impossible.
Eventually, Anna asked, “You think the best way to handle this is to confront Mr. Greenburg?”
“I’m not sure it’s the best way, my love, but he and his family are too important to our plans to just let it go,” I replied still staring at the French doors. “As it stands, he’s not going to approve a new bank in Las Cruces. I wouldn’t put it past him to tell his sons to close our accounts and refuse any further business with us. I really don’t want to go into banking along with all the other new businesses we’re going to be starting. I also don’t want to lose Hiram and Levi as friends. Not to mention losing access to their banks.
“Confrontation is probably too strong a word but it’s the only word I can think of. All things considered; it seems to be the best approach. What I’m thinking of is asking the elder Greenburgs to meet you, Tom, Yolanda, and me in my study after breakfast. There, I’ll tell them my story and then ask him to tell us his. Once that’s done, the four of us will try again to convince him that our motives are not to take over the territory or build an empire but to change history for the better.”
My eyes still firmly fixed on the French doors, I waited for her response.
After what seemed an eternity, but I’m sure was only a few minutes, I heard her sigh and say, “Well, I don’t know if you’re right about this, but I can’t think of any other way except to get it out in the open. At least out in the open with us. Perhaps you should include grandfather and grandmother in the meeting. They are, after all, much closer in age to the Greenburgs.”
Just as I opened my mouth to reply I felt the bed bounce as Anna jumped out of bed, grabbed my hand, and led me to the shower.
“Think about it and do what you believe best. You know I’ll support you, whichever way you decide. In the meantime, I saw you looking and doing your best to ignore what I was showing you. We can’t start our day off with all those thoughts that were running through your head as you tried to ignore the show I was giving you. And what better place to make your thoughts a reality than in the shower?”
I decided she was asking a rhetorical question and quickly followed her into the shower.
Coming out of our room a short time later, we split up at the head of the stairs with Anna continuing down the hall to see about the little ones while I went down to the dining room. Mr. and Mrs. Mendoza along with the elder Greenburgs were the only ones in the room. Seeing them already sitting at the table, quietly talking with each other as they sipped their morning coffee, I decided that Anna was right and quickly asked the four of them to meet me in the study after breakfast.
The Mendozas responded with a relaxed, ‘of course’, while the Greenburgs looked at me curiously before nodding their heads in acceptance.
Over the next few minutes, we were joined by the men of the Hacienda, as well as the visitors, exchanging pleasantries and wishes for a happy new year, as they sat and poured their coffee from the pots scattered along the tables. By the time the last of the men were seated, Anna led the lady’s contingent, herding the little ones into the dining room, to begin breakfast. As usual, with so many people visiting, breakfast was served buffet style with the ladies going first to help the little ones with their plates and drinks.
I was the last one at the buffet and as I sat down at the table, Anna shot me a questioning look. I simply nodded at her and she smiled knowing my nod was a response to her question of whether or not I had invited her grandparents to the meeting with the Greenburgs.
Breakfast was the usual cacophony of sounds, plates and silverware rattling, and conversations in multiple languages, between multiple people, on both sides of all the tables. Leaning towards me, Anna quietly told me she had let Tom and Yolanda know about the meeting and had let Christina know that we would need coffee for eight in the study immediately after breakfast.
With the day declared a holiday, breakfast was much more leisurely than usual, but, eventually, Anna and I left the table and waited in the study for the others. The last to arrive, Tom received a concerned look from both Greenburgs as he closed and barred the door. Noticing their look, I hurried to alleviate their concern.
“I asked you all here to discuss a very sensitive topic. No, it’s not about the bank. At least not directly. With the exception of you and your wife, everyone here knows the topic and knows that it’s only raised in this room after the door has been barred.” I swept the room with my gaze, lingering on the Greenburgs to judge their demeanor. Seeing the concern in their eyes change to curiosity I stood up, walked over to lean back against the desk, where I could face everyone at the same time.
“I asked you all here to hear a story. My story. Everyone but the Greenburgs has heard it before. Once I’m done with my story and have answered everyone’s questions it will be Mr. Greenburgs turn to tell His story. A story that, from all the clues, I’m guessing is very similar to my story.
“To begin, almost everything you think you know about me, except my name, is probably wrong. I am not twenty-one. As best as I can figure, I’m seventy-two. I was born in El Paso in 1952.”
For over an hour I told my story and answered questions. I went into a lot more detail about my previous life than I’d previously discussed; everyone but Anna heard about new parts of my life. Most of the questions came from the two Greenburgs but the others took the opportunity to ask more detailed questions they’d thought of since they’d originally heard the story.
With my story told and all the questions answered I turned to Mr. Greenburg, “I presume that Mrs. Greenburg knows your full story.”
“She does,” he replied while looking at his wife before turning back to look at me.
“In that case sir, the floor is yours,” I said, as I walked over to take my seat next to Anna.
Mr. Greenburg replaced me, leaning back against the desk and patiently waited while I settled into my seat and replaced my cold cup with fresh coffee. When he was sure he had everyone’s attention he began.
“To the rest of the world, I’m 67 years old. I’ve told everyone that asks that I was born in 1790. As with Paul, that’s not true. The best I can figure I recently celebrated my 125th birthday.”
I’d been expecting something along this line but gasped at his age just like everyone else in the room did.
“I was born outside Sarajevo, Bosnia, in 1912 and lived a normal life until 1970 when I somehow found myself back in 1810 as a 20-year-old. My story isn’t quite as straight forward as Paul’s, but it is indeed very similar.
“Less than eighteen months after I was born, Archduke Ferdinand was assassinated in Sarajevo, igniting the Great War or World War I, as Paul would know it. As my family was Jewish, neither my father nor his brothers were called to the army until the third ban or levee if you prefer. As the last of those called for duty, they were issued greatcoats and caps and placed in support roles as there were no more uniforms or weapons available. Somehow, my family survived the four years of war intact despite the battles raging in and around Sarajevo. We lost everything, of course, but that is the nature of such things. The farmhouse and buildings were destroyed by shelling, crops were stolen or destroyed in the fields, and the animals were slaughtered for food by whichever army found where we had hidden them.
“With nothing left of our farm, we moved to Sarajevo, like so many others, and settled into the Jewish ghetto with the rest of my father’s family. Life was tough, as you can imagine, and the entire family struggled to regain our former prosperity. I was apprenticed to one of my uncles, a watchmaker, and jeweler, shortly after my twelfth birthday when I proved I had learned to read, write, and do math at the level required by my parents.
“One of my uncles moved to New York about that time and set up business as a jeweler. Over the next few years, we received numerous letters from him telling of the wonderful opportunities in the United States and encouraging the entire family to join him. Eventually, the men of the family decided to heed his advice, scraped together everything they could and, like so many others, with high hopes, emigrated to the United States in early 1929.”
Mr. Greenburg’s previously strong voice faded to nothing at this point. The direct eye contact he’d been making with me, and the others, as he told his story changed to a look I quickly recognized. He was no longer focused on us, instead, his eyes wore the glazed veil of someone looking back into the past, contemplating the reality of what was, and what could have been. After a few moments, with a small shake of his head, he continued his story.
“New York was everything my uncle had written it was. We lived next door to him in a vibrant Jewish community in the Bowery. At first, jobs for watchmakers and jewelers were steady enough that we could all make a living. I found I could make extra money for myself by tinkering in the evenings and weekends. It didn’t seem to matter what it was, as long as it had metal in it, people would pay me to repair or sharpen it. Yes, things were exactly as my uncle had written.
“There were also things my uncle hadn’t written about. The crowding, the poorly built houses, and the gangs. While we all could see these things, we generally ignored them, doing our best to fit in. For the first few months, we managed just fine, building our reputation and our wealth with every job. Then, overnight, everything changed. The stock market crash in October of 1929 changed everything as the Great Depression set in. Our jobs dried up as no one could afford to buy jewelry or get their watches repaired, much less buy new watches.
“My tinkering was the only thing that allowed us to survive in those early days, but it didn’t take long until there were tinkers at every corner. In desperation, many young Jewish men in the Bowery, including me, turned to Arnold ‘The Brain’ Rothstein for jobs.”
Mr. Greenburg’s eyes glared at me as he continued. “Much like Paul here, Rothstein was extremely well organized, and he definitely had style. His support of new business opportunities and the community was legendary. Unfortunately, behind the public façade, was a nightmare. Rothstein was the head of the Jewish gangs in and around lower Manhattan. If it was illegal, he controlled it, and he was ruthless.
“I was mad at my father and uncles for moving us to this strange place where there were no jobs, and few spoke either of the languages I knew. There were few Sephardic Jews in New York City at the time and even fewer Serbians or Spaniards. We were forced to learn a third language just to survive. In my youthful ignorance and anger, I rebelled against both my family and my religion.
“For almost two years, from 1930 to 1932, I worked for Rothstein. While I didn’t understand what he was doing at first, I eventually came to know that he was doing things that were illegal, and that he was ruthless with those that failed their jobs. I spent those two years as a messenger, eventually working my way up to the point where I was his chief messenger. I was never directly involved in anything violent, but I did witness every violent act I could ever imagine. Everything from arson to murder. After two years I was sickened by the whole thing and gladly left New York City, moving to upstate New York when my father and uncles all got manufacturing jobs with Revere Copper in Rome.
“While my father and the others were all working at Revere Copper, I decided to stick with tinkering. With a broken-down horse and a cheap, old, barely serviceable wagon, I developed a monthly circuit covering all the small towns, dairies, and farms of the Mohawk Valley. For the next nine years, I rode the circuit, day in and day out, trying to forget the violence of New York City. After a couple of years of continuously living in that old wagon year-round, I had enough money to replace it with a gypsy style tandem wagon set, where I lived in the enclosed travel wagon pulling a tarp-covered wagon loaded with my tools and supplies. I not only survived but prospered and had mostly succeeded in forgetting the brutality and violence. Then, it all came roaring back, with a vengeance, in early December 1941. The world was at war yet again.
“I was drafted six months after the war started and, after basic training, assigned to the First Infantry Division. The four years of war changed me forever as we fought in Africa, Sicily, Italy, and Germany. By the time it was over, I’d not only seen every cruelty one-man can do against another, but I’d also committed or assisted in most of those cruelties myself.
“Like so many others, I turned to liquor to help me try to forget. Even before I returned to New York and was discharged, I spent most of my pay on cheap liquor, and most of my nights drunk. Instead of returning to my family in Rome, I decided to stay in New York City and found work with a squad mate’s family as a jeweler.
“It didn’t take me long to realize that I couldn’t drink myself unconscious every night and still expect to hold a job, especially a job doing the extremely fine detailed work I was supposed to be doing as a jeweler and watchmaker. I couldn’t live with myself if I let my old squad mate down, so I quit drinking during the week. I struggled with my demons at night during the week, did my job during the day, and spent every weekend in a drunken stupor.
“A few years later, at the urging of my parents, who were aging and now sick, I returned to Rome to take care of them. That, of course, meant no more drinking and, again, my nights were filled with the horrors of war while my days were spent taking care of my parents. They both passed away two years later, one right after the other.
Suddenly, I was left with no real responsibilities and discovered that somewhere during the last year, the horrors I’d been living with had been reduced to a level I could usually live with. Most nights were easily survivable as the violence faded into the past. That’s not to say there weren’t nights that it was a real struggle, but my heavy drinking was down to a few nights a year.
“Now in my forties, and with time on my hands, I took my savings and opened a jewelry store in the neighboring town of Utica. It wasn’t a large store by any means, but it was in the middle of downtown, just off Bagg Square, and included a small apartment above the store. One of my first jobs was a custom set of wedding rings with a matching engagement ring for the son of the owner of the Rome Wire Company. The design and the rings were instant hits and my reputation was made.
“Yes, I’d found my true calling, and, for the next ten years, I prospered and prospered significantly. I added a store in Rome and another in Syracuse. I found good jewelers to manage those stores and the money just rolled in. I bought a nice house a couple of blocks away from the original store and did my best to enjoy life. Despite my business success, I continued my focus on the art of designing and creating unique jewelry of all types.
“Then, one cool, windy, fall, Friday night, in 1970, when the demons and horrors of war wouldn’t let me work or sleep, I left the store, buying a bottle of cheap booze on my way home. When I came out of the store, fog was, strangely for that time of year, beginning to form. For some reason I could never explain, that fog gave me a sense of foreboding gloom. That uneasiness, coupled with the remembrances of war, increased my need for a drink and I quickly ducked into the alley beside the store. I hurriedly opened the bottle and, with the bottle still in the paper sack, took two drinks.
Feeling appropriately fortified at that point, I looked up from the bottle to see nothing but thick white fog no matter where I looked. I knew with certainty that I was within inches of a building wall on one side, and no more than three feet from a building wall on the other side. I knew I was holding a bottle of cheap rotgut whiskey in my hand, but I couldn’t even see that unless it was directly in front of my face. As a matter of fact, the last thing I remember before passing out was that it was the strangest fog I’d ever been in or seen. That damn fog changed my life!”
Mr. Greenburg’s body language completely changed at this point. Where he had previously been stiff, clearly uncomfortable telling his story, with a faraway look in his eyes, as he focused on remembering the important points of his life, he now transformed into the genial old man I had first met four years ago. With a small smile on his face, and a twinkle in his eyes, he reached over, gently took his wife’s hand, and brought it to his lips for a quick kiss, before settling back against the desk, once more entering storytelling mode, and continuing where he left off.
“In most respects, it ended up changing my life for the better. I thank the good Lord every day for that fog, for I believe the fog is what caused me to come back in time and my age to regress. I’m getting ahead of myself though, so back to the story.
“I woke up, sometime later, in the dim twilight of a warm summer evening, holding a wet paper bag full of broken glass. The stench of alcohol permeated the ground around me. I smelled like how I’d intended to end my evening – like a drunk. Shaking my head, trying to clear my thoughts, I couldn’t think of a single reason I’d have passed out from two small drinks of whiskey. It just didn’t make sense. Thinking I could better reason out what had happened back at home, I went to stand up and discovered three more things I hadn’t noticed before.
“First, I was positive that the alley was smoothly paved with asphalt, and recently at that when I stepped into it take a drink. Now, it was dirt. Hard packed, wheel rutted, dirt.
“Second, when I’d stepped into the alley, all the buildings around it were brick. Now, the building behind me was wood. I don’t mean the building was wood sided. I mean the building was a large log cabin style construction with mud daubed between logs.
“Finally, when I’d been able to make it to an upright position, I discovered that I wasn’t in an alley at all. The log cabin was at my back but there were no buildings, of any kind, in front of me. There were perhaps one hundred yards of clearing or meadow in front of me with forest stretching as far as the eye could see.
“Picking up my satchel from where it had fallen when I passed out, I started towards the front of the building to see if I could figure out where I was. It was five steps along the cabin wall to the front of the building. Again, I was sure I’d only taken two steps into the alley. More concerning, at that point, was what I could see in the dim twilight that was quickly fading to black.
“I saw a road. A hard-packed, wheel rutted, dirt road. No asphalt, no macadam, just dirt. On both sides of the road where roughly fifteen more log cabins. Some with rough porches, some with unreadable signs, all made of logs. Hitching posts were in front of the cabins with the unreadable signs. I could see well enough through the gloom to tell that there were some horses tied up to two hitching posts in front of a cabin at the far end of the street.
“None of the things I was used to seeing were anywhere to be found. No concrete or asphalt roads, no sidewalks, no brick buildings, no automobiles, no noise. I was confused!
“I stared dazedly down the road until the last light fell and all I could see were vague shapes. It was then I noticed how clear the stars and the Milky Way were in the night sky. It had been years since I’d seen them so clearly. Shaking my head, I decided that discretion was the better part of valor. Dressed as I was, smelling like I was, it would be better to wait and ask questions the next morning rather than now. Having reached that decision, I listened in the still of the evening and heard water running off in the distance from directly in front of me.
“Roughly four hundred yards away I found a small river and made a cold camp nearby in a copse of trees. Hanging my satchel, suit coat, and vest on a tree limb, I washed up the best I could and settled back against a tree to sleep.
“I woke up, about eight o’clock the next morning. I was a little stiff but had slept much better than I’d expected. After a quick scrub of my face and hair with river water, I redressed and then thought about my next actions for a few moments. Not knowing where I was, I didn’t want to take the chance that my satchel would be stolen. It contained my personal set of tools, forty ounces of gold, thirty ounces of silver, and numerous small bags of precious and semiprecious gems including diamonds, sapphires, and rubies.
“Looking around, I found a deadfall with the roots partially exposed and stashed my satchel thereafter removing one of the small one-ounce gold wafers I used as raw stock when making jewelry. I didn’t normally carry more than five dollars in my wallet as I seldom needed cash. With my valuables hidden, I retraced my tracks back towards the little village.
“In the full light of day, I could see that I’d underestimated the size of the village. The fifteen houses on either side of the road I’d estimated the previous night was correct but what I hadn’t seen was that was only half the town. There was a crossroad of sorts after those fifteen cabins and the village continued on the other side of the crossroad with another fifteen or so cabins on either side of the road. The crossroad, slightly offset where it crossed the main road forming a plaza of sorts, had roughly ten cabins on each side as well.
“As I walked down the road it quickly became obvious that I stood out like a sore thumb in my three-piece business suit and wingtip dress shoes. Everyone I could see was wearing trousers, shirts, and vests of homespun, leather, or a combination of both and were either barefoot or wearing leather boots with a non-rigid sole of some kind.
“To make it more confusing I heard people talking in something I could only vaguely recognize as English and other conversations in what sounded like Dutch and German along with a smattering of French. I was beginning to wonder if I’d finally snapped and gone crazy.
“About halfway down the street was a store advertising itself as selling ‘General Merchandise’. I walked in and found myself staring at the floor to ceiling shelves stacked with items, most of which I didn’t recognize. Some things I did recognize easily enough, clothes, bolts of cloth, hats, and the like, but most of what was on the shelves was incomprehensible to me.
“A middle-aged man standing behind a counter looked up from a ledger he was writing in, looked at my clothes, and asked, in something approaching English, what could he do for me. It took me a moment to figure out even that relatively short sentence before telling him that I was lost and just wanted to know where I was. You could have knocked me over with a spoon when he said I was in Utica, New York.
“I stood there stunned for long enough that his greeting smile turned to a look of concern. I assured him that I was fine but that I was a little confused. I introduced myself and explained that I’d been traveling from New York to Albany yesterday when something happened, and I must have hit my head. I couldn’t seem to remember anything other than what I’d already told him. I didn’t know if I’d been traveling by horse or wagon or who I’d been traveling with if anyone. All I could remember was waking up on the side of the road not knowing where I was. Somehow, that story sounded better to me than the truth – I wasn’t really sure what the people of 1810 would do to someone they suspected of being crazy.
“He commiserated with my situation and was nice enough to tell me it was Saturday, the 8th of July, in the Year of our Lord 1810. He was also nice enough to answer my question about how to get to Albany (Well, young feller, take a left at the crossroads, when you hit the ‘turnpike - you can’t miss it - turn left again and, in ninety miles or so, you’ll come to Albany). I was turning to leave, took my watch out of the vest pocket, and checked the time. As I was putting the watch back, I saw he was interested in it. I was quite proud of that watch as I’d built it from scratch myself. Everything about the watch, from the case to the gears, to the face, and hands were custom made by my own hands.
“I pulled the watch back out, removed it and the fob, and showed it to him, telling him that it was the best sample of my work as a watchmaker. Clearly impressed, he offered me twenty dollars for it. A few minutes of negotiation later, I left his store with thirty dollars in coins, and a recommendation for Bagg’s Tavern, at the crossroads, for breakfast.
“On my way out of the store, I caught a glimpse of myself in some small mirrors that were displayed just to the side of the door. Yet again, I was stunned into immobility. The face I saw staring back in the mirror was of a much younger me than the one I was used to seeing. I don’t know what the owner was thinking as I stood there staring at myself in shock. Eventually, I came back to myself enough to know that I was making a spectacle of myself by standing there. As casually as I could, I told him he had an impressive collection of mirrors, gave a small wave and left the store.
“I’d stayed at the Bagg’s Hotel a couple of times, but the sturdy, log-built, Bagg’s Tavern I entered, was far different from the large brick building I was familiar with. Moses Bagg was an amiable man as one would expect of someone who built, owned, and operated a tavern. A small, heavily bearded man, he was gregarious and willing to express his opinion on any subject a customer cared to bring up. His eyes twinkled in merriment the entire morning but seemed to have an added sparkle when expressing his disagreement with someone else’s opinion, whatever the subject.
“Moses sat with me during my late breakfast, managing to pull my story from me, in between bites of the surprisingly robust breakfast. In return, I was delighted to find that he had an agreement with a stable in Albany and would happily rent me a horse, with all the tack I needed, for a small fee. After warily eyeing my clothes, he did recommend that I get something more suited to riding and camping along with a horse pistol if I could afford it. Apparently, road agents were one of the more common hazards travelers faced, especially on the remote sections of the turnpike.
“I did as he advised, and when I left Utica I was dressed in homespun clothes and wearing high heeled riding boots. The clothes reminded me of growing up in Sarajevo and, while slightly scratchy, weren’t of much concern. I rode north, to pick up my satchel, before skirting the town back to the south towards the turnpike. An hour outside of town I stopped for rest – I hadn’t ridden a horse in over thirty years and knew it was going to be a long trip if I overdid it and got saddle sores – and practiced with the flintlock horse pistol I’d bought. Firing it was relatively easy, although accuracy proved to be a problem. Loading it, on the other hand, was a time-consuming task. It took a while to get the hang of it, but by the time I remounted to ride on I was sure of what I was doing in both loading and firing it. What I would do if there was more than one bandit, I had no idea.