Railroad (Robledo Mountain #4)
Chapter 3

Copyright© 2020 by Kraken

“I’m sure glad this is all over,” I said to Anna, four days later, as we were leaving our bedroom to get JJ and go downstairs to breakfast. For three of those days, Anna and I babysat the Greenburgs until lunch when we were replaced by Tom and Yolanda. That left my afternoons free to visit the various parts of the Estancia, usually with the older kids, as well as get in some shooting practice. The other day was spent in the Estancia meeting, where we reviewed the progress we’d made against last year’s goals and established the Estancia goals for 1857.

Six items were identified as the priorities for 1857.

First, all four of the Segundos’ houses would be built to plan, with some customization for each with the caveat that Jorge would have to make the changes into each plan and only after each change had been reviewed for any impacts on structural integrity.

Second, we wanted more pecan trees. The goal was to have pecan groves along the entire northern and southern perimeter walls as well as between the set of long reservoirs and what we were now calling ‘the lake’. Pecan trees were added to Steve’s list of things to look for on his trip back east.

Third, we wanted to add twelve more greenhouses to the upper plateau. We were using my original four and we’d just received four more we’d ordered from Chicago. These were almost double the size of the greenhouses I’d brought with me and would take about a month each to erect as they were all iron and glass. The additional twelve we were ordering would allow us to provide the Estancia, at a minimum, with fresh vegetables and some fruit during the winter months as well as provide nurseries for pecan plantings.

Fourth, we needed to identify grazing land for the sheep and dairy cows. The dairyland would need to be leveled and planted with a mix of alfalfa and timothy grass. A dairy barn for milking and a cheese processing facility would also need to be built. The plan was to locate the dairy facility near the base of the Robledo Mountains between the reservoirs and the lake. To simplify the long-term storage of cheese we planned to blast caverns in the mountainside. While we expected the shepherds to come with the flock of sheep, we did need to find some experienced dairy farmers. We also needed to establish living areas for both sets of new workers.

Fifth, we needed to identify an area for a hog farm on the backside of the Robledo Mountains near the back door to the upper plateau. It needed to be close enough to support yet far enough away so we wouldn’t ever smell it. A tannery was also in future plans for this area.

The sixth, and final, item was more of a stretch. I wanted to find a vintner to get a start on growing grapes and making wine. While grapes were grown in this area in the 1600s, they had been long abandoned and finding experienced vintners was another item added to Steve’s list.

We were still short of some raw materials like hardwood and iron, but I secretly hoped to rectify both of those later in the year through some discreet purchases Steve would be making for us. We also remained short of skilled coopers, teachers, and a doctor. We could, and would, continue to muddle through with what we had, but we’d all feel better once those positions were filled with people we trusted. Although it was a long day, we all agreed that everything on the Estancia was going extremely well.

The Greenburgs caught Anna and me at the bottom of the stairs.

“Good morning, you two,” Mr. Greenburg said cheerfully. “Rachael and I just wanted to thank you for spending the last few days with us and to let you know we’re done with the reading we’ve been doing. We want to think about what you’ve said and what we’ve read for a few days. I think we’ll need to have one more talk after we’ve had some time, if that’s all right with you?”

“Of course, Sir,” Anna replied graciously. “Our other guests will be leaving over the next five days so it may be a little difficult to arrange a time in the mornings, but if you can work around that then we’ll be fine.”

“That won’t be a problem for us, my dear,” Mrs. Greenburg replied. “I must say, it’s never boring around here. I’m going to miss all the activity and the children when we leave,” she continued as we entered the dining room, where breakfast was in full swing.

“Paul,” George said, as I was filling my coffee cup, “I got a letter from Jim Longstreet yesterday. He was thrilled to be asked to be my best man and agreed to come visit us for a month. He and his family will be arriving around the first of February and will stay until the end of the month.”

“Well done, George!” I exclaimed. “That will give us some time to show him around and explain what we’re trying to do.”

“I hope you don’t expect to convince him to leave the army in thirty days, Paul,” he cautioned. “Jim is even more dedicated to the army than I was. It’s going to take a lot to get him to not only leave the Army and promise not to accept a commission with southern forces if either Alabama or Georgia secede.”

“No, I don’t think he will agree in thirty days George, but we can plant the seeds in those thirty days. Ultimately, much of it will depend on which is stronger, his love of the Army or love of running a railroad. That’s a decision he’s going to have to make for himself and I don’t think any amount of pressure will help him make that decision,” I replied.

George nodded in agreement and the Judge spoke up. “I also received a letter Paul. We need to discuss some Marshal business, after breakfast, perhaps in your den?”

“Certainly Judge,” I replied, curious to see what had come up.

The Judge took a quick look around the table before looking back at Anna and me. “I know that most of us were planning to leave in the next few days, but George was kind enough to invite us to his wedding and we all have pretty much agreed that we’d like to attend. So, if your hospitality stretches that far, we’d like to put off leaving for Santa Fe until the beginning of March.”

Anna gave me a quick hand squeeze under the table, and I caught her smile and brief nod out of the side of my eye, so I was able to respond without hesitation.

“That would be better than fine, Judge. You are all welcome here as long as you want to stay, whenever you want to stay. I must say though, it’s awfully brave of you to travel during the windy season.”

“Nothing brave about it, Paul. I will be traveling in the coach with Helen and Hiram. It’s our escorts and drivers who will bear the brunt of the weather,” the Judge replied to laughter from around the table as we all resumed eating.

Anna and I led the Judge into the den a short time later. The Judge firmly closed the door, hesitated a moment, and then lowered the bar before turning to address me.

“Until now I never really believed your predictions on a Civil War. Now I’m worried. Very worried.” Seeing he definitely had our attention, he continued. “I’ve got eight arrest warrants,” he said pulling a packet of papers from inside his jacket and handing them to me. “All eight have been arrested for murder; three in Colorado City and five in Tucson.”

Taking the papers, I had to ask, “What does this have to do with my predictions of a war in the next few years?”

“All of the men in those warrants are strong pro-slavery or anti-slavery proponents,” he said as he sat down in one of the chairs facing the couch. “It seems that just before Christmas a band of twelve pro-slavery men attacked an anti-slavery meeting in Colorado City, killing fourteen attendees, including two women. Two of the pro-slavers were killed and three were wounded, arrested, and jailed. A small contingent of the anti-slavers apparently weren’t satisfied with waiting for a trial. Five of them stormed the jail, killed the Deputy, took the three wounded prisoners out of their cells, and hanged them. The Deputy killed two of the anti-slavers before he died. The three anti-slavers who lynched the prisoners were identified shortly after the hanging and arrested by the Town Marshal.

“Meanwhile, the original pro-slavers who hadn’t been killed or arrested left town heading east, riding fresh horses, stolen from the livery stable. A drummer, passing through Colorado City, identified the three prisoners that were lynched as members of a pro-slavery group in Tucson. He also provided the names of four other members of the gang. The Town Marshal wrote up the whole incident along with the drummer’s statement and sent it to the Tucson Town Marshal on the next stage.

“On the Saturday afternoon after Christmas, the Tucson Marshal received the letter from the Colorado City Marshal. He’d just finished reading it when the swamper from the roughest saloon in Tucson ran into his office and said there were five men, all drunk, causing problems. The Marshal took two of his Deputies to the saloon and found the four men named in the Colorado City letter, along with a fifth who was known to associate with them. When the Marshal and his Deputies walked into the saloon, they found the five men, drunk almost to the point of incapacitation, hooting and hollering about the anti-slavery meeting they’d broken up in Colorado City. He arrested them all without a problem and has them in jail.

“He sent me both his report and the report from the Colorado City Marshal. Together, the reports were more than enough for the warrants. I don’t want this sitting around and festering,” he said with a grim look. We need to get those men out of Colorado City and Tucson, both the pro-slavers and anti-slavers, get them here as soon as possible, and tried.”

“Well, I can see why you’re concerned,” I said slowly as the ramifications started sinking in. “Damn it, it’s already started! I was hoping we had another year or two before this started happening.” I was racking my brain, trying to remember if I’d ever read anything about this incident in my history classes, but came up with nothing. “I’ll leave for Mesilla as soon as we’re done here and get Esteban and Ed started out tomorrow morning to get the prisoners. If you have no objections, I’m going to deputize a couple of teams of Scout/Snipers to go with them to help provide security.”

The Judge mulled it over for a few moments before slowly nodding his head. “That sounds like a good idea Paul. There’s more that you need to hear though,” he said standing up and passing me another piece of paper from his inside pocket. “The other letter I received yesterday was from an old friend of mine, in Pinos Altos, just north of San Vicente. Apparently, there is a small group of pro-slavers in the area. My friend says a cannon was fired off just outside of town and he’s worried that the pro-slavers are going to use it on the anti-slavers in the area.

“Once you get your two Deputies moving west to pick up the prisoners, I’d like you to ride up to Pinos Altos and quietly investigate what’s going on. That’s a bench warrant,” he said pointing to the paper he’d just handed me. “You can use that if you find anything nefarious going on, but let me make it clear, owning and firing a cannon is, in and of itself, not against the law. How and when it’s used, may be against the law.”

“How come you have Pablo doing this instead of Sheriff Bean?” Anna asked, clearly upset.

“That would be a real problem, Anna,” the Judge sighed. “Apparently, the owner of the canon is Roy Bean, Sheriff Bean’s brother. Sam has a history of ‘rescuing’ his brother from problems so I can’t very well trust anything he tells me concerning Roy.”

Anna and the Judge sat quietly, waiting for my response. This incident I had read about, but the history I knew said the cannon was fired after the Civil War started when Roy and members of the Confederate Guards were fighting off a raid by Apache warriors. The only thing I could think of was that Roy had test-fired the cannon before setting it up in front of the store and saloon he and his brother owned.

“All right Judge. I’ll leave tomorrow morning, ride to Mesilla and get Esteban and Ed on their way. Then I’ll head up to Pinos Altos and see what I can find, although I don’t expect to find much. Roy is a troublemaker, especially with the ladies, and he’s a pro-slaver, but he’s not a diehard about it, nor is he what I would consider a violent man.”

“Why wait until tomorrow?” the Judge asked.

“It’s going to take me a few hours to gather everything I’m going to take with me, that’s some rough country, and I’m not going to pack light – too much can happen. It’ll probably be lunchtime before I can get that done and get the Scout/Snipers ready as well. This time of year, the sun goes down around five o’clock and I don’t fancy riding in the dark.”

“Makes sense,” the Judge said, nodding. “I really hate to send you out, but I don’t see much of a choice. As you said, it may be nothing.” A moment later he asked, “Are you going to take anyone with you? Are you still worried about ‘the Boss’ being out there waiting?”

“I’m always worried about what ‘the Boss’ is doing,” I answered. “But, no, I’m not worried that he, or more accurately, his men, are out there waiting for me at the moment. We pretty much wiped out his gang in the southern territory a few months ago. I don’t think he’s had time to recruit a new gang and move them down here, yet. No, I think it’ll be late spring, at the earliest, before he starts making his next move.

“I think I need to make this trip alone. You said you wanted this to be nothing more than a quiet investigation. That’s most easily accomplished by one person. As I said, Roy isn’t a violent man and I fully expect to find everything quiet in Pinos Altos.”

The Judge slapped his thighs with both hands and stood up. “I’ll leave you to prepare then,” he said as he unbarred and opened the door. Turning back towards where Anna and I were still sitting, he added, “Thank you, Paul,” before turning down the hallway towards the dining room.

Anna was out of the chair as soon as the Judge had disappeared from sight down the hall. She closed the door, turned back to face me, concern etched in every pore of her face.

“Mi Pablo, I don’t have a good feeling about this. Please take someone else with you, to watch your back if nothing else.”

I got up and took her in a hug. “Anna,” I whispered. There’s nothing to be worried about. At least not for me. Esteban, Ed, and whichever of the four Scout/Snipers go with them, are the ones we need to be worried about. They are going to be under constant threat from both pro-slaver and anti-slaver ambush or attack from the time they pick up their first prisoners until they get back to Mesilla.

“As for me, the only thing I really have to worry about is how rough the country is up near Pinos Altos. You see, I know that Roy Bean has that cannon and that it’s one of the small ones. He uses it exactly once according to my history and that won’t be for a few more years. I expect that he just traded someone for the thing and tested it to make sure it worked. If I believed there was anything more to it, I would be taking at least a team with me. Let’s let everyone else enjoy the last few days of the holidays before sending them back out to work.”

Anna hugged me tighter for a few moments in silent response before sighing and looking up at me. “I still don’t like it, mi Pablo. Too many things can happen when you’re traveling alone, especially in rough country. Please be very careful.”

I nodded my head in agreement as we continued to hug each other for several more minutes. All that time I was trying to remember when the last time I’d traveled alone was. As we broke the hug, and Anna opened the door, I finally remembered that the last time I’d traveled alone was when the tall man shot me over three years ago. Since that time, I’d always had at least one person with me on a trip and usually more than one.

Anna turned right down the hallway, back towards the dining room and kitchen, as I headed up the stairs and out to the upper courtyard to send a mirror message to Miguel asking for two volunteer Scout/Sniper teams to take a trip to Colorado City and back. The whole time I was doing that, I was wondering if, maybe, I should take someone else with me. I paused for a moment, as the wind chilled me to my bones, waiting for the acknowledgment to come back. Just before I saw the acknowledgment flashes, I finally decided to go with my original plan of traveling alone.

Decision made, and the message sent, I went downstairs and found Tom still in the dining room drinking a last cup of coffee with Anna.

“You ready to go?” he asked, referring to the ride we’d planned for this morning.

“Yep, I’m looking forward to seeing what Frank has been able to put together from the design I gave him,” I responded.

“Me too!” he said, standing up. “That’s the damnedest looking contraption I’ve seen you come up with yet. The horses should be ready out front.”

I gave Anna a kiss and a few moments later, Tom and I were in the saddle headed towards the village.

We were half-way to the village when Tom spoke up, “Paul, you know Anna’s really worried about you traveling alone. Are you sure you don’t want me to go with you?”

“Thanks for the offer, Tom. I really do appreciate it, but I don’t think there’s really anything to this trip. It’s more just a show the badge type of trip. A quick in and out, the same day, type of visit. There’s really no need for you to miss time with Yolanda and little Joe. We’ll be gone enough this spring and summer as it is.”

“If you say so Paul,” Tom replied doubtfully. “Just remember, you’re never going to hear the end of it from Anna, and everyone else, if you get hurt. Why, if you die, Anna will be so mad she just might bring you back to life and then kill you herself,” he said, trying to lighten the conversation.

“I suspect you’re right,” I replied with a grin.

When we rode up to the smithy, we found Frank busy, pounding iron ingots, on the anvil, just in front of the forge that he’d claimed as his. The heat from the forge more than offset the chill northern breeze as evidenced by his sweat-soaked shirt and rivulets of sweat streaming down his face.

Tom and I stood there, out of the way, for a good five minutes, before Frank noticed us. Even then, it was another couple of minutes before he finally plunged the iron back into the forge and walked over to us, wiping his brow.

“Morning, Paul. I hope you weren’t expecting to see much this morning. The ropes and chains are all ready, of course, but the sled itself is going to take another week or so.”

“Morning, Frank, I was really hoping to see some progress this morning. What’s the holdup?” I asked concernedly.

“It’s the iron, we don’t have enough,” he replied with a shrug. “What I’m working on now is the last of the iron ingots we have on hand. It’s one of the biggest problems we have. Hopefully, we’ll get some more in the next few days. Well, that and I didn’t realize just how big the scraper really is. I’ll be about two-thirds of the way done with the pieces of the scraper itself by the end of the day, but I won’t be able to complete it and put it all together until we get more iron ingots.”

My hopes for a quick working prototype dashed, I clapped Frank on his shoulder. “I understand Frank. I knew we were getting short, but I didn’t know it was this bad. I’ll look into getting a steadier supply when I’m in Las Cruces and Mesilla tomorrow. In the meantime, do the best you can with what you have.”

As Tom and I mounted our horses, I added, “I’ll be back from my trip in a couple of weeks. I expect you’ll get the supplies you need and have something to show us then.”

Frank nodded agreement, waved, and picked up tongs to retrieve the iron from the forge as we turned the horses toward the Hacienda.

“That was a wasted trip,” Tom said a few minutes later as we left the village. “Well, we did learn just how low we are on iron, I guess; so, it wasn’t really wasted, but I was really hoping to see this Fresno Scraper in action.”

“Me too, Tom. I may have a way to get iron on a consistent basis, but it’s going to take some luck and a few months before it happens.”

“Oh? How are you going to do that?”

“There’s a German somewhere down in Las Cruces or Mesilla who has an iron and copper mine up near Pinos Altos. He’s tried to make the mine active several times over the last fifteen years, but he keeps getting attacked by Apache raiding parties. He’s out of money now and hasn’t been able to find anyone interested in backing him for another try. If I can find him, I’ll offer to back him and provide security. I think George is getting a little bored doing nothing but training the teams.”

“Is this something you ‘heard’ about or is it something from your history?” he asked and then quickly went on, “What’s this guy’s name? Maybe I’ve heard of him.”

I couldn’t help but smile at Tom’s excited enthusiasm. I got the distinct impression he was getting a little bored as well.

“It’s something from my history. It’s called the Hanover mine, which was named after the area the owner is originally from. My kids used to love camping up there and playing in the tailings around the old mine shaft. When they got tired of that they loved exploring the ghost towns of Hanover and Fierro. His name is Sofio Henkle. It’s not a name I could ever forget because it’s so unusual.

“The kids used to ask so many questions that I had to study up on the man, the mines, and the towns, just to stay a step ahead of them. The real money up there was in zinc but originally it was copper and iron.”

“Hmmm, never heard of him,” Tom said, scratching his chin in thought. “You’re right, it’s not a name I’d be likely to forget once I heard it. Maybe Giuseppe knows him or, better yet, maybe Sophia knows the wife.”

“My thoughts, exactly. Let’s get back to the Hacienda and find Giuseppe and Sofia,” I said spurring my horse into a gallop.

We found both Giuseppe and Sophia quite easily. They were both sitting in the living room having a quiet talk when we walked in the Hacienda from the courtyard. Seeing Tom’s obvious excitement, they both looked at us curiously.

“Just the two we were looking for,” I said, sitting down across from them. “We were wondering if either of you know Sofio Henkle or his family, and if so, where they might be living.”

There is more of this chapter...
The source of this story is Finestories

To read the complete story you need to be logged in:
Log In or
Register for a Free account (Why register?)

Get No-Registration Temporary Access*

* Allows you 3 stories to read in 24 hours.

Close