Railroad (Robledo Mountain #4)
Copyright© 2020 by Kraken
I made my way back through the courtyard and into the house heading for the dining room, intent on having another cup of coffee. Before I could sit down, however, Mr. Greenburg saw me.
“Paul, if you have time this morning, and you’re feeling up to it, Rachael and I would like to talk with you for a little while regarding our discussions before you were hurt.”
A quick glance at Anna and with her small nod of approval, I replied, “Certainly, Sir. I’m at your disposal. How about we get a coffee service, and go in the den to talk?”
At my slow pace, I was the last to enter the den. Anna, carrying the coffee service, entered just before me and I followed her in closing and barring the door before sitting down, heavily, on the love seat. Anna fixed us both a cup and handed me mine.
“All right, Mr. Greenburg, it’s your dime, start talking,” I said with a grin.
“Oh, my,” he said, startled. “I haven’t heard that phrase in almost fifty years. That does bring back memories.”
Seeing the blank expression on his wife’s and Anna’s faces he explained the phrase to them. By the time he was done with his explanation, I’d finished my cup of coffee and was reaching for the pot to try and pour another cup from the service using just one hand. Seeing what I was trying to do, Anna reached over and slapped my hand away from the pot.
“Pablo, all you have to do is ask,” she said, clearly exasperated with me. “It’s impossible to pour from that service using just one hand and you know it.”
She proceeded to pour me another cup. When she was done, I looked her in the eyes and with sincerity said, “Anna, my love, having to suddenly ask for assistance with such a simple task takes some getting used to. You don’t know how many normally easy tasks, such as that one, there are in daily life until the ability to do them is taken away from you. I’ll try to remember to ask, but please remember I forget from time to time.”
The irritation quickly left her face to be replaced with concern and understanding. “I’ll try to remember that as well, mi Pablo.”
We continued to stare at each other, each lost in the other’s eyes until Mr. Greenburg quietly cleared his throat.
“We can do this another time, if it’s more convenient for you, it’s really not that important,” he said with a twinkle in his eye.
Breaking my gaze into Anna’s eyes, I leaned back into the loveseat with my coffee and turned to Mr. Greenburg. “Sir, we’re here now,” I said before grinning and adding, “Anna and I can continue our silent discussion later this morning or after lunch. Please ask your questions.”
“The question is simple, Paul, but I expect the answer will be more complicated. Rachael and I watched you yesterday with Mr. Henkle. You could have demanded a full partnership in exchange for the backing you offered him. Alternatively, you could have offered to buy his claim for much less than you did. Our question is, why? Why did you offer so much assistance for so little return?”
Out of the side of my eye, I saw Anna’s soft smile and shake of her head at his question. After staring at Mr. Greenburg for almost a full minute I sighed. “Anna, do you want to answer his question?”
Startled, Anna looked at me and then grinned. “I can try. You’ve given him the answer any number of times, but he still doesn’t seem to understand.” Turning to the Greenburgs, she thought for a moment before speaking. “Mr. Greenburg, as you may have noticed, Paul is a strong man, but he isn’t a strongman. He has no interest in building an empire.
“What he does have an interest in, is bettering the lives of the people of this valley and this state. All the people, not just some of them. He does this by identifying a discrete problem, determines a solution that appears to benefit him in some way that people will believe is in his best interest, then implements the solution in such a way that, while it does indeed benefit him a little, benefits the largest group of people possible.
“What you saw yesterday was as good an example as you’ll find. He long ago identified the problem with the dual wage structure prevalent in the mining business, but he hadn’t come up with a way to change it without violence, at least until now.
“As you heard, we go through a lot of iron, which is difficult to get here. Paul’s solution to getting the iron we need was to back a local mine with a proven vein of rich ore. None of us on the Estancia have any interest in owning a mine, but by backing Mr. Henkle we accomplish three goals almost immediately.
“First, we get the iron we need. That’s the public reason everyone will hear about and understand.
“Second, we help Mr. Henkle fulfill one of his dreams, and in the process, make a friend and help someone else in the valley prosper, plus we’re helping more people in the state to prosper. The more prosperous people there are, in both the valley and the state, the better off we’ll all be.
“Third, and most importantly, we succeed in taking a major step forward in getting rid of that damned dual wage system. The single most important item from yesterday’s agreement was the covenant that prohibited a dual wage from ever being used to mine ore from any area covered by Mr. Henkle’s claim. You see, people will be mining Hanover Mountain well into the twenty-first century. First, it will be iron and copper, but then nickel and, eventually, zinc will take over. By offering a single wage scale now, the other mines will be forced to match it over the next few years or see their workforce reduced to almost nothing since the majority of miners here in the Territory are Hispanos. You see, we know that the iron mine will produce over six hundred million tons of iron ore before it plays out. The copper mines he will open are even bigger, and he’ll start opening them within a year, if not sooner.
“Left to their own devices, the large mining operations here in the Territory would continue the dual wage scale well into the next century. The resentment that has built up, up to this point, between Hispanos and Anglo miners, will continue to build and fester.” She ended her explanation with, “We’re stopping that from happening seventy years earlier than it would have if we let history take its own course.”
Finished, Anna leaned back against me and sipped her coffee, waiting to see what the Greenburg’s response would be.
“Interesting,” Mr. Greenburg finally said. “It’s certainly in line with the other plans you’ve shown us, and it’s certainly in line with your previous explanations.”
He went quiet again and turned towards his wife, staring into her eyes as if in search of something. Whatever he was searching for, he must have found, as a few moments later he turned back to us.
“We’re in,” he said, with certainty. “As soon as we can meet with your architect, we’ll get the plans for the bank in Las Cruces started. The sooner we can get it built, the sooner we can move up here and open it.”
I gave a small sigh of satisfaction. “Thank you. As far as the architect is concerned, I sent a letter to both Jorge and Juan Ortega, inviting them, along with their families, to visit us this weekend to discuss new business opportunities. I should know in a couple of days if they’re able to come or not.”
“Rachael and I will leave you and Anna to continue the silent communications you started earlier with each other,” he said, smiling as he stood up.
I smiled back at both of them as Anna quickly stood up, unbarred and opened the door for them to leave. Once they were both gone, Anna slowly closed the door, and came back to cuddle with me on the love seat.
“Well, mi Pablo, that’s two wins in the last two days. What’s next?”
“How about we invite your grandparents, and Tom and Yolanda, and the Greenburgs for a meeting with Kit and Josefa after lunch, and tell them about time walkers?” I asked, with a smile.
Anna gasped, turning to give me one of her huge super megawatt smiles. This was something she had been advocating, ever since finding out about Kit’s experience in the upcoming Civil War, not to mention, when and how they both died.
“We can also broach the idea of him helping me dig gold the next three summers. Assuming there’s any time left before dinner after we get done convincing him and Josefa that I’m from the future.”
Anna was off the love seat and shot out the door with a quick, over the shoulder, “I’ll be right back.”
When she returned a few moments later, it was with the Greenburgs in tow. After shutting and barring the door, she sat back down in love seat and looked at me to start the discussion.
“We’re sorry to bring you back in so soon after you left, but we were so excited by your decision that we forgot about another thing we wanted to talk to you about.”
“And what would that be,” Mrs. Greenburg asked curiously.
“Do you know anything, historically, about Kit Carson?” I asked, addressing the question to Mr. Greenburg.
“No, can’t say as I do,” he replied after a few moments thought.
“That’s what I thought. Kit, and to a slightly lesser degree, Josefa, are historic national figures,” I replied, and turned to give Anna a nod. Anna got up off the couch and moved to open the cave door. “I’d like you to go back to the RV for a few minutes and read what the encyclopedia says about Kit and Josefa, their lives, and deaths. When you’ve read what’s there, please come back here and we can talk about what it is we want to do and, potentially, your part in it.”
I sat, sipping coffee, struggling to stay awake in the quiet of the den, for almost forty-five minutes before Anna and the Greenburgs returned. Both had a troubled look on their face.
“Such a sad tragic ending for those two, and so soon,” Mrs. Greenburg sighed, as she took her seat.
“Yes, it is,” added Mr. Greenburg. “I presume you want to do something that will help ensure they live longer?” Receiving quick nods from both Anna and me, he said, “How can we help?”
“There are two things we hope to accomplish. First, we hope to persuade them to move in here with us, along with Josefa’s sister and kids. Josefa’s sister is Charles Bent’s widow. Kit and Charles were close friends before they married sisters, which only made them closer. With Josefa here, we can help her during childbirth and, with any luck, prevent her death during her last delivery.
“The second thing we hope to accomplish is to stop Kit from entering the upcoming war. His service during the war destroys what remains of his health. Having to obey the orders of Carleton, who, like a carpenter with only a hammer available to him, sees every problem as a nail, demoralizes him. The final straw is the death of Josefa. The combination of these three things are, I believe, what kills him, so early in his life.
“Anna and I have thought about this and believe the only way we’ll be able to convince them to both move here and stay out of direct involvement in the war, is to tell them about time walkers, that I am a time walker, and give them just enough knowledge about their future to help them make an informed decision.
“To strengthen my story about time walkers, we’d like to have you tell them your own time walker story.”
Mr. Greenburg was silent for a few moments before answering. “I applaud your wanting to do something to help both of these fine people, and I even approve of your plan, but are you sure that telling them about their deaths is such a good idea? Won’t just telling them our stories, showing them what’s in the cave, and letting them read your plans convince them to both move here and keep Kit out of the war?”
“No, Sir, it won’t,” I said with a sharp shake of my head. “I don’t know how much time you’ve spent with either of them over the last few weeks, but Kit is both an independent cuss and a patriot of the highest order. Josefa is also strongly independent and deeply in love with Kit. She will follow him where she can, and when she can’t she’ll stay at home, in Taos. What you’re saying will help, but it won’t convince them.
“I don’t plan on telling them much, if anything, about their deaths. I do plan on telling him that his service in the Army will destroy his health and his reputation with both the Navajo and the Apache. But that is all I hope to have to tell them.”
Mr. Greenburg took in what I said and thought for a few minutes. “I will do as you ask, although I hope you don’t have to give them too much information for them to see that your requests are in their best interest.”
Anna breathed a sigh of relief. “Thank you for agreeing to help us with this,” she said gratefully.
We talked for a few more minutes before leaving the den in search of all the others. It had been well over a week since I’d spent any time with our guests, and I wanted to see how they were all doing.
The first people I ran into were Kit and Josefa. I asked them to join me, Anna, and some others in the den immediately after lunch to have a discussion that would take most, if not all, of the afternoon.
Hiram and Levi were enjoying getting reacquainted and extremely happy at their parent’s sudden mood change after the last few weeks.
Steve and the Judge were sitting together, as I’d learned to expect. Steve was working on the list of places he was going to travel to, the people he was to meet, and the specific purchases or requests he was going to make of each of them. The Judge was perusing a stack of old newspapers.
“What are you doing, Steve?” I asked, sitting down in a chair next to him.
Startled, Steve looked up from his papers. “Oh! Hi, Paul, I didn’t see you come up.” He glanced down at his papers, “I’m putting the final touches on my travel itinerary now that Mr. Greenburg has provided a location and person to contact about a dairy herd and making cheese,” he said excitedly.
“He did? When did he do that?” I asked.
“He sure did. He said since I was going to be in New York that I should make a trip to Rome via Albany and Utica. Once I’m in Rome, I’m to look up a man, Jesse Williams, who has a dairy and commercial cheesemaking business in the vicinity of Rome. The dairy isn’t all that important of course, but his cheesemaking business is the first place in the country to make cheese commercially for widespread sales. According to Mr. Greenburg, this Mr. Williams is doing quite well, supplying many different kinds of cheese to places as far as away as New York City.
“Since I have to go through Albany, I added a visit to Mr. Corning, the head of the New York Central Railroad to see what kind of information I could get from him. If nothing else, it could be the basis for a future relationship.”
“Wow! I didn’t realize Mr. Greenburg had those kinds of contacts,” I said.
“I’m not sure he’s had contact with either of them,” Steve said thoughtfully. “He just said he’d heard about both of them.”
“That sounds more like it,” I said with a grin. “Let’s add one more item to your list. See if you can find out what equipment and special training it takes to make iron rails. Since we have access to an iron mine, I was thinking it would make more sense to produce the iron rails here than to buy them back east and pay to have them shipped all the way to Santa Fe. We’ll still have to buy them from back east for the first phase I think, but if we can get a plant up and producing by 1861, we could come out way ahead cost-wise.”
Steve sat thoughtfully for a few moments, before giving me a grin. “Okay, I can probably get the information I need for that in Philadelphia, from Baldwin Steam Works. Where would we build this?”
With a shrug, I said, “Probably somewhere near the mine. San Vicente perhaps? That’s a decision we can put off until you get back. If you decide it can be done, then order the equipment, find the core trained people we’ll need to start up, and get them started this way.”
“Okay. To think this all started out as a three-month trip to Chicago to talk to Pullman. Now it’s an eight to twelve-month trip to Chicago, Philadelphia, New York City, Albany, Rome, and two different towns in Connecticut. I’m almost afraid to be anywhere near you anymore for fear you’re going to add something else,” he said, grinning again.
“Well, at the moment, I’ve got Tom, Yolanda, and the Mendozas lined up for trips back east and to Scotland late next year. You’re going to have too much to do here to go with them though,” I said, grinning back at him.
The Judge interrupted the back and forth that was getting started. “How’s the arm and hand, Paul?”
“The shoulder’s doing pretty good, Judge. The ache is still there, but there’s less of it every day. As long as I don’t try to lift anything or hit it on anything of course. My hand seems to be on the mend as well. It feels like there’s less numbness today than there has been, although that could just be wishful thinking,” I said, absently massaging my hand.
“That’s good, but let’s hope it’s actually healing and not wishful thinking.” He looked at me curiously. “Was there some reason you decided to sit down here or were you just looking for a quiet place to rest yourself?”
“Well, I was just making the rounds, so to speak, of all our guests to see how you’re all doing. I haven’t been around much the last couple of weeks and I wanted to make sure you weren’t bored or rethinking your decision to stay until the wedding,” I finished sheepishly.
“I can’t speak for Steve, but I’m doing exactly what I want to be doing, relaxing is something I haven’t been able to do in a long time. Although,” he added thoughtfully, “I do miss our weekly poker game.”
“Hmm, that’s a good point. I think we have enough for a good game of poker every week. We could play in the den, although I’ll have to get a big enough table in there. Come to think of it, we’ve got the perfect one, somewhere around here. I’ll ask Anna where it is, and we can have it moved into the den on whatever day we decide to play. Poker chips may be an issue, though. I’ll have to look into that.”
“How about tomorrow afternoon?” he asked eagerly.
“I don’t see why not. Let me see about the table and what we can come up with for poker chips and I’ll let you know at dinner, tonight.”
He nodded, satisfied with my answer, and went back to reading his paper.
I stood up to visit some of my other guests when I remembered another topic I wanted to talk to Steve and the Judge about.
“One other thing, before I forget, again, if you both have a few minutes?” At their nods, I asked, “I want to buy some more land. If we go into the den, I can show you on the map what I want to do.”
Both of them rose from their chairs, followed me into the den, and over to the map on the wall.
“What I want to do is buy the entire Sierra Blanca Mountain and as much of this woodland area southwest of what we already bought for the Mescalero Trust. I want all that added to the trust.
“Then I want to buy as close to a like amount of land in the Gila area, north of Hanover Mountain,” I said tracing a large square in the area I wanted. “I want to start a separate trust, let’s call it the Mimbreños Trust. It’ll use almost the same exact language as the Mescalero Trust. I hope it will go a long way towards helping Loco, Victorio, and Mangas Coloradas make peace in that part of the state.
“Finally, I want to buy as much of this land as you can,” I said tracing a rough ten square mile area just west of San Antonio. “In all the rush to buy land for the railroad, I forgot about the coal we’re going to need to run the railroad. This area has the coal we’ll need to get things going. Lucien has much more coal on his land up near Raton, but it will take longer to get it going,” I said showing them the area of Lucien’s land I was talking about. “Please tell Lucien to get started on setting up a mine in this area. It’s our long-term solution to coal that we need. I’ll help if he needs it, but regardless, I will guarantee to buy all the coal he mines for the first five years as long as production starts by 1860.”
After glancing at the Judge, Steve said, “Sure, I can do that Paul. When do you want to do this and how much do you want to spend?”
“Well, the when is pretty easy. The Judge needs to go to Mesilla, fairly soon, to look at the Courthouse he’s going to hold the trial in when the prisoners get there. I figure you could go with him and buy the land. As for how much?” I shrugged. “Spend what you need to, within reason, out of my and Anna’s Santa Fe account. There should be more than enough in there to handle it. I’m sure Hiram will be willing to go with you and write a bank draft for the exact purchase amount. That’ll save having to carry pounds of gold bars with you. When you’ve bought it all we can work on the Trust documents so you can carry them back with you and get them registered with the Judge before you leave on your trip.”
“You know, Paul,” the Judge said, interrupting Steve’s response. “When you buy all this, you’ll be close to owning as much land as Lucien.”
“No Judge, I won’t be. Lucien owns all his land outright in his own name. All the land I’ve bought, other than the Estancia, isn’t in my name. The only land Anna and I own in my name is the Estancia land, and even that is in a trust.”
“That’s a difference to be sure. Paul, are you really sure you can afford to buy and give away all this land, especially to people with reputations like Victorio and Mangas Coloradas?”
“Yes! Please try and understand, Judge. The land isn’t being given to Victorio and Mangas Coloradas but to the Mimbreños as a group. I owe the Apache at least this much for adopting me after my parents died. I’ve got to try anyway. It’s the least I can do.”
“All right, Son, point taken. I just wanted to make sure, is all,” he said, holding up his hands. He turned to Steve, “Let’s go talk to Hiram and get his thoughts on the best day to visit Mesilla. Paul’s right, I do need to get my bearings before the prisoners arrive.”
I started to follow them out of the den but stopped short, seeing the coffee service from the Greenburg discussion, still sitting on the table. Without thinking, I reached out to pick it up and return it to the kitchen. My hands were halfway to the service when I realized what I was trying to do. There was no way I was going to be able to pick up the service with no strength in my right hand and it was too heavy to pick up one-handed.
Shrugging, I headed to the kitchen where I explained the problem.
“No problem, Paul, I’ll get it if you will let folks know lunch will be ready in ten minutes,” Celia said as she walked past me to retrieve the service.
‘Lunch? Where did the time go?’ I wondered as I walked down the hallway to start spreading the word.
Lunch, while good, was over too quickly as far as I was concerned. I really wasn’t looking forward to the expected arguments we were going to get from Kit and Josefa. In truth, I was a little tired and didn’t know if I had regained the mental stamina I was going to need. Regardless, I followed everyone into the den, barred the door, and started the first part of the discussion.
As I was going through the, by now, well-worn spiel I couldn’t help but be impressed by Kit’s demeanor. Josefa was no slouch at wearing a poker face, but Kit’s was really impressive. Thinking about it, in the back of my mind as I talked, I realized that Kit’s normal demeanor was what most people would try to put on during a game of poker. Lucien was close in his normal demeanor, but Kit normally managed to convey warmth and friendship, while Lucien’s silence had an almost tangible anger to it. It wasn’t really threatening but I always had the impression it wouldn’t take much to turn it from anger to action. The Judge, Hiram, and Steve were more like me. Their version of a poker face was nothing more than a usually unsuccessful attempt to remove all emotions from their face.
Throughout my entire explanation, Kit’s facial expression and body language never changed. He just sat and calmly listened to everything I’d said. Josefa, at least, gasped in all the right places, and it was clear, from her expressions and body language, that she was having a little difficulty in taking everything I said as truth.
I reached the end of my talk, Anna opened the cave door, lit the lantern, and we led them into the cave. As usual, we let them explore with the lantern while we stood by the door. I’d always known that Kit wasn’t really all that interested in money, he had almost everything he wanted already, but his lack of interest in the shelves full of gold bars was still surprising.
When they were done exploring, Anna and I led them to, and inside the RV. The others remained in the den, waiting for us to return to begin the second half of the discussion. While I gave Kit and Josefa the standard tour explaining the various devices, Anna fixed a pot of coffee and popped some popcorn. We sat at the table and answered Josefa’s questions as we drank coffee and nibbled on the popcorn. Kit was quiet until the very end.
“Paul, this all very interesting, fascinating even, but why are telling us all this? I understand why the others know, they’re all family. I admit I’m a little puzzled with the Greenburgs knowing about you, the cave, and what’s in here, especially given how he was going at you the last few weeks.”
“Why the Greenburgs are involved and why we are letting you into the secret is the next part of the discussion,” I replied, standing up, and leading them out of the RV. “And Kit, you and Josefa are family, too,” I added as we walked into the den.
Once we are settled again, Mr. Greenburg told his story. A little over an hour after he started, he concluded with, “So you see, as best as we can tell, time walkers can be here for good or evil purposes. We also believe there are other time walkers. How many may be out there we don’t know. Who, or what makes us time walkers? We don’t know. How we time walk? We don’t know.”
Still completely unruffled by all he’d been told and seen, Kit just nodded his head. “Well,” he drawled, “I think we understand now why you were so opposed to Paul and Anna’s plans and why you’re here now. What I still can’t figure out, is why Josefa and I are here. Let’s hear it, Paul. Why are we here?
Mr. Greenburg gave me a look that I knew meant that he was still a little skeptical I could convince either Kit or Josefa to go along with our plans without giving them every little bit of information about their future. I was more than a little skeptical myself, but I was going to do my best.
“Kit, too much knowledge can be a very bad thing, especially knowledge about what the future holds.”
“How can that be true, Paul?” he asked, clearly confused. “If you know the future then you should be able to stop things that you don’t want to happen, encourage those things you want to change, and leave alone those things that don’t matter.”