Railroad (Robledo Mountain #4)
Copyright© 2020 by Kraken
In one way I was right. It was an interesting few weeks. In another way, I was wrong. It was not just a few weeks; it was fifteen weeks.
It started shortly after breakfast that first morning. As soon as Steve, the Judge, and Hiram finished bringing me up to date on their activities, I asked Juan, Jorge, George, Heinrich, and Giuseppe to join us in the den.
I had the territorial map spread out on the desk, watching as Steve finished up tracing all the new land purchases he’d made when the others walked in and arranged themselves around the desk. Done, Steve looked up at me as I moved the map to center the Hanover mine area on the desk. I looked up to begin telling Juan and Jorge what I was hoping to do but stopped short seeing Jim Longstreet hanging in the background. After a moment of thought, I figured there was no reason he shouldn’t be welcome.
I explained to Juan and Jorge what we wanted to do near the mine. Once they understood, I got to the meat of the issue.
“I’ve sent out a call to Mangas Coloradas, Victorio, and Loco, through Miguel and Nantan, for a meeting with them in early April,” I said, stopping for just a moment hearing Jim give a slight gasp of surprise. “I hope to get their agreement not to raid the miners or the mine. If I’m successful, Giuseppe will go up the following week, with a couple of teams and Scout/Snipers, to survey the barracks and processing plant.
“Giuseppe, I’ll need you to work fast so that Juan can begin leveling the barracks area followed by the processing area,” I said, looking at him for agreement, which he readily gave. “Juan, I have a new tool for you to use that will reduce the number of people you’ll need to level the areas Giuseppe selects and significantly cut down the time it takes.”
Juan had a big smile on his face. “I look forward to it, Paul.”
“I’ll be supplying the stone and you’ll be responsible for supplying the limestone, as usual. I also need you to find me thirty to forty masons. The initial six to eight will work with, and under, the four masons Heinrich is sending. I want the barracks built first and then the processing plant. They’ll use the plans Jorge is going to draw up. The rest will be split up to work in the various locations between Arizona City and Santa Fe. They’ll all be on probation for the first six months, working for one of Heinrich’s masons. Heinrich has agreed to evaluate their work. If they also get along with his crew, they’ll be offered the opportunity to join Heinrich’s crew full-time.”
“That’s a lot of masons, Paul. It may take a while to find that many and even longer to get them here.”
“I know, but things kind of caught up with us. I need the barracks finished two months after you start clearing the land, and the processing plant finished by the end of the year. We have a little over three years to finish all the depots, hotels, restaurants, and ice plants, but we also have a lot of things left to build here on the Estancia and I can’t afford to delay anything here more than a couple of months. Do the best you can and don’t forget how much we pay. That alone should get them here. Just remember, your finder’s fee is dependent on them doing good work, being a good fit with Heinrich’s crew and, more importantly, here on the Estancia.”
“Paul,” Jorge interrupted after Juan gave a nod with a big grin, “we talked about the requirements for the barracks earlier, and that’s no problem. I’ll probably have the plans done before we leave Tuesday morning. I do need more information on the processing plant though. How big do you want it and are there any special requirements I need to take into consideration?”
I’d been giving this some thought, but since I really didn’t know anything about ore processing building requirements, I’d decided to go with what I could remember about the processing plants I’d read about.
“Jorge, plan on a masonry building 1000 feet by 200 feet. It needs to be two stories tall, completely open on the inside, since I expect the equipment will be extremely tall. It needs very large rolling doors on both ends, with minimal use of wood. It also needs windows in the top two-thirds of the walls to allow light in. That’s about all I can give you, for now. The final dimensions will really depend on what Steve finds out back east about the best way to make railroad rails.”
Once again, I heard a small gasp from Jim but ignored him as I continued. “Giuseppe, we also need a large area near the processing plant cleared out, with masonry walls separators, to pile the three raw materials, iron ore, coal, and limestone, that the processing plant will be using.”
I grabbed a piece of paper and quickly drew a long rectangle. Inside the rectangle, near the left end, I drew a square. Done, I handed it to Jorge.
“The square represents the location of the forge. Have it face into the interior of the building, so that the molten iron that comes out, can be transported further into the building. That’s about it for special requirements for now.”
“All right,” he said slowly looking at my drawing. “What about the roof?”
“Clay tiles,” I replied, looking at Juan, who whistled at my reply.”
“That’s a lot of tiles. I’ll order them as soon as Jorge and I figure out the exact dimensions of both buildings, but I can’t guarantee they’ll arrive in time. They’ll be coming from Chihuahua.”
I nodded my acceptance of this reality and then spent the rest of the morning discussing the timing of the various meetings, materials, and shipments. After a quick lunch, we all went in different directions.
Steve and the Judge were in the living room working on adding the new land to the Mescalero Trust and starting the Mimbreño Trust. Tom, George, and Kit were in the den with Mr. Mendoza working on a schedule for eight-in-hand training and making supply lists for the trip. While Kit and Josefa still hadn’t made up their mind about moving to the Estancia, they had decided to take advantage of the money he could make in the goldfield.
Juan, Jorge, Giuseppe, and Heinrich were at the dining room table working on building plans, raw resources requirements, manpower requirements. With all this going on, I retired to the terrace with the map and my notes to update the iron mining plan, the railroad plan, the Mescalero Trust plan, and the Mimbreño Trust plan with all the updates from the last two days.
Of course, none of this was completed in a few hours. In fact, it continued for the next three days before the last of us was done. We all did take a break the day after the meeting to see the scraper I had ‘invented’. Juan was tickled pink with the performance and immediately wanted to know when he could get eight of them for roadwork and clearing building sites. I had to break the news to him that it would be a while and was one of the driving factors behind the iron mine and processing plant.
I probably would have finished my own work much quicker but for one factor, a big, disheveled, quiet man by the name of Jim Longstreet. Because George was tied up with the others, he, at first wandered from room to room checking out what they were doing. He never asked questions but observed silently. In fact, none of the groups he observed ever noticed him.
He found me on the terrace, late that first afternoon, and if I hadn’t seen him out of the corner of my eye, I’d never have known he was there. A big man, he was only a few inches shorter than me, who reminded me of a fireplug, he moved more silently than any other white man I’d ever known, and that included Kit.
I invited him to join me and then realized two important things. First, my coffee service was empty, and second, I didn’t have a cup for Jim to use. I wrote a quick note and got up to take the service to the dumb waiter before I realized I still couldn’t pick up the coffee service with one hand. I was starting to get pretty good pouring one-handed but picking up the service was out of the question. I gave out a sigh and started to sit back down when Jim spoke up.
“What can I do for you, Paul?” At my look, he explained, “I’ve seen and heard that kind of sigh more times than I can remember. Matter of fact, I’ve given that sigh myself more than once. I think of that particular sigh as ‘an independent man suddenly forced to ask for help’ sigh.”
I grinned at him and said, “That’s pretty accurate. Okay, if you would, please bring the coffee service to the dumb waiter for me and we’ll send it down for a refill and a couple more cups.”
He did as I’d asked and we sent the empty service, with the note, down the dumb waiter and waited for less than two minutes before we heard it start back up. When he opened it, Jim pulled out a large tray with a larger coffee service, four cups, and a small plate, with four biscochitos on it. I smiled at the sight and promised myself I’d search the kitchen, at the first opportunity, for the ‘biscochito storage vault’. Jim carried the service to the table, and we settled in, sipping fresh coffee and nibbling on the small cookies.
Jim was eyeing the various stacks of paper on the table, clearly curious, and I invited him to read them while I worked. For the rest of the afternoon, I updated the plans and he read the ones I wasn’t working on at the time. It wasn’t until I put my pencil down for the day that he broke the silence he’d maintained the whole afternoon.
“Paul, is it always this busy around here?” he asked, over his coffee cup.
I thought for a moment, trying to come up with the answer. “Yep, it’s always busy around here although it’s usually a different busy than what you’re seeing now. I rarely get a chance to have all the people who are important to me in one place at the same time. As a matter of fact, this is the first time it’s happened, and we’re all trying to take advantage of it. Once all the guests are gone, things will settle down a little around here, but it will still be busy.
“I don’t know what George has told you about me or this place, but you’re sitting in the middle of a 60,000-acre farm and ranch with over 15,000 head of cattle. Although you can’t see them, there are currently somewhere over 3000 people living here.” I got up and beckoned him to join me at the terrace railing where I gave him the now standard spiel about the Estancia boundaries.
“I know that, in a couple of days, once Juan and Jorge leave, George plans on taking you for a full ride to show you the Estancia. Normally, I’d join you, but,” holding up my right hand in explanation, “between my hand and shoulder, I can’t stay in the saddle that long. I think what you see will surprise you, it does most people. When you’re riding around with George, just keep in mind that everything you see has been built in the last three years.”
“You’re working 60,000 acres and still have the time and money to do everything in those plans?” he asked disbelievingly.
“Those and many other plans, Jim. You have to understand that I’ve got good friends and, more importantly, good employees, many of whom are also friends or family. As far as the Estancia is concerned, I have a lot of really good help. Tomas handles the finca. Hector handles the ranch. Giuseppe handles all the engineering. George and Miguel handle all the security issues. Jose and his wife handle the village and ranch communities. Ramon handles the stables and wagon yards. The old ones handle the youth program to keep the youngsters out of trouble. Between, Anna, Tom, Yolanda, and I, we manage to keep everything coordinated. And, believe me, it takes a lot of coordination. Next week, after Juan and Jorge leave, we’ll be holding a monthly Estancia coordination meeting and you’ll see what I mean. Before you ask,” I said, with a grin at the question I knew was coming, “there are weekly coordination meetings, but I don’t usually sit in on those.”
Jim sat silently, sipping his coffee, deep in thought for a long while. He was still sitting, quietly thinking about everything I’d said when I started pulling all the papers into a single stack and putting the coffee service and cups back on the tray.
“I’ll get the coffee service, Paul, what else do you need to do?”
“Thanks. It’s about dinner time, so other than returning the coffee service to the kitchen and dropping the papers off in the den, there’s really nothing else to do for now.”
Jim hesitated a moment as we were walking downstairs and then said, “After I’ve had time think about what I just read, and after George takes me out to see the Estancia, I’m going to want to talk to you if that’s all right.”
“Sure, Jim. Come find me anytime you want to talk,” I replied as we walked into the dining room.
For the next three days, I watched Jim as he wandered around the Hacienda, talking quietly to the Segundos and their families, our visitors, and the cousins on the upper plateau. George took him out on a full day ride, just the two of them, the morning after Jorge, Juan, and their families left for Las Cruces escorted by Tom and two teams. He was even quieter than usual on their return and at dinner, so I left him alone to think.
Except for breakfast and dinner, I rarely saw Louise or the children throughout their visit. I was never quite sure what they were doing, although Anna did tell me that the kids were attending school and Louise was helping teach or in the community nursery.
While I desperately wanted to recruit Jim, I had decided to leave the bulk of the convincing to George with me playing a supporting role, simply answering questions when, and if, he asked.
Two days later, I was sitting in the den tearing down the six new and three used, but well maintained, muzzle loading rifles Tom had brought back from Las Cruces when Jim came in.
“Paul, do you have a few minutes to talk?” he asked, in his usual quiet voice.
“Of course, Jim. Come on in, have some coffee, and let’s talk,” I said, as I rose to greet him and moved over to the sitting area. “Do you want to talk in private or have George join us?”
“Privately, I think for now? Please, Paul,” he said sitting down and reaching for the coffee.
I closed the door and sat down across from him, pouring my own cup when he was finished.
“What would you like to talk about?” I asked as we settled back into our chairs.
“There’s no offense meant by this, Paul, but what I want to know is who you are and what you’re trying to do,” he said with a piercing stare.
I was taken aback, and more than a little, by both his stare and his statement. I took a sip of coffee to cover my unease and collect my thoughts.
“I know that George has talked to you about me, Jim. Surely those were two of the first things he covered,” I finally replied.
“Yes, he gave me your fantastic story,” Jim interrupted, waving away my attempt to generalize my background. “I’ve been talking to the others about you, not just George. They each tell different parts of your story that, when combined, paints a very strange picture. A picture so strange, I can hardly believe it. So, I want to hear it directly from you.
“I want you to tell me how a lone boy of fifteen, wandering the desert, shows up out of the blue, with more money than anyone else in the territory, buys all the land for the Estancia and all the other projects you’re working on. I want you to tell me how you were able to get all these people, Hispano, Anglo, and Apache, to trust you enough to move to the Estancia.
“I want you to tell me how a nineteen-year-old impresses a man of the Judge’s standing sufficiently to be appointed as a US Marshal. Not a US Deputy Marshal, mind you, but a full-fledged US Marshall.
“I want you to tell me how a nineteen-year-old comes up with everything in the plans I’ve read. How do you know so much about organizing such complex activities? And such a variety of activities. How do you know so much about the law, local government, state government, engineering, mining, military organization, farming, and ranching, not to mention all the other areas you seem to be involved in.
“Finally, I want to know why. Why are you doing all these things? What’s your ultimate goal? Some of these things don’t seem to benefit either you or your friends. Some benefit you slightly but could benefit you much more if you wanted them to. You don’t seem to want them to.
“Damn it, Paul. You’re a confusing young man, and I don’t like being confused!” he finished, in a voice that was both out of breath and frustrated.
I sat there, thinking furiously, as he spoke. I’d been expecting something like this, from almost everyone I’d met since I first found myself in this time. Handled incorrectly, Jim’s demand for information could hurt my efforts more than the loss of Mr. Greenburg would have. His questions also revealed an extremely sharp mind. Thinking about it, I shouldn’t have been surprised by this, yet I was. His looks were more in keeping with a simple soldier. There was absolutely no spit and polish to the man, neither in his physical bearing nor the old, well washed, wrinkled clothes he wore. The fact of the matter was, Jim was, perhaps, the best strategist and tactician, on either side, of the entire Civil War. No, it wouldn’t do to discount his intelligence and ability to put pieces of the puzzle together and come up with the correct answer.
Now it was my turn to give Jim a piercing stare. “Jim, I guess I can see why you’d be confused. The first time I met Anna’s great grandfather, he said I was an old soul in a young man’s body, and it confused him, too. I guess the best place to start my story is at the beginning.”
For the next hour, I told my well-rehearsed fictional story of my first fifteen years, adding details about my parents that only the time walker group knew until now. I also added in details about my ‘wanderings’ through the territory and back east.
With the backstory covered, I spent the next two hours covering the period immediately after I found myself in this timeline to now. I went into great detail about ‘discovering’ a goldfield and spending four years mining the gold with periodic visits to Las Cruces and Santa Fe. I covered ‘the Boss’ and his efforts to steal both the gold and the gold strike, to kill me, and to kill my friends. I covered my thoughts on the coming war, how it would start, who would win, and what the impacts would be. I covered every event I could think of leading up to today.
“Jim, I’m a smart guy. I notice things around me. I wouldn’t have survived all that time alone in the desert if I didn’t. My parents gave me a much better than average educational foundation. I have a talent for languages. Much like you, I listen to others around me. It hasn’t been until lately that anyone even noticed me when I was around. People talked around me. I was just a kid after all and besides, I probably couldn’t understand whatever language they were talking in.
“All of these things combined, mean I know much more, about more things, than most people ever learn. That doesn’t mean I know everything, nor does it mean that I am capable of doing everything I’ve learned. My dad used to say that there is a world of difference between knowing ‘how’ to do something and actually doing it.
“Yes, I know quite a bit about the law, local government, state government, engineering, mining, military organization, farming, and ranching. Most of what I know about each of those areas I learned listening to others talk and reading about those subjects in books and newspapers. Does that mean I can call myself a lawyer, engineer, miner, soldier, banker, farmer, or rancher? Absolutely not!
“What I can do is recognize when I need professional assistance from one of those experts. My dad was constantly telling me that if I ever found myself in need of an expert, find the very best, pay them slightly more than everyone else, and then get out of the way and let them do what you hired them to do. I took that lesson to heart.
“Steve and the Judge provide me assistance with the law. Giuseppe and Heinrich are my engineers. Sofio Henkle is my miner. George is my soldier. The Greenburgs are my bankers. Tomas is my farmer and Hector is my rancher. Jorge is my architect and Juan is my builder. I explained to them what I wanted to do, including the results I was looking for, and then got out of their way so they could do what I hired them to do.
“More importantly, every single one of them is my friend. Some of them were my friends before I hired them. Some became my friends after I met them. Some are family to me, and some became family. Some are Anglo, some are Apache, most are Hispano. Regardless, every single one of them are friends.
“Am I constantly looking over their shoulder to see what they’re doing? No. Do I demand and get periodic reports? Yes. Do I demand that they talk to each other about common overlapping activities? Yes.
“Why am I doing all the things I’m doing? Why don’t I demand a better return on my investments? Both of these questions have the same answer. I want New Mexico to be a place where my sons and daughters can live in peace, among people of all races, skin colors, and languages.
“To realize that dream, the territory must become a state, sooner rather than later. To become a state there must be law, peace, and prosperity. Not just for some, but for all. Right now, there are very few prosperous people in the territory, there is little law, and peace is a pipe dream to most. To make my dream a reality all of those things must change. Many others, not just me, must become prosperous. There must be law, applied equally to everyone who lives here. The Apaches, Hispanos, and Anglos must learn to accept, and tolerate, each other for there to be peace.
“All of the plans, those you’ve read and those you haven’t, move my dream forward in one way or another, and usually in multiple ways. My return on the investments I’m making is not just measured in money. Yes, that is important, I’m not willing to go broke chasing my dream, but I’m thinking of much more than money, and for much longer than the immediate future.
“As for why the Judge was impressed with me enough to offer me the job of US Marshal, all I can say is, I don’t know. You’ll have to ask him. I will tell you that it took a few days for me to accept the job. Partly I was worried about being taken seriously because of my youth. Partly I was worried about having to wander all over the territory while being a newlywed and trying to build the Estancia. I ended up accepting the Judge’s offer because it provided a path to increase the law in the territory.”
We were interrupted at that point by Celia, telling us that lunch was ready.
As we got up, I said, “We can finish up this discussion after lunch, if you still have unanswered questions.”
“Oh, I’ve got a lot more questions for you; but for now, you’ve given me more than enough to think about,” he replied, this time with a grin, as we entered the dining room.
Unexpectedly, Jim followed me back into the den when lunch was over. Putting down the coffee service he was carrying, he turned, closed the door, and sat down across from me.
“Seems like you thought enough over lunch to come up with some more questions,” I said, smiling as he handed me a cup of coffee.
“Well, not really, Paul. I’m still thinking about everything you said this morning. Hell, I’ll probably be thinking about it for another few days,” he replied thoughtfully. “No, what I’d like to understand now is your railroad plan, and some of the decisions you’ve made.”
I wasn’t really surprised by Jim’s interest in this topic, nor where he was going with the questions he was likely to ask. Unlike the detailed plans I kept locked away inside the cave, the plans I worked on in public didn’t contain the overall goal statement; nor much, if any, background, our reasoning in making specific decisions, or the hidden impacts we were hoping each plan would have towards our goals. These public plans weren’t really anything more than detailed implementation plans. Each contained a timeline, from start to finish, lists of resources required, who we were buying the resources from or where the resources were coming from, a current status of each resource, and where we were in each step in the plan.
I raised a questioning eyebrow, inviting Jim to continue, which he quickly accepted.
“I’ll get back to the general plan in a minute, but first, I’m really curious why you decided to add a spur to Arizona City. I mean, you’re already going to Colorado City, which is only a few miles away, so why add the expense of going to Arizona City?”
“How much do you know about that part of the territory?” I asked.
“Well, I passed through Colorado City, a couple of years back. Spent the night, but other than that, I don’t have any first-hand knowledge of the area.”
“Okay, Colorado City sits on the best ford on the entire Colorado River. The river is broader, shallower, and slower at that point than anywhere else to the north. The first time I visited there it struck me as a perfect place to build. Later, I traveled north past Arizona City sitting on the granite bluff overlooking the river. I couldn’t figure out then why in the world anyone would build a town on that bluff when there’s also a bluff on the other side of the river and Colorado City is so close. Especially when those long bluffs on both sides act as a chokepoint for the river. The river is narrow, deep, and fast. No, Colorado City is the obvious place to build.”
“Exactly my point,” Jim said excitedly.
“One of our first major tasks here on the Estancia was building nine miles of levees, including wings at each end, six feet tall, on both sides of the river. A total of almost eighteen miles of levees. It was quite an undertaking and took over two years to complete,” I said reflectively. Looking up from my coffee cup where I’d been staring, I saw Jim’s look of confusion at my apparent change in topic.
“We built those levees to stop the summertime floods from wiping out our crops. The Rio Grande flowing through the Estancia is rarely more than four or five feet deep. There are a few spots that drop to seven or eight feet, but those are rare. We get floods almost every year, Jim. The floods here are not like those back east or down south where you’re from. When most people think of floods, they think of steady rains or snowmelt that slowly raise the level of water out of a riverbank, and over a period of hours or days, inundate the surrounding lowlands.”
I stopped to have a sip of coffee and see if he was following my explanation.
“You’ve been in Texas and the territory since what, ‘46 or ‘47?” I asked.
“Pretty much, yes. I’ve spent most of my time, since the last war started, in west Texas or the territory,” he responded, still curious and confused.
“Have you ever seen a flash flood, Jim? I mean a real, honest to goodness, flash flood. Not a cloud in the sky, no sign of rain or water anywhere in the immediate area, and all of a sudden, an empty dry arroyo is suddenly overflowing with a boiling cauldron of water, dirt, boulders, trees, and limbs. God help anyone or anything caught in the arroyo when that happens because no one else can. It happens out of nowhere, the water is too fast, and there’s too much debris in the water. Anything living caught in a flash flood is swept away so fast there’s no way to help them. Usually, they are found dead, far downstream. Sometimes they die from drowning and sometimes from being battered by small boulders, tree limbs, or tree trunks. Either way, they are just as dead.”
“I’ve heard about flash floods, Paul, but I’ve never really seen one as it happened.”
“Come for a visit in late summer and stay for a week or two. I can almost guarantee you’ll see a flash flood. And you’ll see it, from start to end, from the terrace. The worst, the most violent, part of the flood, will be over in minutes. Once the leading wall of water passes and the water slows, then it’s like any other flood.
“Our levees are made from stone, wrapped in chicken wire, and packed with caliche. It’s a solid design and after the caliche has dried, it’s hard as rock, through and through. Despite that, Tomas and Hector have almost half their men repairing damaged levees after every flash flood. Thankfully, there is little hardwood in the mountains that feed the Rio Grande. Still, there are cottonwoods, mesquite, ironwood, and a few live oaks. The pressure of the water, moving unbelievably fast, and all the pieces of heavy debris in the water literally punch holes in the levee. There would be less damage from a point-blank twelve-pound cannon shot.”
Jim was looking at me in horror, tinged with disbelief. I sat quietly, letting him think about my description until his look turned back to confusion.
“Take what I just described abut flash floods and apply it to the Colorado River. Specifically, think about the effects the granite cliffs, Arizona City sits on, would have on a major flash flood, and the result Colorado City would see a few miles downstream.
“Colorado City is less than twenty years old. I hear tell they have experienced a few minor floods in those years, but never a major flash flood. Both my mom and dad were big believers in hoping for the best but planning for the worst. Eventually, there will be a major flash flood, and when it happens, my experience here tells me Colorado City will all but disappear, and with it, the bridge they built over the river.
“The prudent place to build a bridge is on the granite bluffs at Arizona City, which means the railroad needs to go to Arizona City, not Colorado City. It’s a shame I didn’t think of it before I bought the land to Colorado City, but at this stage, better late than never. It is worrisome though, every day I wonder what else I’ve overlooked.”
“I’ll be damned,” Jim said softly. “I knew you had a reason.”
We spent the rest of the afternoon discussing specifics of the railroad plan. His biggest concerns were where the resources, both people and material, were coming from. We spent quite a bit of time discussing the people part of the problem.
“Look, Jim, the overwhelming majority of the people I need to build the railroad require nothing except strong muscles and a willingness to work long hours. Leveling the roadbed, laying stone, cross ties, and rails take almost no training. Most of the people I will hire will be family and friends of the people already here on the Estancia and those living in Las Cruces. That doesn’t mean they will be local. I expect most will come from Chihuahua and the area between there and El Paso del Norte. That part of Mexico is going through some tough times right now.
“More than likely, there will be enough people wanting the work that I can take the most trusted of them and turn them into our security force.”
“How many are you thinking about for that?” Jim asked in a concerned voice.
“Right now, I’m thinking of two hundred, split into two companies, one at each end of the railroad. That will change over time of course, but that’s the initial plan. I’d really like to see one hundred and fifty men per company, but we’ll just have to see how many men show up.”
“How will you train them and how long will it take?”
“We’ll run them through the Apache course and then turn them over to George for another six months or so,” I replied with a grin. “Between the Apache course and George, they’ll be ready for almost anything, including ‘the Boss’, by the time they’re done.
“My main worry at the moment though, are what I call the professionals. Besides the Corporate President to run things, I need two surveyors. Those three I need now. I also need the people to run the trains. Engineers, brakemen, station masters, telegraphers, and the host of other people it takes to operate a railroad. Most of those we can search for, and get, back east. Nevertheless, it’s still a worry.
“Steve’s trip back east will identify people for some of these positions and resolve some of my concerns, but I really can’t see him filling all the positions we need to actually operate the railroad. To make matters worse, we can’t wait until next year to start surveying, training security, and leveling roadbeds. That needs to start this summer.”
“I may be able to help with that,” Jim interrupted. “There are more than a few officers at Fort Bliss who want to get out but can’t find a job. Most of them are trained engineers, and a few are really good surveyors. If you’d like, I’ll talk to the ones I think are the best, and that I think will fit in here the best. If they’re interested, I’ll send them up here to talk to you.”
“Thanks, Jim. That would be great. Come to think of it, if there are any NCOs you trust, who are looking to get out, send them to me as well. We’re going to need team leaders in security and in the work gangs,” I said thoughtfully. “Oh, by the way, if you send someone up here be sure to tell them they may be interviewed and hired by Anna, Yolanda, or Giuseppe. As you’ve seen, Tom and I, as well as the others, are going to be busy the next few years, and may not be here.”
Jim nodded and then turned to the material required. He was slightly taken aback by the fact that we had a handle on all the material we needed. The wood for the ties would come from the Mescalero, although the specifics still needed to be worked out, I was positive that with Miguel and Nantan’s help it wouldn’t be too much of a problem.
There was even an abandoned mill on the property that, with some cleanup, would mill the trees into a standard size. The wood would then be soaked in carbolic acid, to treat it against insects, before being transported to Las Cruces. The gravel for the bed was being provided by the Estancia. There was already a huge stockpile of gravel near the quarry for railroad use.
The rails and spikes for the first phase were being worked on by Steve on his trip back east. None of us expected any problem getting a firm contract for three hundred miles of iron rails. If necessary, any shortfall could be made up by the iron production building I was setting up near Sofio’s mine. There again, the equipment necessary to make it a reality would be worked on by Steve during his trip.
My biggest concern, coal, was of no real interest to Jim. As he put it, “Paul, you already own the land, you say coal is there, and there are plenty of experienced miners, coal and otherwise, around here. Your plan is to hire someone, recommended by Sofio, to find the coal and open the mine. Quit worrying about it, and get it done.”
‘Easy for him to say,’ I thought, but still, he had a point. Since I was certain there was coal on the land, it was a simple matter of hiring whoever Sofio recommended and set them to it. There were plenty of out of work or underpaid miners within one hundred miles of Las Cruces; getting the coal out of the ground wasn’t going to be an issue. More to the point, it was completely in line with my parents’ advice.
Oddly, he never once asked about water. I guess he figured we’d be drilling wells and using storage tanks along the railroad. His lack of interest was fine by me as it meant I wouldn’t have to go into detail about our water plans.
We’d finished our talk and Jim was telling stories about George at West Point and during the war when Cristina summoned us to dinner.
I didn’t see much of Jim after that. As a matter of fact, other than mealtimes and evenings, I didn’t see him at all. The same went for Kit, George, and Tom. I later learned that they were all out riding the Estancia every day. Kit and Jim were interested in learning everything they could about the Estancia. I took that as a good sign but didn’t interfere or ask questions.
I was busy on my own, spending a couple of hours every morning riding with Anna, and most of the rest of the day upstairs in the bedroom or out on the terrace, if the weather was pleasant enough, exercising my shoulder, and revising the traditional katas I’d been doing for years. The exercises were simple and few, so it was mainly a matter of gradually increasing the number of repetitions.
The riding was always at a walk and kind of boring if the truth be told. The first two weeks we stayed on the upper plateau, riding a big circle. The next few weeks we started venturing out the back door into rougher terrain to begin getting the shoulder muscles used to the various motions and jarring normal riding caused. Anna would never let me push too hard or too fast so, again, it was more than a little boring, but necessary in the long run.
Our rides always included target practice. For me, it was also physical therapy as I had to get used to reloading both the pistol and rifle in a much slower and more deliberate manner. It was target practice where I really had to be careful of pushing. It seemed like every week my hand lost a little more numbness, but it was so slow, I just wasn’t sure if it was true or not. I also had to remind myself that even if it wasn’t as numb, I still had no gripping power.
Revising the katas was frustrating, taking all my focus and energy. First, I had to identify every move in a kata that extended my arm above my shoulder and replace it with a move that didn’t, but still made sense for including it in that kata. Then I had to practice that revised kata, over and over again, to replace old muscle memories with the new ones. Once I had the revised kata down, I went on to the next one.
That four-week period was one of the longest and most frustrating of my life. Luckily, I tired myself out sufficiently most days that I collapsed into bed, sleeping through the night.
We received word that Esteban and Ed were back in Mesilla with all the prisoners. They’d arrived the previous day and turned over the prisoners to the Sheriff at the county jail. Two days later, the Judge was still mulling over when to start the trials, when we received another message from my Deputies, making the Judge’s deliberations moot.
One of the Sheriff’s Deputies had gotten too close and the anti-slavers had grabbed him. They got the keys, opened their cell door, and shot him and every one of the pro-slavers. They were outside looking for horses when they were shot by a second deputy who had been coming back from his dinner.