Railroad (Robledo Mountain #4)
Chapter 14

Copyright© 2020 by Kraken

“Good morning Maco,” I said, walking into the dining room for breakfast. “We missed you at breakfast yesterday and again at dinner last night.”

“Good morning Paul, or rather, good night for me,” Maco answered wearily. “I just stopped by to have breakfast with Beth since I haven’t seen her for a couple of days.”

“What have you been doing to be so tired?”

“I was the Scout hidden behind you yesterday. All of us were in our hides at three yesterday morning and we stayed in place until three this morning,” he said with a tired smile.

“Good Lord, Maco,” I said, shocked at length of time they’d stayed for something as minor as what I’d asked for. “Why did you all stay in the hide so long?”

“Two reasons, Paul. First, our guests were bound and determined to find out where the Estancia warriors who answered your questions were hidden. It became a point of pride for us not to be found. Second, when they couldn’t find us, they figured it was a trick of some kind and no one was there, so they started talking among themselves. We could overhear almost everything they said.

“You certainly made believers of most of them, Paul. Most of them heard of your visions almost two years ago, but most had not heard the details of Nantan’s visions. Those details combined with all the details Ujesh added about his visions meant they couldn’t just ignore your earlier visions.

“If your visions are truth, and they are supported by separate visions of Nantan and Ujesh, so they must be truth, then what the leaders have seen and heard since they arrived here has only reinforced that truth. The fact that the Garcias are well off, have not lost any women or children, have not lost a warrior despite all the warriors successfully protecting the Estancia numerous times, that they are living and fighting as warriors, despite not going on any raids, has not been lost on the leaders.

“Add in the number of white men on the Estancia, who all speak Apache, who respect the Garcias, are friendly with the Gracias, protect the Garcias as the Garcias protect them, and it’s no wonder they are beginning to wonder if perhaps you, Nantan, and Ujesh aren’t correct. The fact that Santana was strongly leaning your way over a year ago is not lost on any of them either.

“The biggest problems you are going to have in convincing them to follow your lead are; proving their young men are worthy to be warriors, allowing white men to live and work on their land, sending their children to school to learn to speak, read, and write the white man’s language and following the white man’s law.

“The first objection will be overcome when they see what the young men go through to get their Warrior rank in the youth organization which is a prerequisite for being declared a warrior by the Garcias.

“The other objections I’m not so sure about, but then, I’m not you. As far as we are concerned, we had the easy job and it’s over. You’ve got the hard part left to deal with,” he ended with his trademark irrepressible grin, tired as it was.

“Well, I’m sorry Beth had to do without your company yesterday, but I’m thankful for the information you just gave me. It may not make my task any easier, but at least I now know what to concentrate on,” I replied after finishing the last of my coffee and standing up to leave.

Giving Anna a kiss, I started walking out of the Hacienda when she called after me. “Pablo, remember you need to be back here no later than two o’clock to start getting ready for the celebration this evening.”

Before I could say a word, I heard a chorus of male voices from the table saying, “Yes dear,” followed by laughter filling the dining room. I waved my hand in acknowledgment and kept walking.

Just like yesterday morning, I found Miguel waiting for me outside the courtyard door.

“Good morning, Thundercloud,” he said cheerfully, handing me the reins to my horse. “Cha and Agua Nueves wasted no time leaving the Estancia yesterday. As of this morning, they were near the top of San Augustin Pass headed back into the Tularosa Basin.”

“Good morning Miguel,” I replied, as we mounted up. “You’re in a cheerful mood this morning. The news about Cha and Agua Nueves is certainly good but I’m sure it isn’t the reason for your cheerfulness this morning.”

“No,” Miguel responded as we walked the horses down the slope. “I talked to the Scouts who hid near the fire yesterday, their reports lend much hope to the success we are all want to see.”

“I got the same report from Maco at breakfast. It certainly helps narrow down the areas we need to discuss this morning, but I’m still unsure how successful we’re going to be,” I said, thinking of everything that could still go wrong.

“Yes. I have faith in what you are trying to do Thundercloud, but only time will tell.”

Just like yesterday morning, Nantan met us when we dismounted at the camp and we all walked over to our blankets and sat down. Unlike yesterday morning, our guests were already seated and waiting for us, seemingly anxious to hear what I had to say.

A first sip of coffee from the cup handed to me by the young ladies and I began.

“Yesterday we heard of many visions of what will be. Horrific visions of the destruction of our way of life, of our culture, of our people. For these visions to come true we need do nothing except act as the Apache always have. In that case, all those sitting here today will be among the last of the Apache, much less the last great leaders of the Apache. Many of your names will go down in history as the greatest Apache fighters and leaders of all time. Small comfort to those of your followers who will lose their lives in the fighting, those who will be moved to faraway lands and imprisoned, and those few who remain in a wilderness of white men.

“This future does not have to be! It can be changed to one much better for the Apache. For the future to be changed though, the Apache must start making changes now. Most of you are asking ‘what changes?’ My answer is to look around you. Think of what you have seen since you arrived at Estancia Dos Santos. Compare what you see the Garcia Apache doing here to what your families and tribes are doing.

“What you see here can be duplicated, to some extent, in other places. None of these other places will be exact copies of what you see here, but they will be close. The things they must all have in common with the Estancia are few. These include; no raiding and no acceptance of those who raid, all residents speak, read, and write English as well as Apache and Spanish, all residents follow the white man’s law, and all children attend school. Perhaps there is even a church for those who follow the white man’s religion.”

“Why must we do these things, Thundercloud?” Santana asked over the grumbling sounds of the other guests. “The no raiding rule makes some sense given all the problems we’ve encountered but the other rules seem senseless.”

“The white man has many laws. Some simple like no raiding, some much more complex, but all are written down for all citizens to read, understand, and use. The Apache will never defeat the white man using weapons. Using the white man’s law against him is a completely different proposition entirely. By speaking, reading, and writing English, we ensure that our people understand what the white man is saying, by understanding we can better tell truth from lie, if we are lied to, we can fight them in their courts, using their own laws against them.”

“Are the white man’s laws so different than ours?” Santana asked.

“The laws that we are used to are mostly the same for the white man, but they determine guilt or innocence differently than we do. They use rules which we don’t have, and they also have many more laws than we do. They have more laws because there are so many people that their laws try to cover as many different possibilities as they can. They also have more laws because of the way they live. Unlike us, they own land, for example.

“All of these things must be learned if we are to face the future as a strong and honorable people. These things are learned in school. The basics are taught to all children in a class called civics. The white men have so much to know that some of them become specialists, knowing much more about just one thing than other men. In just this way, some men specialize in the law. These men are called lawyers and make their living advising anyone who needs their assistance. We too will require the use of lawyers.

“Until we have our own lawyers, we must use white men we trust as our lawyers. Likewise, the white men have a special group of people called lawmen who enforce the law. They chase down those who break the law, arrest them and put them in jail until there is a trial where their guilt or innocence is determined. We will need lawmen of our own and we will use white men to train and lead our lawmen.”

“Is that what you do here?” Santana asked, intrigued by what he was hearing.

“Yes, I own the land in the white man way. I am also a lawman for the southern part of the territory. I have used my cousins as Deputies many times. All Garcia children attend school with the rest of the children. Everyone here must learn to speak, read, and write all three languages if they want to stay here. We all follow the white man’s law.”

“How could we set this up for the rest of the Mescalero and the Chiricahua?” Cadete asked this time.

“If the Mescalero decide to follow this path then we are ready to start. I already bought much of the land in the heart of the Mescalero area, including Sierra Blanca and the forest areas to the south and west. I placed it in what the white men call a trust. This trust is for the benefit of the Mescalero. The land cannot be sold to anyone else without the permission of the Mescalero leaders. Many things must be decided and done if you choose this path. We can discuss the specifics once you decide you want to do this. In the meantime, you live on that land as you always have.

“The same will hold true for the Mimbreños, as I have bought land for them as well. Again, I need to talk with their leaders to make some decisions.

“For the Chiricahua, it is a little more difficult for I have yet to buy land for them. I can and will do that soon, but I need to sit with them and decide what land to buy and make the same types of decisions the others need to make.

“Regardless, you must decide, and decide soon, which path to follow. The path of ruin for the Apache or the path of change and possible salvation.”

I quit talking, figuring I was ahead of the game at this point and waited for reactions before deciding how to proceed further.

I didn’t have long to wait as questions came fast and furious. I handed off each question to Nantan or Miguel to answer. Tempers flared from time to time as the scope of change required began to be understood. In the main though, I was quite happy with the way the morning went. When it looked like the ladies were about to begin serving lunch, I called an end to the discussion.

“Lunch is about to be served. You’ve heard my words, you’ve heard questions from many among you, you’ve heard answers to those questions from Nantan and Miguel. Now it is time for lunch. Take this time to think about what you have heard. In a few hours, you will see the start of our Warrior test. That test runs for eight days, I invite you to stay until at least the end of the testing. During that time, think further on the words you’ve heard, feel free to ask questions, and above all view with your own eyes how the changes we’ve made here have impacted the Garcia Mescalero.”

When I stood, Nantan and Miguel followed suit. “Our Harvest Celebration begins this evening immediately after the Warrior testing starts. You are all welcome to attend both. I must leave you now to prepare for both events. I will see you all again before you leave.”

Reaching our horses, I turned to Nantan and Miguel. “You both know the specifics of the Mescalero Trust. The other trusts will be very similar. Make sure their questions are answered, both good and bad. We must be completely truthful with them. If, after hearing the answers, a group of leaders wants to talk specifics, any time after tomorrow, bring them to the Hacienda and we will talk more there.”

“It will be as you say,” Nantan answered as I mounted my horse.

Turning my horse, I spurred him into a canter towards the Hacienda.

Anna, all decked out in her favorite charra riding outfit, complete with small hat, pinned into her hair, was waiting for me in our bedroom. After a quick kiss, she commanded, “Pablo, go take a shower and shave, I’ll lay your clothes out while you clean up.”

Once cleaned up, I walked into the bedroom to find my black charro outfit lying on the bed. I sighed to myself. I’d hoped that the last time I’d worn this outfit, would be the only time I’d have to wear it. I guess I should have known better.

Everything, from the tight fitted embroidered pants to the short, embroidered, fitted jacket fit exactly as they had for the wedding. Looking at myself in the mirror, I had to admit everything looked good.

Anna walked in just as I turned from the mirror.

“Mi Pablo, you are still the most handsome man I’ve ever seen, especially in that fine suit,” she gushed. “How did things go with our guests today?” she asked as she fiddled with my tie, trying to get it to lie just right against the shirt.

“I think it went as well as could be expected. I invited them all to stay until the Warrior test has been completed. Nantan and Miguel will stay with them and answer their questions until then. I think the Mescalero and the Mimbreño are very curious and will stay for more detailed discussions. The other Chiricahua seem much more suspicious and, more to the point, too independent to accept my words. I expect they’ll take a wait and see attitude. I just hope they don’t wait too long.”

“That’s better than we hoped for two days ago. Small steps, as Grandfather Jaime used to say,” she said patting the tie into place once more before turning towards the door. “Come on Pablo, it’s time to leave for the plaza.”

“Yes dear,” I replied catching her around the waist from behind and twirling her around the room. Setting her down, I turned her in my arms and gave her a long kiss. “Now we can leave, my love!”

The entire Hacienda was already mounted and waiting for us outside the courtyard. Anna and I quickly mounted and led the procession down the slope and up the road to the village. Anna and I talked quietly as we rode side by side.

“Pablo, it won’t be long before I won’t be able to ride until after the baby is born,” Anna said as she tried to get a comfortable seat in the saddle. “We need to make a trip to see grandmother and grandfather in Las Cruces as well as all the others.”

“I was thinking the same thing and I did tell them we would be visiting soon. And, no, I didn’t tell them about you or Yolanda. They’ll be pleasantly surprised. Tom and I also need to go to El Paso for a day or two. He’s worried his father hasn’t shown up yet. It’s been almost a year since he said he was going to move here. On top of that, I need to talk to John Gillespie and see if he can drill a couple of special wells.”

“You’ve decided to try drilling for, what did you call it? Primary water?”

“Yes, my love, that’s it exactly,” I said, smiling at her. “From what little I remember, or understand, this is the perfect area for finding primary water. I wish I understood more of it when I first learned about it, but then again, I’d have had to be a geologist to understand most of what was said. Anyway, all this land was volcanic in the past and a large geologic rift runs the length of the Rio Grande, so from what little I could understand we stand a good chance of hitting primary water. It’s worth a try anyway. I’m worried about the coming drought. Sure, it’s four or five years away but it’ll be a long one.”

“It’s hard to believe that the Rio Grande could dry up like you say it will. That’s going to make life tough for those on the river below us, including Las Cruces and Mesilla,” she commented as we rode up to the corrals near the village stables.

Dismounted, we led the Hacienda procession up to the plaza. The people from the village and the ranch were standing around the edges of the plaza. The thirty warrior candidates were lined up in a small square in the middle of the plaza around the gazebo facing outward. The old ones were spread out, facing the candidates, quietly asking every candidate several questions on general Apache knowledge and specific Mescalero lore. Interestingly, every old one was accompanied by one of our guests who listened to both the questions and the answers.

Maco came up, greeted Beth, gave her a quick kiss, and turned to the rest of us. “A fine bunch of candidates, Thundercloud. I think we can all be proud of them.”

Looking over the ones I could see, I agreed. “Can you tell us about the test now Maco?” I asked.

Both Anna and I had intentionally stayed out of creating the test as we didn’t want anyone to claim it was something we had concocted. This had to come from the old ones to be considered valid.

“Certainly. What you see is the start of the test. All the candidates must answer questions from the old ones. Once all the old ones are satisfied that the candidates know Apache lore, culture, and the significance of both they will be ready to start the eight-day test of survival and endurance.

“Each candidate will be taken on horseback to a prearranged spot by an old one and a warrior. These spots are between twenty and twenty-five miles from the Estancia. Once there, they will be stripped of all their clothes except a loincloth. They will be told the rules of the test, then the old one and the warrior will leave, taking the candidate’s horse, leaving him on foot.

“The rules are fairly simple. Each candidate must make it to the Estancia without being seen by any of the lookouts and then to the ranch building, all within eight days. They must arrive wearing shoes, a canteen full of water, a knife, a spear or bow and arrows, and enough food for two days. Failure to have any of the required items will disqualify them, which means they’ve failed the test.

“The location at which each candidate is dropped off has been carefully selected to provide everything he needs to gather the required items. A water source, plants to make sandals and weave a blanket, obsidian or flint to chip a knife from, and the appropriate trees to make a spear or temporary bow and arrows are all within a mile. Various types of food also abound in the area.

“The old one and the warrior take the candidate’s horse and ride away, but they don’t go too far. The candidate doesn’t know it, but the old one and the warrior are both watching him to see what he does as well as watch out for him in case of unexpected trouble.

“Once the candidate arrives at the ranch building, and has the required items, he is then told he has one hour to make it to the lake, swim the length of the lake and arrive at the Scout/Sniper building at the other end of the lake. At the Scout/Sniper building, they must defeat two warriors, one at a time, in combat using wooden knives. Once they have defeated the two warriors the test is over. Failure of any portion of the test means failure of the whole test.”

“Wow! I’m not sure I could pass that test,” I said.

“Pablo, the mountain lion attack proved you could pass a simple test like this. Remember, these young men have been studying for this for almost three years. They’ve been through knowledge badge courses on every single item. They’ve made shoes, chipped knives and spear points, made spears, and hunted with nothing but those. They know where and how they can find food and water. They know how to make a fire. The eight days is a stretch to be sure, but they know all they need to know. Most of them will be exhausted by the time they finish the last fight, but I believe they will all pass.”

“Still, eight days?” I replied, wondering if I could do that.

We all stood talking about the test for the next half-hour before some sort of signal was given and the candidates filed out of the plaza with the old ones and warriors towards the stables.

Suddenly, the opening notes of “Lonely Bull’ rang out from somewhere near the church. As the band formed up in the gazebo and joined the solo trumpet in playing, men came out of the storage rooms and the Finca operations building carrying tables and chairs.

In a few minutes, the plaza was covered with large tables and the outside of the plaza was lined with even larger tables. Women quietly appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, with platters and bowls of food and plates of all sizes along with utensils.

By the time the song was done, the plaza had been transformed into a massive buffet and dance area to celebrate the harvest. A large area in front of the gazebo had been left open to dance in.

The Padre gave a short blessing from the gazebo before Manuel took his place at the front of the orchestra, glanced at Anna and me, turned to the orchestra, and began directing them in ‘The Second Waltz’.

“Come, Pablo, this is the Patron’s dance,” Anna said, placing her hand on my arm to lead her out. “No will else will dance until we are dancing.”

I’d forgotten how much fun dancing could be and told Anna so as we had the dance area to ourselves for almost thirty seconds before it began to fill up with other couples dancing. We had so much fun we stayed as the orchestra began their next tune, ‘España Cañi’, a pasodoble which had us both tired out by the time it ended. We retired to a table reserved for us near the gazebo with the rest of the Hacienda residents.

The rest of the afternoon and evening was a blur as Anna and I ate and danced the night away. In no time at all, the orchestra announced their last tune of the night and began playing ‘La Virgen de la Macarena’. Of course, Anna and I danced the last dance.

I was headed back to the table at the end of the dance when Anna tugged on my hand. “Pablo, you know you aren’t going to get away without playing for them,” she said pointing to the columns of children, coming from the community center, beginning to fill the square.

Yolanda walked up and handed me my guitar. “You’ll need this,” she said with a grin.

Smiling, I walked over to the gazebo, sat on the top step and waited for the kids to get settled. In a surprisingly short time, everything was quiet.

“What should I play,” I asked.

The roar of “the lion song,” was much stronger than I’d anticipated and set me back a bit in surprise. I suspect there were more than a few adult voices in the response. When I’d recovered a few moments later I broke into ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’. Unsurprisingly, with as popular as the song had become, cues were no longer needed and the audience, kids and adults alike, joined in.

The celebration began breaking up soon after the song was finished. We joined the folks headed back to the ranch and left them at the turnoff up the slope to the Hacienda. We’d both enjoyed the celebration tremendously, but were almost exhausted, falling into bed and asleep, after the long day and all the dancing.

“Hoowee! You folks sure know how to throw a fandango!” Vic’s enthusiastic voice greeted us as Anna and I arrived in the dining room for breakfast. “That was hands down, the best party I’ve ever been to, young man, and I’ve been to a lot. And the ending! I have no idea what that song was about but it sure had everyone, young ones and adults, alike, in a good mood.”

“Thanks, Vic, but I had nothing to do with the celebration, except to enjoy it just like you,” I said, looking over at Anna. “The villagers planned it, organized it, and did all the work. Still, I must agree it was a great celebration.”

“Never you mind that young man,” the irrepressible miner said. “You’re the leader here, so you get the credit when things go right and the blame when things go wrong. That’s the way it works. Now, when can we get together to talk about developing the mine?”

“Give me a few minutes with Tom, Yolanda, and Anna, after breakfast and then we can talk,” I replied.

A half-hour later, after a quick breakfast, and an even quicker discussion with Anna, Tom, and Yolanda to coordinate a trip to Las Cruces and El Paso in eight days, I was in the den with Vic.

I had copied the contract we used with Sofio, replacing all references to iron with coal, changing ownership of the mine to my name, with a fifteen percent interest to Vic as the developer and President of Thunderbird Coal Mine. I explained the pay scale he was required to use and why. Like Sofio, he was a little put out by paying everyone equally, but he accepted it in the end.

Anxious to get things moving, he asked about wagons and supplies.

“See Mr. Mendoza about wagons to start with. I’ll have fifteen freight style coal wagons built down in El Paso and get them to you as soon as I can. For supplies see Mrs. Amador and arrange what you’ll need to be delivered by Mr. Mendoza’s normal freight business. You’ll need to know how many men you’ll have to feed. Once she knows that she can help you figure out what you need and how often.

“I suggest you hire a cook or two and feed everyone from a common dining tent to start with. Charge the miners an acceptable price for the meals and make sure you have good cooks. It probably won’t last six months, but better to start things off well.”

“Okay, young fellow,” Vic replied. “That all makes sense. If the field is as large as I think it is, there will soon be a small town there to support the miners. Any thoughts on where you want it to be?”

“No town, Vic,” I said and then explained after seeing his confusion. “The railroad will be coming there soon to pick up coal. I’ll have hand pump trucks for the miners to use to get back and forth from San Antonio to the coalfield until we get a locomotive and coal cars dedicated to the coalfield.”

“Well now! That’s different than what I thought was going to happen. It also makes sense.” Standing up, he shook my hand, walked to the door. “I’ll be leaving for Las Cruces now, I’ll stop back by on my way to the coalfield, when I have enough men and supplies,” he threw over his shoulder as he disappeared down the hallway.

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