Rio Pecos Compound: Chapter 5.

23 Dec
Cover for Rio Pecos Compound, Book Six of The Clint Mason Series by William F. Martin.

Rio Pecos Compound

Learn more about Rio Pecos Compound: Book Six of The Clint Mason Series

Copyright William F. Martin. All Rights Reserved.

Chapter 5.

The gun battle at the Silver Spur Saloon that had left two men dead also brought way too much attention to Clint, even though he kept repeating an image of himself as hiding under the table. The death of a lawman focused more attention than was usual for a gambling dispute. It did help that no one had liked the fancy, arrogant gambler and besides the deputy sheriff had been involved too many times with this gambler in previous shootings. It was time to get out of Santa Fe for a while.

Clint was awakened that night by some loud talking coming from below him in the stable. It was Joe Black’s voice, but the other commanding voice was new to Clint. Although the exchange of words could not be fully understood, Joe Black was being chewed-out and threatened with eviction. This surprised Clint, who had always assumed that Joe was the owner.

The next day was a low-profile one for Clint, who needed to deposit his surplus monies in the bank. He knew it was not safe to carry around gold coins. He needed to contact Mr. Jenson at the bank, but he was known to Jenson as the honorable Cliff Martinez, a rancher and major property holder down on the Rio Pecos. In the past, Mr. Jenson had assisted Cliff Martinez with a banker down south in Crossbow in Manatee County by the name of Brad Mason.

Clint had to be very careful or the clean-up and change of clothes might not fool some of the people in Santa Fe. After the shooting, the close contact with so many people could be a real problem. If he could put some time between that incident and his reappearance, his risk would be reduced. But the need to put all that gold into the bank was pressing Clint to take the chance of being recognized.

His first act was to clean-up and slip out of the stable bunk room. If he could get past Joe Black and down the alley into the foot traffic on the street, then the walk to the bank would not be too tough.

However, once inside the bank, if any of the customers or clerks had been at the Silver Spur Saloon yesterday, the deception may fail. Finally, Clint decided to take his chance, and his fairly expensive clothing, neat appearance and very businesslike approach seemed to work. He was escorted into Mr. Jenson’s office after a very short wait. Mr. Jenson only knew Clint as Cliff Martinez, a large depositor with his bank, so the hope was that the presentation of another large deposit of gold coins would make more of an impression on the banker than the sloppy hide-trader who delivered it.

Clint happened to view himself in a mirror as he was turning to leave Jenson’s office. He hardly recognized himself, so his worries may have been exaggerated. Still, a fast retreat was called for. The cleaning of the stable loft room took a little more time, but he didn’t want to leave behind any trace of Cliff Martinez. Future visits to the Santa Fe bank would have to be staged from another safe place. If Joe Black’s stable was searched, all they would find is a bunk suitable for simple Mexican hide-trader.

Clint was making a wide circle around the market traders’ camping area when he spotted the settlers that they had helped on the trail up toward Raton Pass. From a distance, it looked as though those settlers had just flopped here in complete despair. It had been several months since Clint had helped these people on their trip from Kansas to Santa Fe. They were in trouble again and he felt compelled to inquire as to their condition.

The settlers were very leery when he approached their camp. Clint called out when he was close enough to be heard, but far enough back to not get shot. He explained that it was his group of sheep herders that had helped them up north. He was allowed to enter the camp, and from there, it didn’t take long for their tale of woe to spill out.

They had finally arrived in Santa Fe expecting a city with normal eastern services, law, order and peace. What they found was a ruthless, free-for-all, corrupt town. Gambling and music halls were open night and day, seven days a week. The two large Spanish churches did not take well to the settlers’ Protestant religion. Women were being harassed on the streets and their young men lured into the dance halls and gambling houses. Their few possessions had been looted and two of their group had even been killed by random gunfire.

They could not stay in this place, but they had no money to return east. Every member of the group of men, women and children was scared to death and hopeless. Clint knew the first thing to do was provide a good meal for everyone. Quickly, he scoured the other camps and bought meat, flour and all the fresh ingredients he could find. The settlers were put to work making bread, roasting the side of beef and preparing some space for a feast. The directed activity raised their spirits immediately. The busy work took their minds off their dire situation. Clint had purchased some sugar from one of the camps, and one lady got busy making treats for the kids.

The hungry children were fed first. This put life back into them and off they took running and playing like normal kids. Fresh coffee was enjoyed after the big meal with a lot of appreciation showered onto Clint. Finally, the conversation came back to their plight. It took some probing questions for Clint to find out what they had originally planned on doing for a living. The group consisted of several builders, carpenters, brick masons, farmers and a school teacher. They had planned on building themselves houses and a church when they found a place to settle. They had been told back east that each family could homestead 160 acres. This size of farm back east would have been huge, but out here they could not raise enough on 160 acres to sustain one family. To these eastern settlers, this land around Santa Fe looked worthless.

Clint presented a temporary solution for the entire group. The Rio Pecos Compound was expanding. A new, very large herd of sheep had just arrived along with shepherds’ families. Buildings were needed, children needed schooling, and gardens needed to be developed down by the river. The compound was fairly safe, but everyone needed to learn to shoot and participate in guarding the ranch. If they wanted to join the Rio Pecos Compound, there would be new skills to learn. The primary products being produced by the ranch were wool, hides, mutton, blankets and jewelry. If they would join the compound for a year, it would give them enough time to earn the money to return east. If they learned to adapt to the West and wanted to stay, Rio Pecos Compound might develop into a good place for them.

There wasn’t much to discuss among themselves because other options were not available. A relaxed calm fell over the camp that night as the glimmer of hope started to appear in these settlers.

The difficulty would be the transport of these settlers back out the Santa Fe Trail to Rio Pecos. Much of their stock had been hurt or stolen. Their wagons were not in good shape and their food supply was exhausted.

Clint decided to go back to the stable manager Joe Black for assistance. Wagons needed repairs, more horses and also a couple of guards to escort the settlers to Rio Pecos were needed. It was late that night when Clint made his way back to his loft room. While he had decided not to disturb Joe tonight, Joe came out of his quarters as Clint was putting his horse away. The request was simple and straightforward. Clint wanted to hire Joe to repair the settlers’ wagons and rent a few horses to pull these wagons up the Santa Fe Trail to the Rio Pecos Compound. If two guards could be found, it would help a lot. The guards could then bring the rental horses back to Joe. Joe was glad to help. He needed the work and he knew two young men that would make the trip out and bring back the spare horses for a few dollars.

Clint finally got a restless night’s sleep in the loft. The sun was just coming up over the mountain peaks as he pulled into the settlers’ camp. A fire was going and hot coffee was ready. Joe Black and two helpers would be out before noon. The settlers were to have the wagon problems identified so Joe could get to work on them immediately. The two helpers would assist them in their travels and bring back the rental horses. Clint would ride on ahead and have some of the ranch guards bring more horses out to meet them on the trail.

After only one night on the trail, Clint was back at the ranch. The recognition of the gambler’s ruffled shirt, complete with bullet holes and blood finally put to rest urge for revenge that all seven young guns had brewing deep within their hearts. Besides, the mercy trip out to gather the settlers put the young men in a good frame of mind. They would leave immediately with extra pull horses and a few supplies.

His house was neat and clean, with a pot of coffee on the wood stove. It sure was good to be home. Although he had spent very little time in his ranch house, it did feel like all the comforts of home: a place to put his things, a nice clean bed, and a feeling of security and peace. His vision for a small village to grow up in this valley was starting to materialize.

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