Rio Pecos Compound: Chapter 6.

05 Feb
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 6.

The arrival of the settlers in Rio Pecos Compound caused quite a stir. The Navajos expressed some concern that they might get pushed out. The Basque wanted to keep their nomadic way of life. Setting up a permanent village with houses was not their way. However, they would appreciate a trading post or supply store being available to them. The new settlers from the east wanted to build wood houses and a church. These settlers only knew wood frame construction with wood floors. Their first impression of the adobe buildings was not positive.

The settlers were assigned an area near the ranch house and within walking distance to the community well. Each group would be self-sufficient and separate. Clint’s idea of community may have to wait awhile.

The settlers set up a tent city using both wagons and extra tents. If they decided to stay through the winter, then shelters would have to be built. Logs and lumber were in short supply down in this valley. Lumber-size trees only grew much higher in the mountains where the rain fall was sufficient. The available building material was clay for adobe bricks and there were two excellent clay pits near the compound. Retraining the eastern carpenters and masons to use adobe was proving to be a challenge.

The Basque had proven to be good shepherds. The lamb crop was large. They would need to sell a large number of sheep within the year. The nearby range had proven to be in great shape for raising sheep. The Basque were reporting that this valley was even better than the high plains of Texas. There was a lot more shelter from the wind and the vegetation variety seemed to be better for the sheep. The Basque were fairly content with the set up as long as the eastern settlers didn’t try to build fences or push their religion. Besides, the New Mexico Territory had a climate very similar to their ancestral homes in the mountains of Spain.

The Mexican guards had done a good job of controlling the pesky coyote population. Also, there had only been two instances where riders had entered the valley off the Santa Fe Trail. Those riders were greeted with a show of force sufficient to prevent violence. The guards were pretty sure the two separate groups of riders were not connected, but both parties behaved like rustlers or thieves. So far the ranch had not lost any livestock nor had anyone been hurt for months.

The Mexican guards were given the chore of breaking the horses in addition to escort and guard duties, as well as training everyone to shoot and defend themselves.

The school teacher was set-up with a classroom in the ranch house dining room. The teacher had agreed that religion would be left to the families. She would teach reading, writing and math. One person from both the Navajo and Basque families would also teach a trade of blanket weaving, jewelry making, and sewing. This cooperation and joint participation succeeded in getting all the children into the school. It was Clint’s hope the children would gradually bring tolerance of diversity to the adults. The other major objective was to produce the skills necessary for the development and growth of the compound.

Clint was very surprised at the number of books these settlers had lugged across the mountains. They had given up most of their possessions for the trip west. While the major portion of what they had brought had been looted or destroyed, it turned out that the western bandits were not interested in books, and these eastern settlers set a high priority on education for their children. This would prove very beneficial for all the families at Rio Pecos Compound.

Although everything was working fairly smoothly for this odd collection of people, Clint could see the development of stress cracks. The Navajos would like to return to their ancestral homes. Three or four of the Mexican guards would like to move to Santa Fe or even return to Mexico City. They were starting to think of families of their own. Meanwhile, the Basque seemed very content, but the need for a major sheep herd drive was building. It was getting to be time to cull the herd and make some money.

The eastern settlers were in constant discussion about their choices to either stay, return east or travel on westward. Several families had settled in very well and seemed quite content. One of the major religious leaders of the group wanted to move into Santa Fe and start a church. He felt that the real need for Christian work was in that sin city called Santa Fe. The decision to keep religious teachings out of the compound school had not been acceptable to him. He was constantly pushing his point of view every chance that came along. The families with children were always reminding him and others of the ruthless nature of the big city. The school teacher and several of the mothers were very pleased with how things were working for them and their families at the compound.

The whole community had worked together to build a large, long adobe building that had several rooms. Two rooms were set aside for the school; others rooms were for weaving and for wool storage. All connected to a big supply store and trading post. An agreement was reached by three people to run the supply store and trading post. Clint had not been involved, but to his surprise, one settler, one Navajo and one Basque had worked out this arrangement and presented it to him. If Clint would underwrite the initial set-up cost, then the ownership would be split equally between the four partners. Everyone seemed very pleased with this opportunity.

The initial store was set up by crediting each contributor for their contribution. The first couple of weeks were more like a trading session where people brought in their surplus items and took out things they were short of. The three store owners soon had their first major supply list. A caravan would take to market wool, blankets, jewelry and mutton with five guards. They would carry a bank draft so that Mr. Jenson at the Santa Fe bank could issue extra money to cover the purchases. If the trading went in their favor, very little extra funding would be needed.

Most of the women and children would stay at the compound even though trouble was not expected. This would be an extensive trading session plus lots of heavy loading and unloading. Clint would not be a part of this caravan. These new merchants would be on their own to purchase, bargain, and trade for their store and community. Two of the Mexican guards would not return with the wagons if they could find employment in Santa Fe. Clint knew he would need to provide some back-up patrol work for the loaded supply wagon during their return trip.

It took two full days for the wagons to be loaded before leaving the ranch and the in-bound trip to Santa Fe went without any problems. It took all week to sell and trade the materials, then two more days to purchase the items on the very large shopping list.

The two young Mexican guards that wanted to stay in Santa Fe did find some work with one of the large landholders just north of Santa Fe, near Española. Clint had taken back his disguise as hide-trader, kept his distance and stayed out of sight. His people were not aware of his protective oversight. The loaded wagons headed back to Rio Pecos would be the inviting target. Those onlookers with thievery on their minds were easily attracted by the large amount of purchases and the heavily loaded wagons.

Clint could see from his lookout that his people were spending another night at the traders’ campsite after they were loaded. This delay would give any troublemakers a chance to organize and get out in front to set an ambush. It was good that Clint’s powerful spyglass did give him good coverage of the trails out of Santa Fe.

While he watched there had been some traffic on the main trail out of Santa Fe toward Gloriata Pass, but only one group of six riders concerned Clint. He had spotted two of these men spying on the Rio Pecos wagons. The two joined the other four riders and moved on eastward up the main Santa Fe Trail. Their suspicious behavior was enough to lead Clint to follow them. Sure enough, very soon, all six riders took positions on both sides of the trail where it passed through a narrow gorge. The rock outcrops on each side would serve as excellent vantage points from which to ambush the wagon train. Clint’s estimate put his wagons arriving at the ambush point at about noon the next day.

The next morning, the six would-be bushwhackers watched as a lonely Mexican hide-trader passed through the gorge below them pulling one pack horse. From their high post, they could make out the dust trail of the wagon train in the distance about an hour’s time or more away. Gradually the hide-trader disappeared around the next bend and was gone.

The six outlaws moved down closer to the trail, setting up a deadly crossfire with three guns on each side of the trail. This would be like shooting rabbits in a cage. The first two wagons were just coming into the narrow passageway when one of the bandits jerked and fell over the rocks into the trail dust below. The crack of the rifle followed a split-second later.

Then a second shot rang out and another bushwhacker screamed out. This time the sound came from the other direction. The bandits realized they had been spotted and out flanked. A mad dash out the trail away from the wagons was their only hope. Two of the four remaining would-be robbers made the dash. The two escaping riders had left four of their comrades laying in the dust paying with their lives for an attempted ambush.

When the wagon train pulled safely through the gorge, two saddle horses were tied beside the trail with spare guns hooked to the saddle horns. The Mexican guards rounded up the other two horses and their owners’ guns. The final leg of the trip to Rio Pecos was made in peace and quiet. Wagons and guards were met by Clint and by all the waiting families at their new store.

The tales around the campfire and over dinner tables that night included one about a note on the trail that told of an upcoming ambush. The story was expanded to include a mystery shooter or guardian angel. As usual, the story got bigger with each telling.

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