Rio Pecos Compound: Chapter 7.

11 Mar
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 7.

The small Rio Pecos village gradually settled into a comfortable routine, and the trading post became the common meeting place. It provided a place to work out the rough edges between the various groups. Sometimes it even served more like a court where grievances were aired, disputes were settled and community rules explained or amended. One of the benefits of this neutral meeting place was the presentation of both sides of an issue to silence wild rumors.

One of the rumors brought back by the supply train concerned a sheep drive from Española north to the Colorado mines. One of the big sheep ranches north of Santa Fe, the Bond Ranch, was organizing the drive. People could join the drive with their own herders or they could sell their sheep at a discount. The Bond Ranch was offering three cents per head now. The current estimated price up near Durango was five to seven cents per head. It appeared that the Bond Ranch drive was an annual event.

The community decision was to sell this first cull herd at Española for the three cents. Next year the Navajos would help herd their share of sheep to Durango. This would put them close to their native land. After considerable additional discussion, it was decided that two Mexican guards and two Navajos would make the trip to Durango to sell the herd.

The two young Mexican guards were hoping for some adventure. Durango might be just the place with its gold and silver mines and lots of hustle and bustle. The two Navajos would be scouting out the area for their own people and a possible new future. A new supply of silver would be very helpful if it could be purchased reasonably at the mines. If all four of them decided to stay, a message would be sent back with the Bond Ranch herders.

The two Mexican guards were then sent to the Bond Ranch to confirm the sheep drive and the conditions for adding the Rio Pecos sheep. In the meantime, the Rio Pecos Compound herds would be culled. If the Bond Ranch drive did not work out, then an independent drive to Santa Fe or even Tucumcari would be undertaken.

The Rio Pecos cull herd was pulled together by the time word came back from Española. The Bond Ranch said they would appreciate the additional sheep. Sr. Bond would pay four cents per head with the assistance of the four men on the Durango drive. The Rio Pecos addition to the drive would be about 10,000 sheep and four men. Clint organized a herding party of twelve to deliver the sheep to the Bond Ranch. The trail to Española was fairly easy going. The sheep herd would be taken through the Gloriata Pass and down into the Rio Grande valley, then upstream to Española. These trails had been used by the Spaniards for over 200 years. These old herding routes went from the Gulf of Mexico up the Rio Grande through Santa Fe and Española, then split at the Rio Chama for two different routes north to the mining towns and the east-west trails.

The meeting with Josa Bond, the large Spanish grant holder near Española, went smoothly. He was a gracious and lavish host. His family had been one of the first Spanish families to establish sheep ranching in the upper Rio Grande valley. His great grandfather had helped the Spanish Army occupy Santa Fe capital. The Spanish government rewarded his family with a huge grant of land that had been claimed by the Pueblo Indians. Thus, Sr. Bond maintained a sizeable army to protect his land grant and to keep peace with the Indians. The more accurate term for the Indian’s arrangement was confinement to designated Indian reservations. The Mexican government had also paid Josa to maintain control in this area until the New Mexico Territory was eventually taken over by the U.S. Government. While the current rule of law was in flux, Sr. Bond explained that he was the law on his land grant.

As per their agreement, Josa Bond turned over the gold payment when the Rio Pecos herd count was completed. He had to tell Clint that he would probably get seven to eight cents per head at the gold and silver mines up north. He was a very proud man and liked to brag about his good fortune.

He put on a big feast that night before the herd would head north. There were six other ranches that also had contributed to the drive. During dinner Clint was given a place of honor among the other ranch owners at the head table. Both music and the food were the best that Clint could remember.

During the evening celebration, he did pick up some very useful information. Sr. Bond owned a sawmill just northeast of Santa Fe, up near the large pine tree line. He cut lumber commercially for the Santa Fe building market. The sawmill had all the wagons and teamsters needed to deliver the lumber. Clint arranged for four loads of choice lumber to be delivered to the Rio Pecos Compound.

Clint would carry the order from Sr. Bond to the sawmill on his way back to Rio Pecos. This would give Clint a chance to inspect the quality of the lumber and give them specific instructions on type and size needed.

The team of men that had delivered the sheep to Sr. Bond decided to escort the lumber wagons back to Rio Pecos, knowing there would be more safety in numbers. Everyone was eager to get the much-needed lumber back home. The construction of shelters and other buildings had been held up due to the lack of lumber.

The settlers’ skills working with adobe brick had not noticeably improved. These wood carpenters would be very pleased to receive sawmill lumber to work with. The settlers needed additional shelter before winter set in. They had already spent one winter in their wagons and tents and this winter they were looking forward to the comfort of real homes.

The Navajos had built themselves large permanent mud and stick hogans near the ranch house and well. In addition, they had put up several modest hogans out in the range making this as good as it had ever been. However, a split was developing in the group. The older leaders wanted to move back to their ancestral groups up north. Some of the middle-aged families that remembered the hardships they had endured up north wanted to stay on Rio Pecos Compound. The young teenage bucks hearing all the old stories from the elders also wanted to go north to the giant stone monument valley. It was these young men that were anxiously waiting for a report of the sheep drive to Durango.

The Basque shepherds were the only completely settled group. They had recreated their lifestyle of old. The only change was the adoption of Navajo hogan construction methods. The Basque built large permanent family hogans at the ranch base camp. In addition, they had copied the Navajo pattern of building semi-permanent shelters on the high elevations for summer grazing and on the warmer valley area for winter grazing.

The seasonal movement of the herds from valley to the mountain and back again was a lot more efficient with these camps. They did not have to haul so much building materials for shelters.

The Navajo-style structures used local materials of sticks and mud and were very durable with an annual maintenance of mud plaster. These building designs also saved a lot of sheep hides that could then be sold rather than being used for tent shelters. The arrival of the lumber wagons set off a frenzy of construction. The Kansas settlers were the most energized. Their skills with wood were finally put to use. The houses materialized rapidly with all the same design, wood shake roofs and rough board floors.

The lead preacher of the settlers did not push very much for a church buildings, since he was still promoting the move to Santa Fe where a mission church could be built. While he had several followers, the majority of settlers wanted to build their new houses and stay at the Rio Pecos Compound. A community was starting to develop in spite of the vast differences in culture, work methods, and goals. The work of building enabled most of the families to be well housed by the time the first major cold wave hit.

All four of the men that had gone with the Bond Ranch sheep drive to Durango returned just as the bad weather rolled in. Their report and their stories were shared around the large stove at the trading post.

The two young Mexican guards had really enjoyed the Durango visit, but the safer surroundings of Rio Pecos had brought them back. The two Navajos had contacted a couple of Navajo families in the Durango sheep yards. Then the Navajos had brought their blankets, wool and mutton to the miners for sale and to trade for silver and turquoise stones. They reported abundant grasslands and opens spaces ready to be used, although there were still some problems with the Hopi and Apache Indians. While the miners were moving across the area, they stayed mostly in the steep parts of the mountains. Settlers from the east usually passed on through the lower semi-arid lands headed to California. Trade with wagon trains and miners was very profitable.

The Navajos had also brought back a couple of bags of silver and stones. The prices in Durango were cheaper than Santa Fe. However, the sale price of the finished jewelry was also a lot lower in Durango as compared to the market square in Santa Fe.

Clint settled up with all the families and the sheep owners according to their contribution to the drive. The Mexican guards were also given a bonus for their work in addition to their regular salaries. This had been a very profitable year and the future was looking even better. The families could head into winter with warm homes and gold coins in their pockets.

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