The York Ranch(7)
Chapter 1

NMT, April, 1901

Mat, Sarah, and the whole bunch ran over to examine the fallen "dignitaries" on the ranch house patio. Mat checked: every one of them had the burning cross tattoo at the base of his left thumb. All of the men were wearing an amulet with 4 stars, except one who had an amulet with 5 stars. There was no question about it, this had to be the top of the NMT Brotherhood hierarchy! Mat sent people out to check the dead Anglos to see if they all had the same tattoo and if they were wearing amulets. If so, how many stars were there?

In a few minutes, the reports came back that the corpses all had that same tattoo and they were all wearing an amulet with one, two, or three stars. With this information, Mat was sure that the NMT Brotherhood was wiped out and they could relax for the near future, at least.

A messenger was sent into Julesburg to ask the marshal to come to the ranch to see the carnage as soon as he could get there. They wouldn't clean up the mess until the marshal had seen it.

About mid-afternoon, the marshal showed up and Mat gave him a tour of the battlefield. The marshal agreed that the whole business was an unjustified attack on the York Ranch, and he would testify to that in court, if necessary. Mat thanked him and asked him to stay until tomorrow.

Bill had the draft animals hitched to the large produce wagons and the workers started loading the corpses on the wagons after stripping them of valuables. There was a suitable gully about a mile away that he planned to use as a mass grave. The bodies were hauled there and dumped in. It took the rest of the day and most of the next to process all of the corpses, but finally that job was done.

He then had the dragline brought in from the construction site and that was used to cover the bodies with dirt. The roller from the dam was used to pack down the dirt over the bodies and they were ignored after that.

There was some consternation in Santa Fe when several prominent business men and politicians and one judge simply disappeared. This was a major topic of conversation for a whole week until a new wonder showed up. Then it was forgotten.

Roland did some experimenting with the fuel while he was waiting for the next diesel engine. The coal oil he was using was pretty expensive, so he was looking for a way to cut the cost. He asked all the women to save their used cooking oil for him. He also collected the excess fat from the slaughtered animals and any other unwanted animal or vegetable oil he could find. He mixed it all up and added enough coal oil to thin it out so that it would flow freely. This mixture turned out to be a usable fuel for the diesel. It was not quite as efficient as the straight coal oil, but it was free. He set up a regular system to collect this oil as it became available.

Sarah was asked to look into planting peanuts so that he could get peanut oil. She could press the oil from the peanuts and feed the residue to the animals. The dried vines could also be used as animal food. The question was not whether or not she could grow peanuts, but whether or not there was an economic advantage to doing so. Roland estimated that he could cut his coal oil purchases in half if he could get enough peanut and other domestic oil.

They needed as much income as they could get right now: Roland wanted another diesel engine for an idea he had for replacing the draft animals. He had been so right with the war wagon experiment that they were inclined to cater to his whims in the expectation that they would pay off in a big way.

He did some experimenting with using the war wagon to pull a wagon behind it. They were all amazed at how much weight could be loaded on the towed wagon. He was able to pull up to 4 fully loaded trailing wagons, but that was where he quit—he pulled the drawbar right out of the front trailer with so much load attached. Four wagon-trailers was too much of a steering problem; he couldn't control backing up well enough to get around sharp curves. This whole concept made him think of a railroad without the track. He needed to find a way to put this tremendous pulling power to use!

Roland's next step was to test the war wagon as a way to pull the irrigation water wagon. This worked out well, and he was actually able to double the water load before the undulations in the roadway became too much for the war wagon to pull.

This looked like the best bet for what Roland was calling the mechanical mule: pulling industrial loads. They had reached the point where they were having to move a lot of material and finished product around the various construction and manufacturing sites, particularly at the concrete block plant.

This looked like the best place to use the mechanical mule. Sarah suggested that this might be the best way to move finished block to the railroad for shipment to customers. Now, they were all in a hurry to see the second diesel engine arrive. Roland had the rolling stock ready, all he needed was the engine.

The dam construction was progressing well. They should be finished with construction of the dam, itself, this season. Next they needed to install pumps to draw the water from Lake Sarah and arrange for water distribution once the lake was full.

Sarah kept coming back to trying to find a way to move the water through pipes instead of ditches. Charles Clement, our concrete specialist, suggested that she consider concrete pipes—after all, that was what the Romans used! She told him to get busy designing the pipes, and Roland would figure out how to cast them. As soon as the crops were planted, she wanted to put men to digging the trenches for the pipe.

Roland came up with a neat scheme for casting the pipe. He had a metal tube fabricated in a way that it could be opened along two side seams, much like a clam shell. The tube had end caps which also acted as bearings for rolling the pipe along its centerline. The tube was greased on the inside so the concrete wouldn't stick to it while hardening. The tube was sealed on its side seams and one end cap was attached. A measured amount of concrete was dumped inside the tube and the other cap was attached. The tube was then rolled on its axis until the concrete hardened. At that point, the tube was opened and a completed section of pipe was removed. The tube was cleaned and the process was repeated for a new section of pipe. Meanwhile, the just cast pipe section was put into storage for final curing.

Pipes as small a 1 foot in diameter and as large as 4 feet in diameter were cast against the day that they would be needed. Tees, elbows, caps, and adapters were also cast. Sarah had supervised the preparation of a plan for the installation of the pipe, so they knew how many sections of each size of pipe they would need. To be safe, they cast an extra 10 percent to allow for breakage

NMT, June, 1901

The diesel engine arrived and Roland had it installed in his mechanical mule in no time at all. The testing went so well that he was ready to start moving the concrete pipe as soon as the trenches were ready. It was a real chore getting the largest sections of pipe in place without breakage, but, with care, they were successful in doing it. They had to learn as they went along, but the pipe was going in as fast as anyone could want.

Their biggest problem was in digging the trench through the hardpan. There was a lot of this, and Roland began to wonder if the pipe was really necessary. They had to do so much blasting through the hardpan, that there was a joke going around the ranch that the July 4th celebratory fireworks this year would be an anticlimax.

That first run of piping was finished by the time the first harvest came up, so there was no scheduling problem. The mechanical mule was a great help in the harvest, though there were complaints from the concrete block factory about the loss of the mule to "those damn farmers." It looked like we were going to have Roland build another mechanical mule as soon as we could afford it.

This time, Roland hooked up three wagons as trailers behind the mechanical mule for the convoy into Julesburg. So many people wanted to go on that first trip that it was more like a circus parade than a farm produce delivery! Arturo had scouts check for ambushes before the run, but nothing untoward was found, as expected. The trip was great fun for all, and so much noise was made during the run that we probably couldn't have heard a gun shot if one had been fired.

This trip to Julseburg took longer than usual, because everybody wanted to prolong the fun, but we finally arrived. It looked like the whole town turned out to see what was going on, and the event did turn into something like a circus parade. We got the produce unloaded and stored in the boxcars, and we actually got back to the ranch in time for a decent supper. If every day were as much fun as this one, then NMT would have been heaven on earth.

The next week, Roland sent the mechanical mule into Julesburg pulling four wagons. That was going to be the limit because of steering difficulties around sharp turns, not because of pulling difficulties. Roland vowed to work on improving the steering characteristics "as soon as he could get around to it." He already needed more help with all the projects he had going.

"Those buffoons in New Mexico Territory have really made a mess of things. They managed to set back our timetable by more than a year. Now we will have to send in a whole new training cadre on top of the normal administrative crew. Get the preliminary operatives out to Santa Fe as soon as possible; we need to start rebuilding our organization immediately."

The "movers and shakers" in Santa Fe were delighted to see an influx of new money with the arrival of several lawyers and businessmen. The newcomers were greeted with open arms, though some people were surprised to see that these new people refused to do any business with certain long-time residents. This was curious, but who cared?

Gradually, over a period of four months, new arrivals filtered in to various communities around NMT without raising more than local interest. Initially, these people kept to themselves, but, gradually, began to interact with their neighbors. These new people were usually businessmen with plenty of money to spend. This was unusual enough to make them welcome, no matter how odd their social habits might be.

During this time, Julesburg had two such people move in. One, Rufus Craig, opened a general store; the other, Harry Smith, opened a livery stable. Neither Craig nor Smith were married, so there was not much social contact with either of them, except at one of the three saloons in town. Neither one seemed to have a favorite saloon, so either might be seen at any saloon, though, they almost never were seen in the same saloon at the same time. Chance would work against this happening, but nobody noticed—just what the two men wanted.

Rufus Craig's general store offered the usual run of merchandise that one might find in such a store, but the prices were a bit on the high side. People came in and bought some small items, just to make him feel welcome in town, but nobody could afford to shop there on a regular basis, his prices were just too high. A few well-meaning citizens pointed this out to Craig, but he never lowered his prices. Oh, well, that was Graig's lookout!

Harry Smith's livery stable was on the very edge of Julesburg and not on one of the regular routes in and out of town. This made for little or no drop-in business, so he did not have many customers. Most people tended to stick with the livery stable they had dealt with for years, somebody they had confidence in. Smith never seemed to be short of money, though, so nobody worried about him or his lack of business.

The one other facet of communality between the two men was their regular trips to Alamogordo. Both seemed to be out of Julesburg a lot, though not on the same days. Close examination, which nobody bothered to do, would have revealed that both men left for Alamogordo on opposite Mondays and were gone for three or four days. If the month had a fifth Monday, they both stayed home.

Well, there was another coincidence—both men lived in the same boarding house. However, there were not that many boarding houses in Julesburg, so this, too, was not deemed worthy of note.

"Smith, I want you to take the lead on this; Craig will be available for backup when you need it. You will have full responsibility, so you will call the shots."

"Yes, sir, Mr. Zane. What is the nature of this assignment?"

"You will resume the harassment of the York Ranch operation. Concentrate your efforts on destroying the dam project. All major construction is scheduled for completion this season. You will see that it doesn't happen! Do whatever is necessary to delay construction. You will not be judged on whether or not you destroy the dam, though that would be a bonus. You will be judged on whether or not you are successful in slowing progress and putting off completion until next season, or later. Here is your budget. Now, see to it!"

Now that construction of the James York Dam was so near completion, Arturo was particularly diligent in patrolling the area. The dam was so large that it would be difficult to do any real damage to its main structure. The most vulnerable point was the spillway and its controls. The controls were not installed yet; they would be the last thing to go in. But the spillway, which was a concrete trough, would be a relatively easy target for a large enough dynamite charge.

Arturo kept a large detail of dragoons at the dam, and he now had the war wagon, itself, at his disposal. The top of the dam had a paved road wide enough and strong enough to carry the fully armed and staffed vehicle in its crossing from one side of Lake Sarah to the other. The war wagon was kept in its own storage and maintenance facility at Fort York, but a full crew was kept on hand and ready to go on a moment's notice. Roland had found that he could start the diesel, even in the coldest weather, right away, if he used coal oil as the fuel; he could bleed in the heavier oils as fuel once the engine was warmed up.

The crew had been practicing for two months and it now took them less than 15 minutes from a cold start to reach the dam site, and even less to reach the other likely targets. As an added bonus, Roland had hooked a wagon onto the rear of the war wagon with a quick-release latch. This wagon could carry as many as 12 fully armed dragoons and two war dogs to the battle site. This would be a formidable defense force to throw against any attacker, and Arturo secretly hoped for the opportunity to do so, but would never admit it.

Arturo knew it was bound to happen; he just didn't know when. One fine August morning, just as the sun was coming up, a group of 30 riders and a buckboard charged up the valley toward the dam. The guards were a little late in spotting it because they simply had not expected an attack from that direction. However, the delay was not immediately a disaster; a red flare was fired to call for help from the fort. The ten dragoons on guard quickly ran to their defense positions along the top of the dam.

These defense positions were cast concrete dugouts (what would eventually be called "pill boxes") that provided excellent protection from rifle fire. As soon as each guard reached his position, two per dugout, he began shooting at the charging horsemen. The range was a little long for shotguns, but it was enough to slow the charge. The guard dog was about to die of frustration, he was stuck at the top of the dam and all those lovely targets were out of reach at the bottom of the dam.

As soon as they got into effective range, horses began to drop as the guards had been drilled that a downed horse was almost certainly a dead rider. They had no idea what was in the buckboard, but they found out when a stray buckshot made a lucky hit. The buckboard, the driver, and the two horses simply disappeared in the explosion. Several of the other attacking horses and riders were torn by the blast. The overall effect was that the battle was over before the war wagon even got to the dam. The attackers still on horseback turned as soon as they could get their mounts under control and raced away from the dam.

When the war wagon entourage reached the dam only a minute or two later, they were teased good-naturedly, but unmercifully, for being late to the battle. It was pointed out that if the war wagon had gotten there sooner with its Gatling guns, the defenders at the dam would not have had to work so hard.

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