Hacienda Fortress

Man the Walls

Esther May accepted the welcome cup of thick, black coffee. The steamy aroma pulled at her stronger than the saucer of pastries. Frida, the maid, smiled and left when Esther May, holding the cup in both hands, enjoyed a rather unladylike gulp.

The hacienda came alive upon hearing that Apaches were raiding in the area. Doña Maria set aside her hostess persona in favor of a commander. She sent riders to the high ground near the butte and down along the river. They carried mirrors to signal watchmen stationed on the tall hacienda wall should the Indians approach.

Inside the Compound

In strategic positions, filled water buckets were ready for fighting fire or thirst in case of a prolonged attack.

The cook rolled dried meat and diced chilies into easy-to-carry flour tortillas. Called a burrito by some, it was a handy yet substantial meal.

Men cleaned and readied their weapons. Bandoliers filled with ammunition hung from pegs along the wall.

Doña Maria joined her guest. “Now we’re battle-ready. Thank you for the warning, but you shouldn’t have dared the trip. It isn’t safe.”

Esther May dabbed her lips with a napkin. “How about your men out with the herd? Who will warn them?”

“They know to watch for mirror signals. If they’re in a good spot, they’ll stay. Otherwise, the men will return or find a defensive position.”

“Sounds like you’ve done this before.”

Relax and Wait

Doña Maria sighed and reached for her cup. “Too many times.” She sipped and made a face. “Cold.” She shouted over her shoulder, “Frida, bring us fresh coffee.”

The maid came in at almost the next breath as if she were awaiting permission to enter. She held a hot pot judging by the towel wrapped around the handle.

“No. I changed my mind. Bring us wine instead,” Maria said.

Frida spun on the ball of her foot and left.

Maria’s crooked grin struck Esther May as out of place. Did the Doña find the possibility of a fight stimulating? Esther May didn’t think so. More than likely, it was the reaction of being prepared for danger.

Maria tapped her cup on the table. “We may want a stronger drink than coffee to face the immediate future.”

Thanks, but …

Esther May felt a rush of affection for Doña Maria. The Spanish lady was a good friend and mentor. However—

“No wine for me. I’m leaving now that you’re set up for hostilities.”

Frida entered with a tray carrying a carafe and two glasses. Doña Maria waved her away and said, “Coffee, after all.”

Frida turned at the same spot.

“Listen to me,” Maria said. “You can’t leave until we find out where the Indians are. They may be headed this way, or perhaps they’re between here and where you want to go. No,” she held her cup out to receive the fresh coffee Frida served, “you must wait.”

Pulling her lips in while she considered the situation, Esther May finally asked, “Is it likely I’ll endure attacks on my ranch in Arizona Territory?”

“Yes. Stay here and learn how to survive.”

Making Sense

“I was going to say that since it may happen anyway, I might as well get started. But I see your point.”

“Good. Frida, bring us wine. And cheese. We have visiting to do.”

Esther May shared a grin with the maid who didn’t seem at all concerned about the changing requests.

As Frida entered with the tray, a shout from outside echoed down the hall, “Mirror flashes! The butte signals!”

Is Esther May in the right place or not? Leave your thoughts with the comments.

Visual signals have an interesting history. Here is something with pictures about the heliograph.

To read the series click on the down arrow in the Archive list, start with Tales Old Roy Told and work up.

Writing Fiction is published on Wednesdays.

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