They meet and follow Father Serra north as he sets out to find the bay of San Miguel and the famed Indian city called Monte Rey,. This is the first part of the chapter.
One of Ocio’s minions tries to capture Butterfly and Carla
1768 turns to 1769 - North from Loreto
The Morning Office celebrating Jesus’ Birth came and passed.
“You do not have a festive celebration for His birth?” Timothy asked Padre Gregorio.
“No, my son. It is a most solemn event, as you witnessed, with Father President Serra celebrating the High Mass.” He paused and added, “We do not take part in many of the customs I have heard you do in your islands.”
Timothy shrugged. His mother had always ensured yew, holly and other evergreen decorated the kitchen and dining area and baked mince pies to go with the big ham everybody dined on.
“I do not wish to belittle your customs, Timothy, but many of them come from pagan times when the Saxons ruled your lands. We celebrate early in the morning to express our joy at the coming of The Lord Jesus to give all of us a new start in life - as the sun gives new life to each day.”
Everybody prepared for the upcoming expedition. Captain Rivera had many years experience traveling through Lower California, often being called upon by both Portolá and Father President Serra for guidance. The first day of the New Year came with a Mass celebrating The Feast of the Circumcision.
Soon after, Captain Rivera prepared to depart for the long trek north. Although he had covered the ground before, he would enter new territory. Of more import, his party had the duty of carving out a road suitable for carts and wagons.
The entire town and people from many nearby villages came to see him off. In his capacity as commander of garrison soldiers all over California, he had also acted as governor and judge. Some said his decisions had not only been just but showed unusual compassion for the peoples of California. His party formed up in the central plaza where Governor Portolá, Father President Serra and all the Franciscans and members of the congregation gathered to wish him farewell.
Twenty-five Soldados de Cuera proudly sat upon their horses, lances held high, muskets slung over their backs with their round leather shields covering their right knees. Each also carried a common saber. One additional sergeant in the same uniform sat on a horse to one side. They had all participated in the Holy Eucharist and were filled with joy, eager to undertake the difficult journey.
“The sergeant is Don Fernando’s personal aid and the two mission Indians are his servants,” Padre Martin explained.
A herd of cows, horses and mules pawed the ground nearby surrounded by a dozen Indian and Mestizo volunteers. There was also a mule train with supplies as not much in the way of provisions lay ahead of them. Behind them were the wives and children of the soldiers and volunteers.
And, amidst all that stood one lone individual in a gray robe.
“That is Friar Juan Crespí,” Padre Martin said. “He came with us to The New World and has been at Father President Serra’s side most of the way. He is going with the captain as he is the expedition’s diarist. He will keep a record of it all.”
The volunteers were to help Rivera lay out a new road north. The footpath used by Jesuits was no longer enough. A true King’s Highway had to be pioneered for more than five hundred miles.
“Captain Rivera has been to every mission in California,” Padre Martin told Timothy and his companions. “He is going to prepare a new, more passable highway for the governor and Father President Serra to the Cochimí village of Velicatá. The Camino Real Misionero will no longer serve and a new, road for the passage of wagons must be laid out. He will continue north to San Miguel Bay in Upper California when the governor and The Father President decide it is time.”
“Father President Serra and the rest of us will soon follow,” Padre Gregorio added.
Rivera came up grasping the silver-handled bastón of his previous position as el Comandante. He hugged his good friend Harris, knelt to accept Father President Serra’s blessing and saluted Governor Portolá before mounting his horse. He lifted his bastón and motioned, kneeing his steed to lead off.
“The trek is long and difficult but he knows it well. He has stops scheduled at Missions Santa Gertrudis, San Borja and Santa Maria. In fact, it is said they have a better chance of surviving than some of the others did.”
As Padre Martin turned to walk off, Timothy stood and watched the men and animals move into the dusty distance.
With the advance party gone, preparation got underway for the departure of the second part of the expedition. There was only a brief respite with the coming of Easter Sunday, la Pasqua. A most solemn day to prayer and vigilance. Once again, Timothy watched and shook his head as every priest present lashed their backs in penance with iron chains. Glancing around, he saw tears in the eyes of members of the congregation, showing their love for the men in gray.