Ride Virgie Ride

Virgie, Virgie, Virgie!!,

Yes father?

It’s time Virgie…

With a quick leg up from Murphy she settles in the saddle pretending to listen as her Father runs through his favorite list of warnings… but she was already galloping across the prairie her raven hair streaming behind her, the creak of her leather saddle keeping time with the steady rhythm of hooves. Fall was upon them and the cool winds streaming down from Canada bent the wheat in great swaths around her. It wouldn’t be long now before the hired hands and the Indian families would begin the harvest, but not today, today the prairie was hers.

With six stops to make there was no time for day dreams, Virgie knew every hill, creek bed, and knoll on her father’s ranch. How many hours spent exploring the buffalo wallows, the strange Indian rock rings and burial grounds she had lost count long ago. There was plenty of danger too, often enough she had seen riders in the distance but they never seemed to pay her any attention. She could feel the lumps of tied bills in her saddle pad, each wrapped and showing in her father’s spidery hand the scrawled name of one of the farmers whose cattle her father had helped sell. She would stop at the Bauer place first they were sturdy folks from Germany and their little one always made her laugh. She would save the Dreschers for last, as their farm was closest to the Indian camps.

It was a small indiscretion and she knew it would make her mother upset, but Virgie never missed an opportunity to ride out to the edge of the what her father called “section 22” where it backed up to the foothills and visit the camps. She loved the smells, the children, the tipis, but most of all she loved the Indian bread baked over their open campfires covered with ashes and who knows what. It was always warm and soft, often sweetened with a touch of honey, little did she know that this simple way of life was already slipping away soon to be followed by a new era of modernization, a sweeping influx of people and the banishment of these sweet children and grandmothers to reservations designed to strip their very essence from them.

Brushing the last crumbs from her skirt Virgie tries to smudge the traces of ash from her hands, knowing her mother will smell the campfire smoke and scold her for the detour. She doesn’t mind though their soft smiles and kindness carry her home. As the sun slides toward the western horizon she digs her heels in and heads for the trail leading back…

Loosely based on the life and times of Virginia Bell…

About the Author

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Born in Manhattan in 1965 Joseph Castagno is the son of a second generation Italian American father. His mother’s family were mixed heritage people: Indigenous Haudenosaunee, French, some of the earliest Dutch settlers of the Hudson Valley. Growing up with such a multicultural heritage provided him with a view of both the immigrant experience, a perspective on the founding principles and ideals of the United States as well as the original teachings and ways of Northeastern Indigenous people. Having lived all over the United States Joseph has a broad perspective on US society and the variety of social values and customs that make up this great country. He currently resides in Florida with his wife Tammy, having raised four children they are now enjoying their grandchildren. Joseph has always had a passion for reading and writing and has published a number of articles in local papers and magazines. After a long career in healthcare he published his first novel “Jake” in 2016 drawing on his experiences and observations living in the Southeast and Florida. His current novel “Traffic” has just been published and he is currently working on his next novel and spoiling his granddaughters!

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Short Stories

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