Prairie Grass by Joan Soggie
English | 2020 | Fantasy | ePUB | 2.7 MB
Gabby Mackenzie knows little and cares less about prairie people or their history. She sees her assignment to interview a hundred-year-old settler as nothing more than a bump in her hazy career path.
But as she gets to know old Mr. Tollerud and the land that has been his home, she finds herself drawn into the interwoven stories of the settlers, the Metis, and the First Nations who came before them. And her own life changes.
The sod house perches on the brow of a low hill, its earthen walls a natural extension of the land. No tree shades it, no fence protects it. It stands alone in the sun and wind.
A strange twosome appears beside it and pauses in dark silhouette against the sunlit sky. The small boy is dwarfed by the horse he is riding. The mare moves slowly down the hillside, placing each hoof with care. The child shifts his puny weight from side to side, his skinny legs gripping, but scarcely able to span the animal’s broad back.
Half-hidden in the shadow of the doorway, the child’s mother watches. A slim, erect figure, she stands with shoulders squared and chin high, hands folded in her apron. A baby cries. The woman disappears indoors.
Horse and boy reach the bottom of the grassy slope. His path will skirt a field of oats waving green in the summer breeze. Behind and before him, the land lies unbroken, a nearly intact sea of flowers and grass. Trails, begun by Indian travois and worn deep by Metis carts, now serve the settlers’ wagons. Bison bones and tipi rings lie hidden in the grass.
The boy struggles manfully to keep his large mount plodding in the right direction. His destination, a sod shack like his own home, appears as a small bump on the far side of the flat prairie spread before him. He keeps his eyes fixed on that bump, determined to take the most direct route to his destination.
Beside that route lies one of the ancient potholes that dot the land, still filled with spring runoff. Already the mare has quickened her pace in anticipation of a long and satisfying drink. Too late the child recognizes the hazard. How can he get his mount to go around instead of through that slough? He wrenches the reins and kicks his bare heels into the mare’s sides.
“Come on, Pet! This way, girl!” he coaxes, in his best imitation of the hearty, confident tone he has heard his father use. “You don’t need water right now.”
But he might as well be steering the wind. The mare ambles into the slough, squelching through mud-rooted reeds until, knee-deep, she bends her shaggy head to drink. Slowly, but inexorably, the boy slides down her neck. He struggles to hang on as the coarse hair of her mane scrapes through his fingers. With a despairing yelp, he slides over her head and into the water.
Slick clay sucks him down. Arms flailing, bare toes scrabbling for a foothold in the slime, he flounders to free himself. His head breaks through into the sunshine. Gagging and gasping, he staggers but again slips under. Through his panicked struggle he senses a shadow approaching.