Virgil Ante

Virgil grabbed his old saddle, slung it over his back and started walking toward Black Wolf Bluff. His spurs jangled with each step. He liked the sounds they made and composed a song in his head as he walked. His stride was long so he knew he would make it to the bluff before nightfall.

It had been a long time since he was without a horse. Cody had his ride and companion for almost nineteen years. The horse’s death was a shock, and untimely, as he had committed to leading a wagon train back East next week. Some folks couldn’t get used to the wildness of the West, and that meant double money for a back and forth trip. With Cody gone, the wagon trail would never be the same for Virgil.

As he walked, heavy saddle slung across his back, song and spurs ceased to matter while he reflected on yesterday’s events.

While he played poker at Miss Dottie’s Saloon, his horse was shot to death. Virgil had dashed outside as soon as he heard gunfire. Taking in the horrific scene, he saw two women, a child, Banker Sam, and his horse, dead or dying on the dusty street.

The bank robbers were still in the street, twisting around and around on their horses, shooting before they rode out.

Virgil comforted Cody as the horse lay dying; its reins still attached to the hitching post. The animal’s eyes seem to say thanks for the ride and love we shared. Heart-wrenching cries echoed through the valley for the innocent folks who were shot dead without thought or care.

But Virgil remained with Cody, stroking and comforting his long-time companion until the horse gasped its last breath. The man choked up as he removed the tattered saddle with difficulty.

It was too late to chase after the gunmen; he would question witnesses later. Virgil vowed to himself that the killers would get their just due for the deaths of the townspeople and his horse.

***

Spling, spling the sound of his spurs interrupted Vergil’s thoughts. This time he whistled as he walked through brush and tumbleweed. All matter of creatures scattered when they heard the jingling spurs. It was their lucky day. Virgil was an excellent shot, and they would have been dead if he were hungerin’ for a meal.

Would have killed those murderin’ bank robbers if they had been within range, but they had not been. Again, Virgil silently promised he would avenge the deaths. I’ll kill them, shoot them down like swine when I find them. And he would find them.

***

Virgil was close to his destination; he could see smoke filtering through the trees. Soon he would pick a fine horse from Sacred Dog.

Diego Cloud heard someone coming. He whistled a warning bird call. As soon as Virgil was within sight, Diego leapt out of a tree and landed in front of his old friend.

Diego had been adopted by the tribe after being left for dead by Spaniards, when he’d refused to shoot an Indian child. Because of Diego’s actions the child got away and warned his elders of the approaching Spanish troops. He also told them about the man that had saved him.

“It’s been many moons since you have visited. Where is your horse?” He grabbed the saddle out of Virgil’s hands and whooped to let the others know a friend was approaching.

After a meal of venison and mushrooms, Virgil sat with his old friends and told them of Cody’s demise. Smoking Eagle passed the peyote pipe to him and said, “My friend, smoke the pipe of visions and in the morning you will know which horse has Cody’s spirit.”

Virgil knew the strength of visions; he had spent many days smokin’ and huntin’ with his favorite tribe. A liaison of sorts, Virgil was fluent in several Indian dialects. Members from several tribal nations held him in high regard.

The sun rose, and Virgil was ready to select a horse with Cody’s spirit. Sacred Dog led the way to the hobbled horses. Virgil remembered the life-like dream he had from the night before; he searched for a horse with fire in its eyes. None of the herd seemed to have that, so he decided to whistle Cody’s call.

The herd parted as a magnificent animal with fiery eyes burst through. It strode right up to the man, and nuzzled his shoulder. Just like Cody used to do.

The bond was immediate. Satisfied, Virgil paid Sacred Dog with gold nuggets. Unbeknownst to Virgil, while he slept, craftsmen re-dressed his saddle. He offered more gold in payment; they adamantly refused.

Before Virgil mounted “Fire” and said his goodbyes, he vowed yet again, this time to his friends, that he was going to find and kill the men that shot Cody, two women, a child and Banker Sam.

The group said they would be with him in spirit and started chanting his name as he rode away … Virgil Ante, Virgil Ante, Virgil Ante!

***

Riding hard, Ante found the bank killers just off the wagon trail, headed East. That evening, seeing a fire in the distance, he went to investigate. As he silently approached, Virgil overheard two men boasting and laughing about how they’d killed four people and a horse in a bank robbery.

Virgil dismounted and snuck up behind the loud, boisterous men. Cocking his gun, he ordered them to stand with their hands up.

He said, “I’m Virgil Ante, and I’m the judge and jury in these parts. I find both of you guilty of murder.” As he shot one of them between the eyes, Fire reared, then stomped the second man to death.

Virgil Ante listened as his spurs jingled while he walked his new friend away from the deadly scene. Again, he started humming the tune he’d made up earlier, before finding Fire, then caught himself whistling as he kicked out the coals. Western justice having prevailed, he continued whistling as he mounted up and started his ride back to town.

— S. McKane

One thought on “Virgil Ante