'Frida Maria'

Story Time

A Story of the Old Southwest

October 27, 1999|By Deborah Nourse Lattimore

Editor's note: Because she does not sew, cook or dance like a "proper senorita," Frida can't please her mother until she saves the day at the fiesta with her unique talent.

Frida sat down in the patio and did not even notice her sisters' kisses as they left. All she could think of was Mama and Fiesta. She could not sew, she could not cook, she could not dance. Mama didn't like anything she did. And Mama did not want her to ride Diablo. Frida tried to take a deep breath, but all she could feel was hot, dry Santa Ana wind sticking to her throat. The patio was quiet, and she was all alone.

For the next few weeks, Frida was very ladylike. She did everything the way Mama wanted, even though it made her sad. Thinking about Fiesta only made it worse.

Then, FIESTA! Everyone ate the wonderful food. Everyone danced under paper decorations and ribbons.

Frida sat on the stairs and watched.

Mama walked past fanning herself. "Come," she said to Frida. "I hate to see you unhappy. Come out with me to meet Don Ramon and his wife in the garden."

Frida squeezed her mama's hand. Don Ramon and Dona Tita were just outside. Papa and Tio Narizo were there, too.

"I look forward to the great race," said Don Ramon. "No one has ever beaten my horse, Furioso."

"Furioso? The best horse?" exclaimed Tio Narizo. "Perhaps in Monterrey. But in this pueblo Diablo has never been beaten!"

"Foolish old man," Don Ramon sniffed. "If your horse moves as quickly as you do, I have already won! I like this so much, I'll bet my horse against yours in the race. The loser will pay the other's city taxes for one year."

"Done!" cried Tio Narizo.

"Oh, no!" said Mama, waving her handkerchief.

"And I am no fool!" shouted Tio Narizo, grabbing Diablo's reins.

"Stop!" Mama said, dropping her handkerchief.

The vaqueros saw her handkerchief drop and thought it was the signal for the race to begin. They mounted their horses.

In the dust and confusion the riders galloped off. Don Ramon, on Furioso, was in the lead. Tio Narizo, who always moved slowly, was still trying to get his foot into the stirrups.

Frida wrenched her hand free from Mama's, leapt onto Diablo, and chased after the others.

Around the mission they went, around city hall, the old church, and the stores, the haciendas, the gardens, and the cactus. In her mind Frida could hear Mama saying "Oh! How unladylike!" but she kept going.

The dust clouds broke open along the home stretch. Frida could see that only she and Don Ramon were still in the race. Neck and neck, they came right at the crowd.

Then, with a great lunge, Diablo flew across the finish line. Cook, the maids, Marta and Mercedes, Papa and Tio Narizo were shouting, cheering, screaming, and jumping up and down. "Viva Frida! Viva!"

In the blur of faces, Frida could not see Mama. Then she did.

"I'm sorry, Mama," said Frida. "I got my dress very dirty and dusty. I disobeyed you. And I am not a proper senorita."

Mama threw her arms around Frida.

"You were wrong to disobey me, but I have been very wrong about you. True, you are not the kind of proper senorita I was raised to be. But you are the best Frida there ever was, and I am proud of you. And you have made this --"

"-- the best Fiesta ever!" shouted Frida.

Excerpt from FRIDA MARIA A STORY OF THE OLD SOUTHWEST by Deborah Nourse Lattimore. Copyright c 1994 by Deborah Nourse Lattimore. Published by Harcourt, Inc.

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