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Copyright 2010 Rocky Mountain Rider. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Reproduction of any editorial material, artwork and photos is strictly forbidden without express written permission of the publisher. For information about reprint rights, please contact the editor; editor@rockymountainrider.com.

 

Ghost Rider

By Connie Vigil Platt, Salem, Arkansas

 

June 2009 Issue

 

     The West is full of ghost stores that have been handed down from generation to generation. Some have a basis of truth and some are merely entertaining — stories of specters that rise from the grave to visit the ranch house on stormy nights and tales of hidden treasure guarded by phantom spirits.

     These are tales told around the fireplace on cold winter nights that make you shiver in delighted horror at things that go bump in the night. I will let you be the judge about this one.

     I will tell you this — it is true and it did happen to me.

                                                                 ----------------------

     As a young child growing up in the canyon country of Colorado , I was told that there were no ghosts, there was nothing that would harm me, and that stories were for entertainment only.

     Of course, there were rattlesnakes and other wild animals, but that was not what worried me. Always, in the back of my mind, the scary things that had happened to someone else could happen to me. Perhaps I was immune, perhaps not.

     My father had cattle and horses and I was allowed to roam freely, riding my horse through the pastures and canyons. There were several abandoned buildings on the property, with doors hanging ajar, creaking at the slightest breeze, as if waiting for someone to shut them properly. Broken windows stared like empty eye sockets, and sometimes if the wind was right, I could hear a soft moaning.

     There were times, as I passed by, when I would catch a glimpse of a pale, floating shadow — it was more of a feeling than an actual outline. Yet I continued to go past these scary buildings.

                                                                 ----------------------

     One fall, my father gathered some calves to be sold at market. This was the first time the calves were separated from their mothers and there was a lot of bawling and milling around before they settled down.

     That night I woke to hear my grandfather shouting to my dad, “There’s someone stealing your cattle! There’s a man on horseback riding through the corral!”

     My father jumped up, but by the time he had put on his boots, jacked a cartridge in his Winchester rifle, and run outside, no one was there.

     “I saw him, I did!” Grandpa asserted. “There was a man on horseback cutting out the best calves. He had the reins slack in his hand and his head down. The moon was so bright I could see the shape of his hat. I’m not making it up.”

     “Have you been drinking? Where’d you get whiskey?” my father asked.

     “Don’t talk to me like that,” replied my grandfather. “You know I didn’t have anything to drink, except water or that foul coffee you make.”

     “You had a dream, old man. Go back to sleep. If someone was cutting cattle, he wouldn’t have the reins slack in his hand, you know that,” my father told him as he put away the rifle.

     “If his horse was well-trained he might have. I wasn’t dreaming; I saw it,” insisted Grandpa.

     I covered my head with the blankets. I didn’t want to see the shadow rider, and I didn’t want to listen to them argue.

     Although no mention was made of the event again, they did look for tracks the following morning. But there were so many tracks, they were not able to spot any in particular.

     Both my father and grandfather were hard-working, down-to-earth men. They may not always have agreed on everything, but neither one was prone to flights of fancy or imagination. If my Grandfather said he saw something, he saw something.

                                                                 ----------------------

     A few days later, on a clear October evening, the light was paling as the sun was almost down. It had snowed above timberline and the majestic Spanish Peaks — the Indians call Wahatoya (Breasts of Nature) — stood stark and beautiful in the background as they did every night. On only a few days during the year, in the spring and in the fall, does the sun set exactly between the Twin Mountains . That evening was one of them.

     My father and brother were driving some cattle to the corral; they wanted to get the animals settled before it was completely dark.

     My sister and I were watching, always an exciting occasion, and we saw the cattle part for a few minutes and bunch up again. A cloud passed over the sun, dimming our vision for a split second.

     At that moment she put her arm around me and hugged me almost too tight. I struggled to free myself and looked at her, her face was white as the clouds in the blue sky. She was trembling so hard, I thought she had gotten a chill.

     After we were all in the house, she told us that she had seen the ghost rider. When the cattle parted, which we all noticed, she saw a man on horseback, with his reins slack and his head down as he rode through the herd. She said it was as if he were looking for something, or else was very tired. Even though no one else saw it, nobody questioned what she claimed to see. There was no doubt that she had seen something.

     I was naturally curious by nature, so the next day I went out and scouted the area myself. I was looking for something that didn’t belong there among the rocks and grass.

     Walking along I tripped and fell, and my hand landed on a piece of metal. Wiping the blood off, I looked around to see what had scraped my hand. I dug down and found a rusted-out handgun. I brushed it off and showed it to my father who said, “It’s just an old gun that someone dropped. It’s too rusty to be of any value. Keep it if you want to.”

     “Do you think that it belonged to the rider Grandpa saw?” I asked.

     “No telling where it came from. Don’t let your imagination run away with an old man’s ramblings. I don’t want to hear any more about it,” he stated. He wasn’t usually that curt, but it seemed as if he didn’t want to talk about the ghost rider.

     I put the gun away and never told anyone else that I had it.

                                                                 ----------------------

     After I grew up, I researched all of the former owners of our ranch and found that there had been one family who had lived there and been accused of stealing cattle. When a vigilante posse caught up with them, there had been a terrible gun battle.

     The story goes that only one of the rustlers got away. Perhaps he was hurt and hid someplace to nurse his wounds, only to continue his nefarious occupation. Perhaps the gun battle did kill him and he is now riding for eternity looking for the companions that he abandoned.

     Since I still had the rusted-out handgun, I took it to a local gun historian and expert who told me it was probably made in the late 1800’s. It was too old and rusty for him to make out the maker’s name, but from the size of the barrel he thought it might be a .45 caliber, a common caliber of the time. It could have been dropped by anyone, but it is strange that it was there in the first place.

     Had the mysterious rider dropped it in another time? Was he was still looking for it?

     However, this is all conjecture. The rider was never seen again. Was it because I now had his weapon? I guess I’ll never know for sure.

 

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Copyright 2010 Rocky Mountain Rider. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Reproduction of any editorial material, artwork and photos is strictly forbidden without express written permission of the publisher. For information about reprint rights, please contact the editor; editor@rockymountainrider.com.

 

 

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