Like a best horse, favorite dog or a rattlesnake story, every cowboy’s got a ghost story—and usually several. Since it’s the season, I’ll share a few with you. Most of the storytellers aren’t very definitive about actually “seeing” anything. It’s more what they didn’t see and what they can’t explain.
Two cowboys were headed out of town back to the ranch about 3 a.m. making pretty good time by cowboy standards. A full moon lit the desert landscape up with an other-worldly kind of luminescence that went unnoticed by the duo. The two were jamming to familiar music and jawing about whatever when a car came out of nowhere, flying low, and passed them.
Not too much further down the road, the car suddenly pulled over and stopped just ahead of the cowboys. They slowed and rolled on up next to the car. The windows were down but no one was inside that they could see. They got out of their pickup, looked in the car. No one. Looked under the car. No one.
They knew there was no way for whoever was driving that car to get out and get gone before they got there. They also knew they would have seen it happen in the moonlight. The rest of the ride to the ranch was somber and reflective.
But the experience wasn’t foreign to one of the cowboys. He talks of a road that goes north from ranch headquarters out into reservation country. Often when headed down that road, he would start feeling like someone was riding in the back of the pickup. Said he’d even stopped and looked in the back a time or two. Nothing.
Big country and long empty miles don’t offer much in the way of security in the dark when the spirits decide to move. As the dirt road curves around a set of remote shipping pens, one can see headlights coming at you. You pull over, and they never come on by you. Investigation by daylight reveals no reason for the lights. Nothing reflective, no explanation.
The old house that served as ranch headquarters was once a stagecoach stop. The thick adobe and rock walls made it a fortress that shut out the sounds of the night.
The cowboy had spent the evening reading and was ready to call it a day. He turned the light off and just as he did, another light about 2 inches in diameter appeared and started moving across the ceiling. It traveled down the wall, across the floor and over to his bunk. He watched it move back up the wall and to the place on the ceiling where it had begun. Then it disappeared.
In that same room was a window about 2 feet wide and 4 feet tall. He was alone at the ranch. Not another soul around. It was a dark night with no light coming from the outside. There was no explanation for what he’d just seen. He went on to bed but some hours later he was awakened by the sound of breaking glass. He grabbed his pistol and headed to the door. Stepping out on the porch in the dark, there was still nothing. Nothing, including no broken glass anywhere.
While it was a little spooky, the visiting “light” went right along with the regular incidents at the saddle house. The lights would be off and as soon as he got over to the washroom, the lights would be back on. He’d walk back to the saddle house and pull the string on the light fixture to turn them off, all the while feeling that someone was in there watching. The unusually cold temperature of the saddle room remained winter and summer.
There’s a natural spring and a set of corrals near the Ladron Mountains that is the watering hole for a horse that cannot be caught. Cowboys that have camped at that spring say a hobbled horse comes in, drinks and leaves. When a trigger was set on the gate to close it if anything came through, it worked as planned. The cowboy that set the trap heard it trip in the night, heard the horse. And yet the next morning, the gate was closed but there was no horse in the corrals.
Turn out the light. No promises it will stay that way.
Julie can be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.