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Do you believe in ghosts? How ‘bout angels? Miracles? Tarot cards?
I grew up believin’ in Heaven and all its assorted angelic inhabitants and their counterparts in the singed black hats. Reincarnation wasn’t taught in Sunday School, but we were encouraged to believe souls existed. So, with this sort of background, it was easy for me to accept ghosts. Especially when I saw the ‘ghost of Yankee Bill Summit.’
This experience happened many years ago, but I was a full-grown man with a full-grown moustache. It was a crisp October, and Lee and I had driven to Yankee Bill in northern Nevada. We and the cowboys had worked cows all day. Since we still had another day’s work, we stayed over at the old sheep headquarters high up in those beautiful mountains.
That evening, Antonio had cooked up a great Basque supper: friend sweet peppers, spuds, codfish, Dutch-oven bread and his specialty, chicken fried steak. We sat around the table in the company of Ten High and Vino Fino, smoking and getting beat at checkers by Juan Garay.
It was cold and a moonless night when we retired. Lee and I took a room right off the dining area. We laid out our rolls on a couple of cots and waited for everyone to hit the sack. The wood floor of this old sheep headquarters carried each footstep like it was next to ya.
Late into the night, Lee started talkin’ in his sleep and woke me. He rolled over and shut up, but someone was standin’ over me. I strained to see him by the starlight. He was pullin’ his shirt over his head, so I couldn’t see his face, but he had on chinks, boots and big Mexican spurs.
I stared at him hard, and I could see the dresser behind him, through him. I sat up to get a better look. I realized I was wide awake. I said, “What are you doin’ here?” He didn’t answer, so I swiped at him. He jumped back, but his boots didn’t make a sound on the wood floor.
He stayed in the room as long as I stared at him. Finally I lay on my back, closed my eyes and willed myself to sleep.
Now, cowboys are a superstitious lot, so I didn’t say much next mornin.’ I made a few inquiries whether any old buckaroos had died up there. Nobody knew. Nobody but me, I guess. I know. I know ‘cause I’ve seen him: the ghost of Yankee Bill.
Baxter Black is a cowboy poet, former large-animal veterinarian and entertainer of the agricultural masses. Learn more at www.baxterblack.com.