Please welcome author Kaye Spencer to the blog today. Thanks Kaye for stopping by!
A Cowboy Ghost Story that Spawned a Western Romance
by romance author, Kaye Spencer
It’s October! And that means my favorite holiday is right around the corner—Halloween. Two of my other favorite things are old cowboys songs (such as Marty Robbins’ gunfighter ballads), and western romances.
A particular old cowboy song that I like is Ghostriders in the Sky, which was written by Stan Jones in 1948, and recorded by a plethora of musicians.
The roots of the ghostrider American legend probably comes from Europe, since many countries have their own older versions of the same story: the Wild Huntsman, Herne the Hunter and his pack of white hounds with blood-red ears, the Gabriel Hounds or Hellhounds, Odin astride his eight-legged stallion and followed by the Souls of the Dead, Orkney Islands’ fairies galloping about on midnight rides and driving stolen cattle ahead of them, and other variations.
Each legend is a rendition of the Wild Hunt, and they all include some sort of phantom-like leader accompanied by a horde of hounds or horses as they race across the night sky. It is a bad omen to witness the Wild Hunt, and strife and death always follow if you do. These supernatural forces travel the night skies bringing evil with them or they are searching for those who must be punished in the afterlife to atone for the wrong they did in their lives.
America’s Wild Hunt legend is about spirits of damned cowboys doomed to chase a herd of phantom cattle for all eternity. With that basic idea in mind, I crafted a western romance (novella length) called Gunslingers & Ghostriders, (written under other my pen name, A.L. Debran). The hero, gunfighter Matt Caddock, has to face the violence he wrought in his past when the Ghostriders come to claim his soul. The heroine, widow Brenna Stirling, is the key to Matt’s salvation.
Here’s a ghostly excerpt from the book.
By the time Matt reached the compound, he was mad. He was mad at himself for bringing this trouble to Brenna and he was mad at Archer for his greed. By the time he reined in between the windmill and Brenna’s house, he felt the rushing surge of deadly adrenaline he always felt just before a showdown. The only thought in his mind was killing.
He decided to play on Archer’s ego and challenge him to finally see who was the better man with a gun. Matt could take a slug and keep going. He’d done it before. When he pulled the trigger, his shots counted. Every time. One way or another, Archer and his men were not leaving the Stirling ranch alive, even if he had to die to make it happen.
Sitting light in the saddle, he pulled the toes of his boots to the edge of the stirrups, ready to leave the saddle in a hurry. He kept his hands in sight, acutely aware of the rifles that had followed them for the last half mile to the yard.
Archer waited for him in the yard, a self-satisfied smile on his face. “I knew you’d trade me the gold for your woman.”
Matt looked past Archer to Brenna, who stood beside Vernon. Their gazes locked and she barely patted her skirt as she made a gun symbol with her thumb and forefinger. She gave him a slight nod and a little grin touched the corner of his mouth. Good woman. He could count on her to take Vernon out when he blew the lid off this party.
“Parson, unload the gold. Throw it down over there.” He indicated the open area toward what was left of the bunkhouse. In his mind, he wanted the gold as far away from Brenna as possible to draw Archer into the open and leave her out of the direct line of fire. “Then get up on the porch out of the way. There’s going to be fireworks shortly.”
Archer walked to the gold and nudged the sacks with the toe of his boot. He looked at Matt. “Must be two hundred pounds here. I’ll bet it hurts you something fiercely to have me take it away from you so easy.”
Matt dismounted with the buckskin between him and Archer. He kept an eye on Walt and Herker, who had come up behind Archer and spread out on both sides.
Matt stepped away from the buckskin, deliberately removing his leather gloves slowly, one finger at a time. He tucked them into the back of his gun belt and stopped forty feet from Archer, flexing his fingers and rubbing his hands together.
“Take it and get the hell out of here.”
“I’d like to do that Matt. I surely would, but I can’t have you on my tail the rest of my life. Besides, I promised Vernon he could have your woman after we killed you and took the gold.”
Matt’s blood ran deadly cold, ready for the showdown. “Then let’s see who really is the better man with a gun.”
Archer spread his arms in front of him, fingers twitching, ready to make his border draw. Matt calmly opened his duster, and flipped the long sides back, exposing his tied down guns.
From behind him, Brenna suddenly screamed, “Matt. The clouds!” Lightning struck outside the compound and he stared over Archer’s head. Amid billowing, dark, churning clouds, the stampeding ghost herd thundered across the sky toward them, the phantom cowboys hot on their tails.
He sensed, more than saw, Archer’s hands cross and grab his guns. His own revolvers leapt into his hands as he faced Archer’s fire…
Happy October Hauntings!
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