Ghosts in the Night

     The old cowboy made camp that night just to the north of the old devil’s paint pot, in an area where the ground was warm from all that nearby underground activity. Maybe it was the smell of the bear still in the air; maybe the rumbling sounds of the geysers, but the even the horses were restless and old dog lay troubled up close to the fire.

     But he gathered up a mattress of leaves and lay out his bedding for the night. Many a night like this he had used no more than his saddle for a pillow out under the stars. When finally he drifted of, it was into a fitful and troubled sleep. Visions of the violence at the trading post caused him to toss and turn until almost midnight before finally settling into deep sleep.

     Just before daybreak old cowboy woke with a start to hear a quiet deep growl coming from the dog, whose attention seemed to be focused on a nearby stand of lodge pole pines. Slowly, palming his gun cowboy lay quietly, but his eyes penetrating the ground mist and searching in the direction where dog was focused. Like ghosts in the night, he saw three Lakota Ghost Dancers silently weaving thru the forest. With heart in mouth, he lay there as they seemed to simply dissolve into the ground fog.

     He continued to lay there for what seemed like a lifetime, but couldn’t have been more than fifteen minutes, and then he got up; and stirring the embers, pushed his coffee pot back into the fire and pulled on his boots. As he sat there in the fog shrouded morning light his thoughts drifted back to another sod built house in the grasslands, one further back in time.

     The violence of the trading post was now replaced by memories of youth and home, for old cowboy’s mind returned to a time and place far away. He had been born and raised in a sod house, much like the trading post. But now his memories were of his mum and dad; the horse drawn plow, chickens in the yard and mum’s flowers all around.

     A smile came to his lips when the memories of a gathering of the Irish neighbors, and his dad rosining up his bow. With fiddle, flute, drum and harp the old Gaelic tunes were played all night. His father had been killed at Vicksburg during the war, but those old memories lived on. He had been just twelve when he climbed on his horse; the one his dad had given him when he left with the rest of the men to ride with Hood, and rode away from that farm for the last time.

     So with the Ghosts in the night had come strong memories, the Gaelic tunes continued in his mind as he saddled and prepared himself for the trail once more. First order of business was to get one more look at those beautiful falls, and then to find a way down out of this mountain park toward the west. The violence all wiped away, his focus was again on his lost soul mate and his promise to hold her once more…

© 2003/2010 ~ David L. Griffith

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