Dusty Ryder - BOTH Audio and Text
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What I’m going to tell you now might make you think I’m loco. I hope that you’ll believe me, but I don’t care if you do.
You asked me what - in all my life’s - the strangest thing I’ve seen.
Well…crazy as this story sounds…I swear to you, it’s true!
I was on a cattle drive, the second time around, slightly north of Austin, on a late September night.
A night where any cowboy that was ridin’ near the herd would have been a cinch to hear…and hard to hide from sight.
The sky was clear and cobalt blue, with countless twinkling stars, and gliding o’er the prairie…like an old pastel doubloon…
A softly glowing ivory sphere cut silhouettes of all that stood, or milled or rode beneath that floating autumn moon.
Nothing short of nothing could have moved across that stretch without them being easily seen…the sky would light them up.
But, son…I’m here to tell ya’…this is actually what I saw the night that Dusty Ryder’s ghost brung in a stranded pup!
Out a ways…I s’pose about two hundred yards or so…a bawlin’ little calf was lost. He’d left his mother’s side.
I could easily tell he’d gone and got himself in trouble, and knew I’d prob’ly need to saddle up and take a ride.
It was after midnight when that whinin’ little brat first commenced to callin’ out. He missed his mamma’s bag.
That’s when ol’ Mariah whopped her head against my chest to tell me she’d prefer it if I picked some other nag.
“This ain’t gonna take too long,” I promised my old friend, “an’ we don’t want him windin’ up some old co-yo-te’s meal.
He just wants his mamma…and it’s you and me’s on duty…and if some varmint brings him down…just think o’ how we’d feel.”
But as I tossed the blanket on, to saddle up my partner, glancin’ ‘cross the prairie…just beyond the milling herd…
I could not believe my eyes…and neither could Mariah. Both of us just stood there…staring. Neither said a word.
Off there…in the distance…run the calf that had been bawlin’. He zigged and zagged repeatedly…like he was being chased!
Before we knew it, there he was…standin’ by his mother. There…amongst a thousand cows…the calf had been replaced!
All the cattle - undisturbed - seemed unaware and careless. Would me and old Mariah be the only two that knew?
I removed the blanket from her back, then stroked her brow, an’ said, “You know…I can’t believe what I just saw…can you?”
Old Mariah shook her head to tell me she agreed. It seemed as though a ghost had drove that little feller in.
The way he darted…left an’ right…he seemed to be respondin’ to someone actually doggin’ him…to bring him home again.
And yet…we never heard a sound - except that bawlin’ baby -- and never saw no cowboy on a horse behind that calf!
(Tell ya’ what I’d probably do if someone told me this….I’d tell them they’d been drinkin’ far too long…and then I’d laugh.)
By the time that dawn had come, me an’ old Mariah hadn’t slept a wink all night. I think it’s plain for why.
I milled around the camp a while…afraid to tell my story…‘til some old guy who’d rode that drive fer far more years than I
Looked me up an’ down a bit an’ said, “You’re lookin’ tired! “In fact,” he added, friendly like…“you look a might confused!”
I just sort o’ looked at him, then figured…might as well…(but I was extra careful with the kinds of words I used).
“Didn’t really sleep too good last night,” I started out. “Heard a little doggie out there…stranded on the prairie.
But when I went to saddle up…because the moon was bright…I spotted somethin’ out there, sort o’ weird…an’…kind o’ scary!
“Out, from in the distance, comes this whinin’ little pup…a ziggin,’ an’ a zaggin’…like a dogie bein’ drove!
Well, I’ve got eyes, an’ I’ve got ears, an’ swear there had to be some cowboy’s ghost a-doggin’ ‘im…the way he dodged and wove!”
“Of course there was,” the old guy said…a grin come on his face, “and you ain’t seen a thing at all that ain’t been seen before. That there calf was brung back to his mamma by the best…..an’ the Lord ain’t making men like ‘Dusty Ryder’ any more.
“Dusty drifted in one day and signed on as a driver. A big, old bolt o’ lightnin’ spooked the herd in ’83,
An a thousand head run straight across where Dusty’d been a-brandin’. They run right through the fire an’ all…an’ caught him…on his knee.
“Dusty’s horse - a sorrel mare - was killed that day as well. The trail boss laid ‘em down together…south of Abilene.
Everyone who knew him understood he had a weakness fer stranded calves, an’ that explains what some of us have seen.
“I was on a graveyard shift, an’…just the same as you…in from off the prairie - (where he never should have been) -
Jigged and jagged a whinin’ calf, when…right before my eyes…somethin’ that I couldn’t see…or hear…done fetched him in!
“It’s true, my friend…without a sound…with nothin’ there to see…he run him to his mamma…in the middle of that herd!
Rowdy swears he seen him do the same in ninety-four…and after what I seen myself...I’ll take him at his word.
“Hard to blame the ones we tell about what Dusty’s done fer thinkin’ we’ve been drinkin,’ and it’s true…they often laugh,
But I can tell you this, young man…for forty-seven years…on forty-seven cattle drives…we’ve never lost a calf!
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Copyright © Mark Stellinga | Year Posted 2021
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