A Real and Genuine West Texas Ghost Story

This WPA was done by Tom Lea and can be found at the Odessa, Texas post office

Stampede Mesa

Somewhere in West Texas, there is a real place called Stampede Mesa. It is situated east of Lubbock,  along the Blanco River on a private ranch. There is a ghost story attached to this high spot of grass that many researchers believe is the origin for the song, Ghost Riders in the Sky. Furthermore, it is completely, plausible that the lively story might have traveled by word-of-mouth from West Texas to Arizona, where the author was born and raised.

Stan Jones would have been an obscure C & W songwriter except for one massive hit, Ghost Riders in the Sky.

Ghost Riders in the Sky

The song was originally written in 1948 by a relatively unknown songwriter of the name, Stan Jones. At the time, Stan was a Death Valley National Park ranger, who wrote songs on the side. During his lifetime, he recorded over 100 songs with the Ghost Rider tune, being by far the most popular. Jones, who grew up on an Arizona ranch, claims to have heard the story while he was kid.

Burl Ives was the first major recording artist to pick up on the number. He did so in 1949, after being sent the song by Eden Ahbez, an iconic California folksinging character, who was best known for living under the grandiose Hollywood sign, before being discovered by Nat King Cole in 1947. Since its initial release, Ghost Riders has been performed by over 50 musicians. Styles vary from full out, loud rockin’ country as done by the Outlaws to a simple folksinger’s tale as Don Edwards does in the following video.

A Real Texas Ghost Story

The story of Stampede takes place back in the 19th century during the heyday of the cattle drives. According to legend, a band of cowboys were driving 1500 head of cattle from South Texas to Kansas. While traveling along the Blanco River in West Texas, the group approached a flat-topped mesa that overlooked the river.

Since there was good grazing on top, they drove their heard up on the small plateau, being careful not to get too close to the large cliff that overlooked the river. Much to their surprise they encountered an old man, who was camped out with his own small herd of about 50 steers. Without much discussion, the drovers from the South decided to share the mesa with the old man.

Unfortunately, this decision did not sit well with the old man, for sometime in the middle of the night, he arose and deliberately started a stampede that killed 1200 head of cattle and two cowboys. Then, he hightailed it away from the mesa, but the cowboys tracked him down and brought him back to camp.

For his callous crimes, the old man was blindfolded, placed on a horse and driven off the cliff. From that day on, the hallowed place has been known as Stampede Mesa. Not surprisingly, the land is believed to be haunted with strange sounds and apparitions of cattle stampeding being reported by those who travel along the Blanco River.

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How To Spin a Good Yarn

Sometimes it takes a little imagination to spin a good yarn
Sometimes it takes a little imagination to spin a good yarn

“Spin a Yarn”

I have taken this week’s Illustration Friday topic and expanded it from the original “yarn” to the more colloquial “spin a yarn”. This term is kind of aphorism for storytelling in general, so what follows is a short discussion on storytelling.

Step 1

A strawberry moon is a rare astronomical event that occurs when a full moon falls on the solstice
Spinning a good yarn begins with observing an actual real life event. This yarn  begins with the observation of a strawberry moon, a rare astronomical event that occurs, when the full moon falls on the solstice. In reality, such an event just occurred a few days ago.

Step 2

Spinning a good yarn begins with stretching the truth a bit.
Spinning a good yarn is enhanced when the truth is stretched a little bit. Maybe the man in the picture heard the owl or possibly just saw the bird fly by.

Step 3

Next you need to fib a little bit
Next you need to fib a little bit more. A flying canoe is definitely in the land of make believe.

Step 4

Finally there comes the big lie
Finally there comes the big lie. In this case it is the lake monster.

Will Comet ISON Destroy the Earth In 2013

Comet_P1_McNaught02_-_23-01-07
Comet McNaught (visible only in the Southern Hemisphere) Passed by Earth in 2007 without any major incident, from Wikipedia, photo by fir0002

Recent Discovery

Not too long ago in September, two scientists from Russia and Belarus discovered a new comet approaching the sun and due to pass by the earth late in the current calendar year of 2013. Since the astronomers were both members of the International Scientific Optical Network based in Russia, the comet has been named ISON. The comet is due to pass within 750,000 miles of the sun in November; and if it survives this journey it brighten the skies of the Northern Hemisphere around the time of Christmas.

Why Comets Elude Early Detection

Comets are very different from asteroids, for they are composed of ice, rock and organic compounds that can be several miles in diameter. This nebulous nature makes a comet much harder to detect and helps explain why Comet Ison  was only detected about a year before it will be visible from planet Earth. On the other hand because of their dense concentration of matter, asteroids can be detected many years in advance.

Collision With Earth

Both asteroids and comets have collided with the earth many times over during the 4 billion history of our planet. Comets hitting the earth’s surface are believed to be the source of our carbon based molecules, so instrumental in the structure of all living substances and organisms. On the other hand asteroids are called meteorites when they enter the atmosphere and meteors when they hit the earth’s surface. A direct hit by either an asteroid or a comet has the potential for being an explosive event, much stronger than our most powerful atomic bomb.

589px-Comet-Hale-Bopp-29-03-1997_hires_adj
Comet Hale-Bopp in Croatia in march 1997, from Wikipedia, photo by Philipp Salzgeber

Comet PANSTARRS

Comet PANSTARRS will be visible in the southern Hemisphere later on this month and  should remain a bright object in the night sky until March, when it will become visible  north of the equator. At that time the comet will start to fade. Of particular interest is the origin of the name of this first of two comets that will pass by earth in 2013.

What Is Pan-STARRS

Discovered in June 2011, Pan-STARRS is named for the Panoramic Survey Telescope And Rapid Response System project, a comprehensive survey program based at Mount Haleakala, Hawaii. If you believe that all the recent Hollywood hullabaloo about large asteroids striking the earth’s surface and causing catastrophic damage is pure science fiction, you are slightly mistaken. Though extremely rare, such events have occurred in the past and are remotely  possible, today.  As a result with funding by the U.S. Air Force, a major observatory has been created in Hawaii, whereabouts: “A major goal of Pan-STARRS is to discover and characterize Earth-approaching objects, both asteroids & comets, that might pose a danger to our planet.”

Verschuier1680
Isaac Newton’s Comet of 1680 as recorded by the artist Verschier.

Are We Doomed?

So far soothsayers are astronomical psychics have correlated the arrival of ISON with the lost planet Niburu, the dwarf star behind Jupiter, the incorrect calculation of the end of the Mayan Calendar and a possible collision with earth. No matter how you look at it 2013 will provide plenty of raw material for such fringe areas of intellectual pursuit…..And if ISON does strike and destroy the earth, it will have to be  renamed, Ivan the Terrible.

Help Yeyeright Save The World From Comet Ison

Once In A Very Blue Moon

A Full Moon

Coming Soon

On tomorrow night August 31st a blue moon will occur. No the moon does not turn blue, for this common pair of words is used to describe the uncommon occurrence . And that unusual event is when a full moon occurs twice in the same month. Since a complete lunar cycle takes 29.5 days and every month except February has 30 or more days, a blue moon can occur during eleven of the twelve months. According to NASA, a blue moon occurs on the average about every 2.5 years.

When The Moon Appears Blue

Normally the moon does not appear blue, when it is full. In fact, a twice-a-month ‘blue moon’ has the same color as any other full moon. However, atmospheric effects, like the presence of volcanic ash, smoke from forest fires or ice particles in the sky, can give a full moon a bluish tint. Documented cases of the moon taking on a blueish color are presented at the space weather website.

Optical Illusion

Some blue moons may be all in your head – or at least in the retina of your eyes. This might happen when a person moves quickly from an indoor location, illuminated by an oil lamp to an outdoor site, where the full moon hangs high in the sky. This quick change of scenery can cause the moon to appear blue for a short period of time. Not surprisingly, this phenomena has more to do with the nature of human vision  than any celestial event that occurs in the night sky.

Nanci Griffith
Nanci Griffith is a popular singer who crosses folk with country, photo by Jem1234, from Wikipedia

Popular Slang

Over the years a saying, ‘once in a blue moon’ has developed. More a musical-poetic interpretation of the phrase you might what to check out this song that is performed by Nanci Griffith, entitled Once In A Very Blue Moon. It is a woman’s lament about events in life that only occur on rare intervals. And if you are into lyrics here a is the opening verse and chorus. By the way these words were written by Patrick Alger & Gene Levine.

I found your letter in my mailbox today
You were just checkin’ if I was okay
And if I miss you, well, you know what they say…

Just once… in a very blue moon
Just once in a very blue moon
Just once… in a very blue moon
And I feel one comin’ on soon

New Shoes

cover image for New Shoes
Cover image for my newly, self-published e-book, New Shoes

The Cover

Today, I self-published a new 3,000 word short story at Smashwords. Tomorrow, I will probably add the ebook to Amazon. The story was easy to write, but coming up with a decent cover was a challenge. I can’t say I’m really excited about this one, but it will have to do for now. I used a couple of free images I found at Morguefile to create this undersea collage.

The Story

The story revolves around a young Louisiana fisherman named Jacque LeBeaux and a bunch of trouble he has gotten himself into with some not-so-nice mobsters. I don’t want to say too much, because it will spoil the sea adventure tale….. But I will say that there is a lot of banter and dialogue that goes on between the main character and his captors. You’ll just have to download it and read it to find out how things turn out.

Las Vegas Graphics

Marilyn and Elvis in Las Vegas
Marilyn and Elvis in Las Vegas, America's Royal Couple

Elvis and Marilyn

Elvis and Marilyn are everywhere in Las Vegas. Not only are they depicted in outdoor situations like this, but also real life impersonators may be occasionally seen along “The Strip”. Though both iconic figures have long passed into the next world, their costumed imposters make us believe that perhaps their spirit still lives on.

Holiday Motel on Las Vegas Blvd. in Las Vegas
Holiday Motel on Las Vegas Blvd. in Las Vegas

Old School Graphics

Motels like this venue on the “Strip” have been around for decades. In fact, ordinary signs like this often take on a new life after the sun sets and the neon lights start doing their thing. It seems that every motel has its own little display and art style.

Bail Bonds

Vegas Bonding Agents

For some strange reason Las Vegas abounds with bondsmen advertising their wares to those who might need their services. My guess that the per capital number is rather high, especially compared with other cities. I guess when you have such a large number of visitors, drinking gambling and having a good time, it is inevitable that somebody ends up in jail and needs a bail bondsmen. Some of their outdoor advertising, suggests that the market for customers is quite competitive.

Meoow Sign at the Cat Hostel
Meoow Sign at the Cat Hostel

Pushing the Medium

This wall construction at the Cat Hostel displays very large letters that suggest a certain phonetic sound instead of a living word with actual meaning.

The Colors of Thunder Bay

Thunder Bay Urban Scene

Thunder Bay used to be called Port Arthur, but now goes by a more colorful handle (my opinion) that owes a lot to the natural forces of nature, which for some reason put on fantastic thermo-electrical displays, when they pass over the rocky harbor and bay. I was witness to one such event and it was quite impressive. It also seems to be a slight deference to the ever-present Native American community, which is quite prevalent in this Ontario town.

Shadows Cast On a Red Door
Red Pattern On Red Door

For me, Thunder Bay was a great place to take pictures, mostly because it was a city in need of repair. I love the old, functional architecture in need of small repair and a fresh coat of paint, as well as the towering grain elevators that lined the edge of Lake Superior, a  body of water that the locals affectionately refer to as Gitchee Gumee.  Along with this post are a few of my favorite results from my photographic efforts.

Yellow Night Light

The above is twilight shot taken while a deep blue afterglow remained in the night sky. For me this brief period when photocell operated lights come on and cast contrasting shadows against a slowly darkening sky, are amongst my favorite times of day. Here’s one more picture.

Twilight Parking Garage
Twilight Parking Garage