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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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