Posted on Monday, 15 October, 2012 | 4 comments
Columnist: Ruben Vasquez
In the early part of the 20th century traveling on horseback was a common place. People traveled into towns for supplies for their families, to run an errand, or to court a sweetheart in a nearby town. To travel twelve or fifteen miles one way and back usually took the most part of a day if one was in a hurry to get back home. And if you travel the path often enough a fella would not have to keep track of where he was going, the horse would make its way home right to the front steps. Yet horse and rider rarely separated and to this day could be heard on the farm to market roads and grassy meadows of the country side on the north side of Richmond Texas. The following stories were actual true events that span several generations.
When my father was a little boy in the early 1930s he was the youngest of a blended family that live off the main road of what is now FM 359. While the older brothers and my grandfather went into town one evening my father had to stay home with my grandmother and older sisters and tend to things around the farm house. The older brothers and my grandfather were on horseback and would be scheduled back by nine that evening but a violent storm blew in and unleashed rain, wind, and lightning to keep them in town for a the rest of the night on to early morning sun rise. What happened before their morning arrival was what my father and his older sisters to this day recall as a true story.
The rain blew hard from the north east and lightening lit up the sky in a rage that was seldom seen my father recalls. He watch his sisters huddle around the kitchen and sit quietly as if to hide from the lightening that struck the ground so hard that it shook the ground and rattled the windows. His younger sister Josephine would cover her ears and bury her head in to grand mother’s side for protection. The storm last for about an hour and a half. His step brother who was fifteen at the time slept through the whole storm. The storm left and was making its way toward Richmond which was about eleven miles to the southwest. The clouds gave way to stars and calm to the rest of the night. It was cool and peaceful. Then my dad remembers that one of his older sisters said that she could hear someone coming on horseback but it was approaching from the woods instead of the road. She could hear the heavy steps of the horse as it crashed through mud and standing water. Soon my dad was able to hear it coming from the same direction. Usually a rider would alert the house that he was coming in so as he would not be shot at. It was considered friendly gestures but in this case the rider did neither and he continued to plot slowly to the house. Now there was a barbed wire fence that stood between the rider and the house. Soon if rider’s horse would run into the fence line cut itself as it ran into the sharp barbs that stretched like claws on a thin metal line. By this time Josephine had heard the approaching rider she was terrified out of her wits woke up her fifteen year old step brother who was a pretty good shot with a rifle. He stumbled around and made his way to the front porch with his rifle ready to defend his home and family. He shouted to the rider to identify himself but the rider and horse kept coming. He warned the rider that he was armed and that he was a good shot. The rider kept coming. Then my dad said that they all could hear the horse run into the fence as the barbed wire twanged and busted free as the horse pushed against the barb wire. He could hear the staples popped off the fence post and he could imagine the deep cuts the horse was receiving on its leg muscles. The sound of staples flying off the fence post were more frequent now and the horse became agitated as it pushed on the fence even harder to get to their side of the fence and to the house. The rider was angered as well and he could be heard spurring horse on through the fence line until it seemed that it had popped several strand of barbed wire. My dad was angry and scared because he knew that my grandfather would be very angry about the broken fence line and all the boys would have to get together and fix busted wire as quickly and efficiently as possible. He was scare about the fact that some unknown rider was pushing his way through the fence toward the house with an angry horse. Then my grandmother pointed to a shadow crossing the road. It was a horse and rider. It was a large thick shadow of the horse and his rider that stood tall in the saddle. He was riding across the road and slowly entering a field of corn that was planted right beside the farm house and made it way beyond the house and barn. All were watching and hearing corn stalks and fall to the ground as they were trampled by the horse. The sound echoed into the early morning and disappeared into the middle of the corn field. My dad remembers hiding behind his older sister who made the sign of the cross upon herself as she watched in disbelief and horror. Grandma close her eyes and lowered her head and prayed softly as the apparition rode past the house and past the barn and deeper into the cornfield until it was silenced by the first rays of the dawn.
The older boys and grandpa rode in about seven thirty. My dad remembers them dismounting and walking the horses to the front of the ranch. No one went out to greet them. All of his sisters and him included were sitting in the kitchen huddled in a corner still in shock of what they had experienced. My grandmother hushed all of them and waited for grandfather to come in through the door. When my grandfather entered the kitchen the first thing he noticed that there was no breakfast being served, then he noticed that no one moved at his presence. He then looked and noticed how no one responded and he quietly asked what happened. My dad remembers that my grandmother smiled politely and tears began to fall from her eyes. She then began to unravel the incident of the night. The girls would accentuate their version as grandmother continued the strange list of the night’s events. She concluded the stranger and rider left the fence in ruin as she explained how horse and rider broke through it. When my grandfather and the boys went to inspect the fence line they found that nothing was damaged. All was left as it was the day before. They walked the nearby field and could find no tracks of horse or its rider. Meanwhile Grandmother had walked to the road where she recalls hearing the horse enter the cornfield. When the boys and grandfather reached the edge of the corn field they noticed that she stood silent at what lay before her. Nothing. There were no horse prints on the ground and the corn was standing tall and undisturbed. Grandmother began to cry. She knew she was no going mad. She knew what she had heard and seen. Grandfather was not silent the whole time he never doubted her word nor did he condole it. He listened in with a stoic silence.
The rest of the day grandfather and grandmother decided that no one would do any work for that day and that all would silently pray and ask god for thanks that nothing worse had happened other that a ghostly scare.
Later that evening when the household had calmed down and readied themselves for bed he told them of a Spaniard on horseback who had lost himself from the rest of his comrades that was who visited them the night before. There was also a story of a rider from South Texas who was in hast to deliver a message of military importance to someone on the other side of Houston. He rode through the night and he failed to see a steep ravine where he and his horse fell to their death. To this day he has heard galloping eastward through the night. Needless to say no one slept that night.
My brother and I shared a bedroom which faced to the large back yard and a field thick brush and tall grass. That summer we had moved into our house from Houston and made our home in the country. We were excited. We spent a lot of time exploring and hunting. The first seven months were uneventful. We were going to school and for the first time we experienced riding a school bus. When we came home we had chores that we had to tend to and they had to be done before we could have supper or get our homework done. That was the way it was. One night my little brother woke me to tell me that he was scared because he had heard something outside our window. He was telling the truth. I sat up and listened and heard the sound of a squeaking saddle and the heavy steps of a horse as it walked on to our graveled patio. I could not see anything but I could hear the eerie sound of horse and saddle coming closer and closer to our window. I strained the darkness to find the source but I could see nothing. The sound got ever so close. Then the sound of a panting horse was at the window I was petrified with fear. My brother screamed and jumped out of the bed and in one bound he was on the other side of the room. When that happened the sound of the panting horse stopped. After that event we still heard the ghostly horse and rider and we explained to our parents the sounds and the direction the horse came from. For months especially in January and February the sound of galloping horses were always a part of the cold winter nights.Article Copyright© Ruben Vasquez - reproduced with permission.