Farmers and cowboys were sworn enemies during the beginning of the range days. It was no wonder eight Texas cowboys herding 3000 head of cattle got mad when they saw a fence as far as the eye could see blocking their progress to Abilene, Kansas. It didn't help these eight cowboys deposition being sore and tired either.
For a while, the cowboys muttered among themselves getting anger and anger. They started to dwell on the punishment they could inflict on the farmer.
So when the farmer came out of his house near Neches River with a shotgun, the eight cowboys saw their chance to inflict punishment. The cowboys took their positions around the herd of cattle, quickly sent the cattle into a stampede.
The farmer scurried about and ran towards his house. He made it inside and warned his wife and two children then ran back out of the house. The farmer shot at the raging cattle, heading towards him to give his family time to get away. He had emptied the two barrels of the shotgun before is trampled to death. The cattle stampeded through the house killing the farmer's wife and two kids.
Not one of the eight Texas cowboys showed remorse for their heinous misdeed. As a matter of fact, the eight cowboys bragged about the incident to their compadres, laughing about it, and toasting their nasty deed to others in Abilene. They were hailed as heroes for a month among their confederates.
But once the Texas cowboys crossed over into their home state, they were showed no mercy. They had dreams of angry bulls with burning eyes, saw the ghosts of the family they murdered. These rough and tough cowboys were turned to whimpering cowards and unable to work anymore on cattle drives. Of course, none of them lived long after their return to Texas. The cause of their death varied among the eight from gunfights to suicide. One had drunk himself to death. The last of the eight died in 1875.
A strange thing happened after the last cowboy died of the eight. Ghost riders started to appear on the Neches River. "They came just as the sun was sinking low on the horizon, when the immense Texan sky was a scarlet-streaked dome and the Neches ran red like a river of blood to the southeast...The ground beneath began to rumble, and the whole landscape started to shake. Up above, on the southern horizon, a group of what looked to be thick red clouds suddenly appeared, moving north at great speed. In the span of a few seconds, the clouds were overhead and were no longer clouds but a herd of angry cattle, driven forward by 12 masked cowboys. They roared over the Neches River in a terrible rush, the whole landscape shaking in their wake. And then, in the next instant, they were gone. They vanished suddenly in the dim evening sky, leaving not a trace of their passing."*
If you are wondering why I put this Texas folklore on a blog talking about actors, music, TV series, etc. it is because this folklore pertains to music. The ghost riders of Neches River was immortalized in 1915 by country singer Stan Jones in his classic song "Ghost Riders in the Sky".
If you never heard the song, your in for a treat. Here is my favorite video of the song. Enjoy.
*I found this story in 'Ghost Stories of the Old West' by Dan Asfar. The story is on pages 78-83. The words in parenthesis are the words of the author of the book. There was no way I was going to mess with the beautiful words that described the scene he wrote of the ghost riders.