I'm Workin for a Haunted Ranch - Chap 1
Before I get into my story, I want to make something clear right off the bat for y’all. All of what I am fixin to tell you is what I saw or heard from the other hands here. Last, no I will not tell you where this place is located, I have enough worries around here without having to wrangle a bunch of ghost huntin tourists up. So, with that all clear, I guess we can get into it.
My name is Pete, not really but for this story my name is Pete, that’s not a real cowboy name but it’ll work. I was lookin for work one day when I found a job openin on some website for a ranch hand. I figured I had been around horses and farms my entire life, so I didn’t see no reason for me not to meet with the folks about it.
To my surprise, they hired almost immediately. As soon as that man heard that I was a farrier I could hear the desperation in his voice. Anyway, they gave me the address and told me I could stay there while I was workin for them. This worked for me since I had been, uh, let’s just say “in between houses” at the moment. I had been traveling the country shoeing horses and playing my guitar at some little bars for a few spare quarters. Just me and my black Australian Shepherd Ellie against the world.
When Ellie and I arrived at The Ranch, we were instantly struck with size of it. It was a sprawling two hundred acres with rolling hills with a creek that would be better described as a river running through it along with the biggest herd of cattle I’d ever seen. In the middle of all this was a big ole two-story farmhouse in the middle that looked old, but old in the way that it was supposed to look like that. Rusty-colored tin along with vines creeping up the chimney.
I was speechless with the luck that I had stumbled upon. A place to stay that was beautiful along with a paying job that I’ve been doing all my life! I must have been livin right is all I could figure.
Now if I told you to picture a cowboy, you will probably conjure up an image of a man with a cowboy hat, spurs, button-up shirt, and a big belt buckle. That is almost exactly what me and Ellie was met with as we walked up to the house. The man named James immediately locked onto Ellie walking beside me. He spoke with a bit of trepidation in his voice “Pete, you didn’t tell us about your friend there?” Unsure how to respond I just said, “Yeah I forgot to ask if you were ok with me bring Ellie along, but she can herd anything you have here I promise you.” James seemed unsatisfied with that response, so I added, “She can sleep in the barn if that’s the problem.” James snapped immediately “No no Ellie here should stay in the house with you we have coyotes that come around at night. Just make sure you keep her in your room this ain’t no doggy daycare.”
After that, James took me to my room so I could put my bags in it before he showed me the rest of the place. We walked down to the barn as he explained how everything worked and what duties were expected to be completed. We got to the barn where he showed me all the horses and how they needed to be fed. When we had talked about everything that needed to be, James got serious and said, “Pete, just so you know we don’t go out at night unless we think something is happening to the animals, no other exceptions.” A little thrown off by his change in mood I laughed nervously and asked, “Ok but do you mind if I ask why?” James looked at me and said “It’s just I don’t like to lock the house up at night is all. I had some punk try to break in a while back.” I could tell this was a lie, but I didn’t press him on it. He was the boss and if he wanted my ass inside at night, then that’s where it would be.
As the darkness blanketed the surrounding fields and pastures, I settled down in my room. Ellie was perched having a staring contest with somethin’ out the window. I was just messing around with my guitar before I went to sleep. It was soothing to hear those smooth chords being plucked, but when I stopped that’s when I heard it, the fiddle. It was playing the same notes that I was playin. I thought surely this was just a matter of James heard me playin, so he decided to mess with the new guy a little.
I decided I would play along and go see what ole James was playin at down there. As I walked out of my room, I turned to look down the stairs when I saw him. He was sitting with his back facing me, looking out the front door playin that same cycle of notes. I could see he had a cowboy hat on as well as suspenders on a white shirt. I slinked down the steps to see if I could tell if it was James. When I got to the bottom step, the fiddle screeched to a halt as the figure stiffened. Knowing I had been heard I said, “Hey James, you can really play that fiddle.” The man stood up and turned to face me, and as he did this, I’m not sure how to explain it, but the fiddle disappeared. He turned in a way that put the fiddle behind him, and it just wasn’t there anymore.
The man stared at me as I looked at the outline of his body through the darkness; I tried to make out his face when I heard him growl, “Why did you have to kill him?” I stammered, trying to tell him I didn’t kill nobody when he rushed me. He pushed me down on the stairs as he grabbed my shirt, pulling me onto the floor and grabbing my neck. As he throttled me, I threw my arms pathetically at his face trying to get him off me. I was almost certain that I was going to suffocate as I heard Ellie barking at the top of the stairs. I looked up to see her bristle standin up, looking mean as the devil at my attacker. When I looked back up at the man, he was staring at Ellie as he released my throat and backed away. Gasping for breath I stumbled to my feet and as I raised my head up to find the intruder, he was gone.
I ran to the light switch and flicked it on to find an empty room. I called Ellie, and she walked down, calm like she didn’t have a care in the world. She and I searched the kitchen when James walked in, rubbin his eyes with a look that said, “What the hell is goin’ on here Pete?” I told him what happened, and that someone was in the house. James instantly eased with a little saying, “Pete it’s fine there is no one in the house it was just ole Henry.” I looked at him like he was a martian and asked, “Who the hell is ole Henry?” James looked at me sitting down at the kitchen table and said, “Son, sit down, and I’ll tell you who he is.” I sat down and stared at him as James started, “Henry is a ghost of an old miner who used to mine them mountains out there.” I asked with a chuckle, “So you expect me to believe I just got strangled by a ghost miner?” James looked with the same stoic expression and said, “You can believe it or not, son, but that’s what happened. Henry don’t usually act aggressive toward new folk, I guess he didn’t like the look of ya.”
After a long talk with James, I learned why he was so desperate to hire me. Apparently, the place is haunted, I know what you are thinking, “Pete, you need to check the rest of the house and find this Henry guy.” Well, that’s exactly what I did. I searched every inch of this house and found nothing all the doors were locked and no signs of any crazy folk. Anyway, Ellie would’ve found him if he was here.
James told me that Henry was a miner who lived here before this place was even a ranch and just a house. Henry came home one day to find a man standing out waiting for him. The man told him that he had come to apologize to him. Apparently, while Henry was down in the mines, this fellow went hunting and accidentally shot Henry’s dog.
Henry upon hearing this flew into a rage and strangled the man right there in his yard. Henry apparently just went inside and played his fiddle until the sheriff came. The dead man’s old lady went to them after her husband didn’t come home. When the sheriff came to find the scene of the strangled the man with Henry’s dark coal covered hands still imprinted around his bruised neck, he hung Henry right outside from the oak tree outside.
Now when James told me this story, I didn’t believe him but when I raised some questions James just looked at me and said, “Well Pete, if you don’t believe it then explain to me what happened to your shirt?” That’s when I looked down to see my shirt covered in dark smears and one clear outline of a handprint right in the middle of my chest.
I don’t know of any other way to explain what I saw other than to believe what James said. James told me he would understand if I wanted to leave in the morning. I think I might stay on though; I mean, this is the most exciting thing to happen to me in my entire life. When I ask James if this Henry guy is the only one, he just smiled and said, “Henry is just the beginning Pete, but you will see them if you stick around.” All I can say right now is man, am I glad that Henry liked dogs.