Terrell’s Tuneup: GHOST RIDERS
I wrote this — and meant to post this, back around Halloween 2009. I’d forgotten about it for all this time, until I went to edit my most recent blog post and saw it there.
So what the hell, here’s more than you wanted to know about the song “Ghost Riders”
A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
October 30, 2009
(Art by James Clark. Used with permission.)
An impressionable 12-year-old rode to the top of an Arizona hill one afternoon with an old Cowboy friend to check a windmill. A big storm was building and they needed to lock the blades down before the wind hit. When finished, they paused to watch the clouds darken and spread across the sky. As lightning flashed, the Cowboy told the boy to watch closely and he would see the devil’s herd, their eyes red and hooves flashing, stampede ahead of phantom horsemen. The Cowboy warned the youth that if he didn’t watch himself, he would someday be up there with them, chasing steers for all eternity.
Sixty years ago this frightening vision, now found on the Western Music Association Web site, was etched into the consciousness of America. “Ghost Riders in the Sky” is a perfect Halloween song for the West. It’s the only cowboy song in which “yippie-yi-yay” becomes a demonic taunt. The boy who heard the tall tale from the old cowpoke would grow up to be forest ranger/songwriter Stan Jones.