A Very Personal Ghost in Williamson County

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Tony Maples Photography


I’ve come to the conclusion, over the years, that when it comes to ghosts there are two sorts of people–those who realize ghosts exist and those who don’t want to realize it. One of the sure ways to become one of the first variety is to see a ghost. However, even if you see a ghost, you may not realize at once what you’ve seen. I know. It happened to me.

A Very Personal Ghost in Williamson County

Photo: magicvalley.com

Spring, 1962. Dad and I were helping our neighbor work calves. He had a big place, about 2200 acres, and about 300 mother cows on it in the spring of ’62. That meant we had 318 calves, about 150 of them bull calves, to work. ‘Working calves’ meant branding, earmarking, vaccinating, and turning the bull calves into steers. It was an all-day job, starting barely at can-see and ending pretty much at can’t-see.

There were stars out when I saddled my gelding to go over there–Dad took the pickup–and stars out when I swung into the saddle to head for home. The family fed us–lunch at (or somewhere close to) noon, and supper when the work was done. Supper was a barbecue done by Steiner Bass, the premier barbecue man in Williamson County. Steiner believed– because of what his mother told him–that he was Sam Bass’s ‘woods colt.’

Steiner was in his early 70s in the early ’60s, and Sam Bass died July 21, 1878, but if you told Steiner there was no way Sam Bass was his daddy, he’d never barbecue for you again. One thing about this barbecue–no alcohol. The family was staunchly Baptist. The strongest thing we had to drink was Coca-Cola.

A Very Personal Ghost in Williamson County
Photo: keranews.org

It was about 10 PM when I finally got into the saddle to head home. The sky was clear, the moon was out, the stars were brilliant, and you could have read the big print in a newspaper by their combined light. Dad went home by the road. I chose to go across country.

There was a trail from the neighbor’s pens that led to the road into our place just about 50 yards from our front gate. It crossed a very old road that may have run from Oatmeal to Georgetown. It was laid out very early, possibly during the Republic, because it was marked with braided trees. That, at one time, was a very distinct way of marking a road or trail. You found three or more saplings growing very close together. You interwove the trunks, tying them in place until the trees started actually growing together, which could take a year. Then you untied the trunks and the trees stayed together in the woven pattern, making a clear marker that would not have occurred in nature.

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