Published on Tuesday, February 26, 2013
The Legend of the Cowboy Light
By Gary Every
In the southwest there are legends about a mysterious light and the invisible lady who holds the lantern. The story always begins with a lost cowboy on horseback, parched without any water, leaving the desert terrain for the rugged canyons on the edge of the mountains in hopes of finding a watery oasis which will spare his life.
The lost and wandering cowboy sings himself a song, hoping to buck up his sagging spirits while his horse keeps plodding along unaware of the danger they are in. The cowboy sings loudly trying to pretend he is not afraid. The cowboy is lost and thirsty, in danger of dying alone. He whistles and sings until his parched throat stops him and then the echoes of the song ricochet for a little too long. The echoes take the song an extra verse longer than the cowboy had gone. The cowboy realizes someone else is singing along. The cowboy rejoices, he is lost no more, he has been saved!
This voice which is singing along, singing the same song as the cowboy is melodious as the song of an oriole and it belongs to a beautiful female. Of course the cowboy has not yet seen her. He never will. All he will ever see is the light of the lantern held about horse high but all women are beautiful to a cowboy, especially one who is lost and wandering. When he spurs his horse to find her all he ever sees is a bright light, a light bright as a lantern held about the same height as a woman on horseback would hold a lantern to guide herself through the night.
The woman only keeps singing as long as the cowboy keeps following. When the cowboy halts his horse, the lady with the light stops singing and silence fills the twilight darkness. Many a lost and lonely cowboy has followed the singing light needing to find a drink of water from a mountain oasis to save him from his thirsty plight. To tell the truth some cowboys have been rescued by the singing lady who led the cowboy and his thirsty horse through the labyrinth of narrow canyon and giant boulders to discover a hidden spring or unexpected tinaja still filled with sweet fresh rainwater, before she, her lantern and her invisible horse ride away into the sky, slowly climbing the stars but the lady with the light has also led some cowboys through the darkness to the edge of a precipice and beyond, to where they tumble to their death. So the next time you are lost in the desert and hear the singing voice, see the light being held horse high, you have to wonder - will the lady lead you to your death or guide you to safety? I suppose maybe that it all depends on exactly how you treat your ladies.
Gary Every is an award winning journalist, including for stories such as The Apache Naichee and Losing Geronimo's Language. He is the author of Shadow of the OhshaD (OhshaD is a Native american word for jaguar) and Battling the Hydra, a collection of encounters with mostly wild animals. His poetry has been nominated for both Pushcart prizes as well as the Rhysling Award for the years best science fiction poem. His work appears in a variety of magazines such as Arizona Highways, Desert Leaf, Weber Studies, Tales of the Talisman, and many more.