There ain’t much worse than a thief, except one that lets you know he’s going to rob you.
They’re not the least bit bashful.
I’ve traveled enough to know that you don’t head out of town at dusk, but one time I had no choice because the saloon I was in was getting shot up from the inside, and one of the customers of the ladies upstairs got mad from all the distraction so he lit a mattress on fire and the place started fillin’ up with smoke, so I got out while I could.
Something about old Whiskey and loose women…well, it’s probably not the women, the cowboys, miners and the old Whiskey. It’s not a good mix. Somebody shoots their mouth off, then a few bottles are thrown and then the guns start poppin’!
Just a typical night.
The nights that aren’t typical are the quiet ones. That makes you feel real strange inside. It’s like your body just waiting for something to happen. At least when the saloon is full, and the music is loud, and the guys are fightin’ you know what to expect.
Like I said, the place I stopped in was getting’ shot up and burned down, so I left, fast.
I didn’t have a lot of money with me. My dirty ol’ jeans had holes in the pockets and I lost some when I was dancin’ with one of the girls. I think she might of grabbed a few when I was done, but I didn’t much care. I figured she probably wouldn’t get paid by all the guys that held her when they danced with her, or when they borrowed her for personal reasons.
I always respect them ladies. Some of em’ are kind of mean, and they’ll rob you, or stab ya’ for not paying, but they don’t have a choice. They’ve got the hardest job to do: to be with a man they don’t know, and a ot of them guys haven’t taken a bath in weeks.
I give’em their money first, that way I ain’t got nothin’ to worry about.
I checked my pockets and pulled out a few coins and some beads left over from when I traded my rusty colt to some traders that had just crossed a river. I figured I didn’t need a gun in the south because it was too hot, the liquor was sparse and there weren’t many Indians.
Traveling north is a bit simpler than goin’ West, and it’s hasn’t got any mountains or bears you need to contend with either, but you got a different problem: Night Prowlers. They trail behind you during sunlight, then when the moon starts smiling, so do they. That’s when they get you, or get what you got. You know you’re bein’ followed, but you get so tuckered out that you don’t care to much about who’s following you.
These Night Prowlers won’t harm you. They just take what they can while you’re sleepin’, but you won’t know what they took until you wake up the following morning when you start looking around for what you need.
They all dress the same: All black.
Black pants. Black boots and shirts. Even their horses are black.
They’re easy to spot, but hard to catch.
There ain’t nothin’ you can do when one of’em follows you. Just keep ridin’ and try to toss any valuables ya’ got in some bushes without them seeing you do it.
You can look a wild horse in the eye, you can dodge the flaming arrows, and you can reason with a desert cat if you got your wits are set straight, but these Night Prowlers…they don’t say a single word. They just sit on their horses and watch you.
That night I left the Saloon I had one of them Night Watchers following me.
I remember seeing him when I rode into town.
He just finished tying up his horse to a post and was looking at me as I rode by. He was smoking some kinda’ fancy cigarette attached to a long black stick while he was brushing his horse’s hair.
His pants and shirt were real shiny, his boots had some silver straps around them and his belt had a gold buckle. I ain’t never seen a Night Prowler like him before. I walked over to him and pointed at his gold buckle and asked where he got it from.
He didn’t answer me, but he did turn around and stare at me as he flicked his cigarette. I watched the ashes fall from that long, fancy cigarette holder and his eyes were followin’ mine-he must’ve though I was getting’ ready to ask another question, because he started shakin’ his head back and forth real slow before he turns back around and started groomin’ his horse.
I ain’t never seen a pair of eyes as cold as what he had. It was hot as Hell outside, but those eyes were as cold as a grave stone on a winter morning.
My choices were to get a quick drink and head out while I had sunlight, or stay the night, but I didn’t have enough for a hotel, so I mosied down to the Saloon with the intention of taking one glass of Whiskey and grabbing a quick dance with the prettiest girl, but Whiskey makes you forget what time of day it is and the girls make you not care even less.
I had more than one glass, and more than a couple of dances.
My senses were still good enough to realize that the time to leave was when the smoke was coming down from the upstairs and I could see that Night Prowler standing just outside the swinging doors.
I kissed my lady goodbye and then made way through the doors. That Night Prowler held one of the doors open for me as I passed by.
Even-though I knew I was gonna be robbed by him, I looked at him and grinned as I tipped my hat. There ain’t nothin’ wrong with being polite when you’re drunk, or to the person that going to rob you, but then again, sour Whiskey can make you the most polite guy in town even when you’re stealin’ someone’s horse, or shootin’ him in the leg.
I rode out of town and checked back every now and then to see if that Night Prowler was followin’ me. He was, but from a real far distance. I started thinking maybe he was having second thoughts about robbing some drunk, poor cowboy like me.
I stopped by a small tree and tied up my horse. There were some sage bushes real close so decided to roll out my blanket and lay down next to them and then call it a night.
I unpacked my blanket, grabbed my knife and canteen which was empty. I took the saddle off my horse and walked around the sage brush and tucked it under the branches and then I too a peak to see where that Night Prowler was. He was sittin’ on his horse a short distance away. The orange glow from his cigarette was getting’ brighter and dimmer each time he took in breath. It was almost like a signal of sorts. I didn’t want to wait for that orange glow to go out, so I walked back to my blanket.
The stars look like they’re running out of room in the sky when you see’em in the Desert. I reached into on pocket and pulled out my coins. I sat up and grabbed my boots. As I looked in the direction of where the Night Prowler was, I let them drop in, one by one.
The clinking of coins is as sweet as honey to Night Prowler.
I set my boots to one side and laid back down and started trying to count all the stars, I don’t remember what number I got to, but I ended up falling asleep pretty quick.
The night was a little cold, but when I woke up I could smell some smoke. I jumped up thinking maybe the sage brush was on fire. I looked over where I tied up my horse, my horse was still there and the saddle was on him. I looked to the left of my horse and there was small fire that was still smoldering.
I looked for my boots.
They wer gone. That Night Prowler took my boots and the money!
I couldn’t figure out why he didn’t take my horse and saddle. As I stood there pondering this mystery I reached into my pockets. One pocket was empty, but the other still had my Pony Beads.
That’s all I had.
Why the hell did I trade a gun for some beads that were made by some Indians I never met? I looked at the beads. Each one was a different color. Red, Blue, Green, Orange, Yellow, Black and one White one. They looked nice, but other than my horse, I didn’t have anything of value.
I wrapped up my blanket, and grabbed my canteen.
As soon as I grabbed my canteen it felt different. It was heavy, but the night before it was empty.
Something ain’t right.
I didn’t dilly around too long, I gathered up my stuff and walked over to my horse. That ground I was walking on had some awfully pointed stones, and It was making mad to think that a Night Prowler had stole my boots!
I was cussin’ up a storm until I looked at a stirrup. It had boot in it, my boot.
Now what the Hell kinda’ Night prowler is it that does that? I grabbed the boot and slipped it on, but something felt cold inside and I was thinking it was one of them scorpions. I took off my boot and tipped it upside down and a coin came rollin’ out.
My mind was giving up about tryin’ to figure out what all was goin’ on.
A campfire, a full canteen, a boot with a coin in it…this was all to much.
I looked at the other stirrup.
The other boot was sittin’ in it.
I tipped it upside down and scorpion fell out…
And another coin.
There wasn’t any point in trying to figure this out, so I got on my horse and started down a trail.
I didn’t ride before to long before I saw that Night Prowler. He was coming from the other direction and rode up to me and stopped right beside me.
He didn’t say nothin’, but he looked at my boots and took notice of my canteen. He made a motion for me to give it too him, so I did.
He took a good swig from it and left the cap off and handed it to me.
He spoke in a real low, soft , gravely voice: “Here. Drink.”
I took the canteen and took a few gulps of the sweetest tasting Whiskey I ever had. It wasn’t strong, but it was real sweet. Like it was mixed with something.
I twisted the cap back on and looked that Night Prowler square in the eye and asked him if he was the one that lit that fire to keep me warm, and left me two coins in my boots.
He looked at me with dead man’s stare. There was a long silence before he nodded his head ever so slightly up and down one time.
I was still confused about this situation. He stole most of my money, but he lit a fire to keep me warm, didn’t steal my horse and filled my canteen.
I asked him why he did that stuff.
What he told me was: He was watchin’ me in that saloon. He saw me dancin’ with that girl, and knew she took the money that had dropped from my worn out pockets, and I didn’t raise a fuss about her doin’ that to me.
He also said that he went back to town and got himself some more easy pickens from the dudes that didn’t treat that girl with respect. He didn’t feel guilty about taking their money, but when he slipped his hand into my pocket and pulled out them Pony Beads, he had a slight change of heart for stealing my coins.
Those Pony Beads were more valuable than I thought.
A gun and Whiskey can make a man feel good about himself, and money can get him what he wants, and make other men envious.
I’ll tell you what, I ain’t ever tradin’ my Pont Beads for nothin!
While traveling through the south, a cowboy stops in a saloon and sips some Whiskey and dances with a pretty girl. He loses most of his money through the holes in his pockets and is left with only a few coins and some Pony Beads he traded his rusty old Colt for with some traders. He's being watched by a thieving desperado know as a Night Prowler that robs people at night after they fall asleep. After the cowboy rides out of town, he's followed by the Night Prowler up to his camp where he's robbed, but when he wakes up the following morning he's surprised to see a smoldering campfire as well as other things that should've been stolen but weren't. He gathers up his sparse belongings and heads down a trail where he's met by the Night Prowler that gives him an explanation why things weren't as bad for him as they were for some of the other cowboys that were in the same Saloon he was the night before.