Western Short Story
The Midnight Rider
Tom Sheehan


Western Short Story

When another fight broke out between his mother and father, Jasper Mintor, even then a mere 11 years old, his father threw him, bodily and without a second thought, clean out of the house in Logger’s Rest, Iowa, along with the order: “Don’t you ever come back here, kiddo, or I’ll beat you until your mother cries for you for a whole week.”

The horrid words of his father did not linger with the stripling, but the image of his mother, distraught, horrified at the loss, hung with the boy with clutching anger, enough to frame him into something new and formidable, a turn into an absolute heroic proportion, that of a savior of sorts, a new creation, a new creature, born of his hatred and pity with the same bold powers. His young, fertile and vivid imagination went to work on new ideas, presentations, costumes, the conglomerations of his young mind sort of kicked loose from its normally quiet roots.

He became The Midnight Rider, a rider in black a rider only observed, if ever, at the dark of midnights, never a moon’s shadow thrown on a barn wall, nothing for a full grasp to any witness at the dark stretch of midnight, and then and only then when the hour was darkest, sleep claiming hard workers to their beds, good people of the land, any others finding immediate alarm in the “flighty new creature on the loose.’’

Thusly becoming a quick legend abroad in the land.

“You can barely see him mixed in with darkness and shadows, in the deepest part of black circumstance, yet on the move,” some said. “But your guess as good as anybody’s if he’s around us in daylight hours, or sleeping off his active night of goodness for other victims at ignoble loss of some kind, of extreme cruelty, pain, hunger, desperation, you name the pain or the problem, some of us owning a whole bunch of it once.” People saying that thought of Mrs. Mintor, the poor mother whose cruel husband tossed out their son to a fare=thee=well, “no more to enter this portal.”

The father, the husband, carried excuses in his pack-bag, a ready explanation for his actions. “The boy was, at first, supposed to be born on Christopher’s Day, and thus to be called as Christopher or Christofer or Kee for short, but, oh. no, she had to do otherwise a whole day earlier and as such to be called Jasper, a name which I have great trouble saying, but no longer since our parting, like I was preyed upon by the pair of them.” That story he could tell, repeatedly, with conviction to any listener, his excuses right at hand, his hatred too.

As it was, in the darkness of the first night of the legend, to the door of his former home, at the deepest stroke of darkness, came this legend with a carton of needed supplies for the house. There was no note, no announcement of any kind, but a dear thought of kindness with the gesture. The man of the house thought it to be conveyed by a friend of his, the woman of the house knowing, without proof, or making any statement of any kind, thought it to be her son’s way of saying hello to her, helping her out on the tough days, when her husband spent time and money solely on his visits to the local saloon, and often for much of some days.

When other such small catastrophes came to different folks in the local area, there came a dark figure in the darkest of nights, unseen, to deliver near=lifesaving needs at their door. Not even children, enchanted by the tales of such deliverance, were able to catch sight of their new savior, sleep be damned, visions alive almost to the touch, but never quite getting there. So light-footed was he, so silent in the night, so unpredictable of destination, The Midnight Rider was never once in any near grasp, though many a woman would have loved to hug him to their breasts.

The local sheriff wondered, beyond the others, how this night rider’s horse never made any sounds to give away an arrival or a departure, checking as far as he could sure-made horse tracks that disappeared en route to some secret place in the nearby mountains. “But,” he was able to say in every case of delivery, “Some rider on horseback was here in the night, that I can say, but not to where he disappeared to.” As an aside, he’d often say, “I hope I never come upon the likes of him, especially on the darkest of nights.” He’d offer nothing more than a believable shiver to his statement, and a new page in the growing legend: “Perhaps he’s nothing more than a ghost. We all believe in ghosts, and we better had, for they are all around us, at every turn off a road, at every door of every house no matter how new or how old, and always making some kind of statement about ownership or ideas about eternal rights.”

Never once, in more than 50 visits of The Midnight Rider in the area in two years’ time, did he ever ask Jacob Mintor about his son, his whereabouts since the notorious eviction, though a close scrutiny of the eyes of the boy’s mother said more than all words brought to bear on the subject. “Mothers always know best,” he would admit to himself on those occasions without fail.

Then, as fate makes itself known for a variety of reasons or causes, the bank at Logger’s Rest, Iowa, was robbed of its total contents by a lone masked robber who shot and killed two employees and made a clean getaway on a huge horse with windy speed. His rail was lost in the foothills no more than two miles away from the small town. No figure was ever mentioned, but “every last dime.”

The Midnight Rider continued his visits, arriving at places or cabins or small ranches where his help was always needed, as if an emergency call had been made. Money was never offered by him, but when Mrs. Mintor found a bundle of cash on her doorstep one morning, strange tales were created and/or spread about the area. The Midnight Rider was called into question, when people started to mention his name. “Maybe he robbed he bank to keep his deeds going. His money had to come from somewhere, and none of us knows where. We couldn’t blame him if he was the one who robbed the bank, could we?”

When Jacob Mintor began high-wheeling his gambling at the saloon, and the currency looked startlingly like the bank loot, right to the quantity of certain levels of paper money, a few of the sheriff’s confidants began to whisper into his ear.

The sheriff approached Jacob Mintor and asked him point blank, if he had robbed the bank.

All twisted in his mind, pressures piling on top of him since he had found the money on his doorstep, not knowing it had been retrieved from his own hiding place in the mountains, never guessing it was his son’s doing, admitted the theft.

After the trial, after the imprisonment of Jacob Mintor, his son Jasper came back to his home, saying he had been in the great city of Chicago for all his missing years. His mother was thrilled at his changes, a little older, a little more handsome, a welcome diner at her table from then on, and never another appearance of The Midnight Rider in all of Iowa.