Papa was a nightrider

By Luke Boyd

On one occasion we were sent to bed at the usual time, and for some reason, I let myself fall asleep.

I don’t know how many tales I slept through before I awakened with a start to hear one of my uncles say, “Do you really think he was one of ’em?”
“Well, I’ve heard tell that he was.”
“I’ve more than heard. I know he was.”
“Aw come on. You don’t know Papa was a nightrider.”
“I do, too, know he was. If you’d seen what I saw one night, you’d know it too.”
“Well, how come me or Vasco didn’t see it?”
“‘Cause you two had already left home and I wasn’t about to tell anybody about it. Nobody was supposed to know who they were and I wasn’t about to talk about it and have them pay me a visit even if Papa was one of ’em.”
“Well, what did you see?”
“It was late one night. I don’t know how late but the horses woke me up. I went to the window to see what was going on. What I saw when I looked out almost made me pee in the floor. There were about eight nightriders on horses. All of ’em had on robes and hoods so you couldn’t tell who they were. Two of ’em had pine torches. I thought they were paying us a visit, but I couldn’t imagine why. Just then I noticed Papa’s horse tied to the post out front and someone came from around the house, untied him, and mounted him. He had on a robe and hood like the rest, but he had on Papa’s boots and he got on Papa’s horse. It had to be Papa. The whole bunch rode off down the road.”
“Well, I guess Papa was one.”
“They did some good, you know.”
“Sure they did. If you wasn’t doing right, you didn’t need but about one visit from the nightriders to get you to make some changes.”
“I heard tell that they got aholt of ole Charlie Beard one night.”
“What did he do?”
“Well, you know he was bad to drink and beat his wife and kids when he got home. One night he was in the middle of beatin’ on ’em when the nightriders showed up. Cured him right straight. He stopped hurtin’ his family and quit drinkin’, too. Started going to church. In fact, he got to goin’ to church so strong some of the folks wanted to make him a deacon.”
“Did you ever see ’em again?”
“No, and I never wanted to. From then on, if I heard horses in the night, I just pulled the covers up over my head and stuck my fingers in my ears till they went away.”
“Well, ain’t that somethin’. Papa was a nightrider.”
After hearing that story, I had a different perspective of my grandfather. I only thought of him as a fat old man sitting in his favorite chair dozing most of the time. But in his younger days he had been a vigilante riding through the night making sure that the people along the Bogue Chitto behaved themselves.

(For more stories by Luke Boyd check out “Coon Dogs and Outhouses” on or