It was his seventeenth cattle drive from Montana to California. He would hum the same tune every time:
“Round up the doggies one by one
wipe the sweat from the noon day sun
git along little doggie don’t you fret
I’m just an old cowboy, I won’t bite your neck”
Burrs Branaghan was a saddle bum. Herding cattle from town to town, camping under the dusty western night sky. He wore long sleeved shirts, a wide brimmed cowboy hat and wore his bandana high on his face just below his eyes during the day. It kept the sun from burning his alabaster skin. You see Branaghan was not only a hard working cowboy . . . he was a 400-year-old vampire.
He rode with the wild banditos in Mexico, the outlaws in Tombstone; he loved the cowboy lifestyle. But his lust for blood was stronger than his love of the roping and branding, it was his eternal downfall. The day he admitted to the other cowpokes that he was a vampire they slapped their thighs laughing and saying he was as loco as the weeds he was sitting on. But just to be on the safe side they would wrap two or more bandanas around their neck. One cowboy would keep watch until dawn just in case. He promised them he would never feast on his cattle driving friends, but precautions were taken.
The camp cook was named Samuel Trey Spoons or Spoony for short. He would tie him to the chuck wagon wheel especially when they had steak for supper because they noticed he would drool excessively at the sight of the bloody red meat. His cattle boss Rusty relentlessly teased him waving bite sizes pieces his face asking him if the smell and sight of it drove him crazy. Branaghan fought his natural cravings to attack and drain every drop of his blood. For the sole reason his only dream in his 400 years of being a vampire was to be a real cowboy. A rip romping, spur wearing honest to goodness cowboy.
His heroes were the gunslingers of the old west. While looking for work in Tombstone he was caught in the middle of the famous showdown. The old Colt Single Action with the elk horn grip was carried by Wyatt Earp at the OK Corral. When the shooting started Branaghan ducked behind his horse and hunkered down until the shooting stopped. Doc Holiday saw him walked over looked him in his eye and said, “You fascinate me . . . therefore, I will not kill you today. Good day sir.” Branaghan tipped his hat and thanked him. Of course he knew unless they were shooting silver bullets filled with holy water, he was not in harms way. Doc handed him the Colt that Wyatt had used as a token of his pledge not to kill him.
As he walked back into town he saw an old trail boss hammering a poster for cattle drivers to work cattle from Arizona to New Mexico. Branaghan immediately signed up but later noticed the trail boss heading to the barber for a shave and a haircut. He watched as the sharp razor glided over his throat. He thought, “Oh, just one little slip that’s all I need to see that delicious red blood trickle down his face. He felt the urge to feast but remembered cowboys don’t give in to temptation. It’s the law of the land. So Branaghan saddled his horse and headed to the camp. As the wranglers packed their stuff and strapped down their saddlebags one oldtimer asked him if he’d ever been to New Mexico. He continued to make small talk but all he could do was notice a small cut on his neck. The oldtimer noticed him staring at it. Dang cow horn caught the end of my shirt and gashed my neck. It’s been bleeding off and on all day. Branaghan offered him a clean bandana. Thank you kindly young feller! I’ll rinse it out and return it to you good as new. No need just hand it to me now and I’ll rinse it out in the creek. He handed him the bloodied rag and Branaghan began to salivate. He muttered, “Fresh blood.” He immediately dunked it into the creek feeling the cold water run over his hands. He watched the blood float down stream. A tear ran down his cheek.
Eight hours on the trail they broke for camp. The coyotes began to howl as the campfire blazed against the darkened starry sky. Branaghan volunteered to gather more fire wood. He grabbed an oil lamp and set out to look for seasoned fire wood. He saw a large branch and decided to break it in half by standing on one end and pulling it towards him. Finally, it snapped but instead of breaking into two pieces a sharp spiked piece flew back driving it all the way through his heart. He stumbled dizzily to the ground feeling his 400-years of life drain from his body. He saw his lengthy life flash before his eyes. He grabbed his only true position the Colt that Doc Holiday had given him and fired a shot into the air. The cattle drivers ran towards the gun fire and found a pile of clothing and firewood with the Colt resting beside them. No sign of Branaghan. Now we all know that a stake through the heart is the only other way to kill a vampire. I guess Branaghan finally got the bloody stake he’d craved, pardon the pun. Thinking he’d been attacked by coyotes or some other wild animals, they collected his things and walked back to the camp. Packing his belongings in his horse’s saddle bags they went back to sleep. At dawn they saddled up and headed back on the trail herding 300 head of cattle to New Mexico. They headed toward the river to water the cattle when one slashed its side on a rusted piece of barbed wire. Not wanting to lose such a fine calf they wrapped the wound and slung the injured calf over Branaghan horse. Suddenly the calf let out a shattering bawl. The hands ran over to see two deep puncture wounds beside the large cut. What could have caused such a wound? They tied the reigns to the back of the supply wagon, however, no one noticed the blood around Branaghan’s horse’s mouth. Now some reckon old Branaghan feasted on his horse and others say the horse turned old Branaghan into a vampire. Of course all of this could just be another ghostly cowboy vampire tall tale.