Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Cattle Trails from Texas

Loving and Goodnight: Texas Legends
by Martha Rogers

Charles Goodnight and Oliver Loving became partners to drive cattle from Texas to western markets with hopes of selling beef to military outposts along the route as well as to settlers. In 1886, tey started out with eighteen cowpunchers and two-thousand head of cattle. They arrived at Fort Sumter in New Mexico where about eight thousand Navajo were interned at a reservation under control of the fort.

Due to poor conditions for agriculture, there was a high demand for food supplies. The officers at the fort purchased the steer for eight cents a pound. Goodnight returned to Texas with $12,000 in gold to buy more cattle.

His partner, Loving, continued north with the remaining stock to Denver, Colorado. There he sold the rest of the herd.

The next year, 1867, they set out again. They were delayed by a thunderstorm and a band of Comanche attacked and scattered the herd. While Goodnight rounded them up, Loving set out with Bill Wilson to let the fort commander know of the delay. Loving and Wilson were attacked in New Mexico by a band of Comanche. Loving was severely wounded, but Wilson managed to escape and made it to a place where he waited for Goodnight to arrive.

Together they found Loving and brought him to the fort, but a few weeks later, he died from his wounds after gangrene set in. Loving lamented the fact he was going to die and be buried in “foreign country.” Goodnight promised that he would somehow get him back to Texas where he could rest in peace in his native land. Goodnight kept that promise and the trip is the stuff of which legends are made.

Goodnight and his men collected empty oil cans and flattened them and then welded them in a tin coffin in which they placed Loving’s wooden coffin packed with charcoal and then placed in another wooden box. It was then carted by wagon back to Weatherford, Texas where his grave lies today.

If this sounds familiar, you may have read Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry. He says he didn’t use
anyone as models for his characters, but the similarities between the novel’s Gus McCrae and Woodrow Call are too real to be a coincidence. The death of Loving and Goodnight’s return of his body to Texas is one of the major events of the novel with Call promising to return Gus to Texas for burial after he died from a wound inflicted in an Indian attack. Both Call and Goodnight made good on their promises.

Historical Marker for the Trail:

After Loving’s death, Goodnight scouted a new route with a plan to sell cattle in Cheyenne, Wyoming. For the next ten years he drove cattle up the trail and eventually Cheyenne became a hub for the cattle business and then shipped the cattle on the Union Pacific railroad to Chicago.

In 1876, Goodnight partnered with John Adair to found what was to become the JA ranch in Palo Duro Canyon in Texas. That ranch covered nearly a million acres and maintained a herd of close to 100,000 head. Goodnight's Home:

During the days of his cattle drives he is said to have invented or created the chuck wagon used on the trails to feed the cowpunchers.

Here is a map showing the Loving Goodnight Trail along with others used at that time.

Next month we’ll continue the saga of Charles Goodnight, a true Texas legend.

Martha Rogers is a free-lance writer and multi-published author from Realms Fiction of Charisma Media and Winged Publications. She was named Writer of the Year at the Texas Christian Writers Conference in 2009. She is a member of ACFW and writes the weekly Verse of the Week for the ACFW Loop. ACFW awarded her the Volunteer of the Year in 2014. Her first electronic series from Winged Publications, Love in the Bayou City of Texas, debuted in the spring of 2015.  Martha is a frequent speaker for writing workshops and the Texas Christian Writers Conference. She is a retired teacher and lives in Houston with her husband, Rex. Their favorite pastime is spending time with their eleven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. 


  1. I love to read about our Texas legends. Thank you, Miss Martha.

  2. Can you imagine chasing cows for so long, chewing dirt, and sleeping on the ground. It's fun to romanticize those times, but I can't imagine doing that--over and over again. Thanks for the peak into history.