Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Goodnight-Loving Trail

"A young ex-Texas Ranger  and a seasoned cattleman drive a large herd to New Mexico and on to Colorado and Wyoming. The cattleman was attacked by Indians (Comanche) and died several weeks later of blood poisoning, with his partner, the ex-Ranger by his side. The survivor honored his friend's dying request to be taken back to Texas for burial."

Does this sound familiar? It should. It's the basic plot for the Lonesome Dove book and television series.

However, the plot is based on the true story of ex-Texas Ranger Charles Goodnight and cattleman Oliver Loving. Imagine Robert Duval (Gus) in the role of Charles Goodnight, and Tommy Lee Jones (Call) in the role of Oliver Loving, and we have a wonderful True Texas Tale.
Charles Goodnight was born in 1836 in Illinois, and at age nine moved with his family to Texas.
By age twenty, Goodnight had settled near the Brazos River in Palo Pinto County
(my own birth place).
At age 21, he joined the Texas Rangers and his unit was attached to the Confederacy's Frontier Regiment.  They spent the war protecting settlers along the Brazos River.
At age 30, when the Civil War ended, Goodnight came home to find his herds scattered. Cattle rustling had gone unchecked and feral herds were claimed by whoever could get a brand on the livestock first.
Since other cattlemen flooded the markets in Oklahoma, Kansas, and Missouri with cheap beef, Goodnight aimed for the lucrative U.S. Army and mining settlements of New Mexico and Colorado, and eventually Wyoming. With his first herd, he turned west toward Fort Sumner, New Mexico. (The Western-most route is the Goodnight-Loving Trail)
As he prepared for his first trip, Goodnight traveled to nearby Weatherford for supplies. There, he encountered a seasoned cattleman, Oliver Loving, who was gathering his own herd.
Goodnight told his biographer many years later about the gentleman's agreement.

When Goodnight asked Loving to go with him, Oliver Loving said, "If you will let me, I will go with you."
Goodnight replied, "I will not only let you, but it is the most desirable thing of my life. I not only need your assistance, but I need your advice."

Despite challenging mishaps and loss of hundreds of head of cattle, Goodnight and Loving reached Fort Sumner with enough to earn an unheard of sale of $12,000 in gold.
A side note: Charles Goodnight invented the chuck wagon,
for use on his first cattle drive to Fort Sumner.
If you're ever in Weatherford, Texas, stop a moment and recall two gentleman cowboys, meeting and forming a partnership to herd cattle west. The newly blazed Goodnight-Loving Trail began there, and it became one of the important trails during the cattle drive years.

Also, pause and remember that Charles Goodnight traveled 600 miles with Oliver Loving's body in a coffin made of flattened tin cans, encased in charcoal and sealed in lumber. Loving is buried in Greenwood Cemetery.

~*~ Goodnight married Molly Dyer at age 34.
~*~He smoked 50 cigars a day, but switched to a pipe as he aged.
~*~Molly died, and years later, at age 91, he married 26-yr-old Corrine Goodnight, whose last name was a coincidence.
~*~He joined a church and was baptized a few months before his death.
~*~ He was a cattleman, a newspaperman, a banker, a miner, and a film maker (one).
~*~Charles Goodnight died December 12, 1929 at the age of 93.
~*~He is buried in the Goodnight Cemetery just east of Amarillo.
~*~ A biographer said "he approached greatness more nearly than any other cowman in history."
Celia Yeary-Romance...and a little bit 'o Texas


  1. I loved this blog. I watched lonesome Dove when it first came out on TV and still watch it when it reruns. Thank you for the history lesson.

  2. Wow, I had no idea that any of Lonesome Dove was anything but fiction. I see by this post that truth is strnger than fiction and sometimes real human beings are bigger than fictional characters--and that's saying something.
    Great post!

  3. I love this blog. I always learn something.

    I saw Lonesome Dove in reruns, and loved the story even though, as you know, cowboys are really my think. But I never knew they were based on real characters.

  4. That's a fascinating story! What an amazing man. My husband love the Lonesome Dove book series; I'll have to see if he knew it was based on a true story.

  5. SHARON--anytime. I do love Texas history! Thanks for visiting. Celia

  6. SARAH--Yes, interesting, isn't it? Robert Duval played the part of Charles Goodnight, and if you look at Goodnight as a young man, he and Duval resemble. I love the story of the Goodnight-Loving Trail. Thanks! Celia

  7. Keena--probably few people know that. Here at Texas State Alkek Library, on the 7th floor is a permanent display of all sorts of things from Lonesome Dove--actual clothing the actors wore, lots of wonderful black and white photos, the original printed sceenplay--a ver large thick book, and the origial novel....I could go on. I've seen it several times, and would go back tomorrow if someone wanted to see it.

    I think the fact that it's based on real figures makes it even more intriguing. Celia

  8. Thanks, Jennifer. Your husband can find all sorts of things about these two men and Lonesome Dove based loosely on their lives all over the internet.

  9. This is a great blog about Goodnight and Loving. However, you have the actors in Lonesome Dove playing Call and Gus mixed up. Robert Duvall played Gus and Tommy Lee Jones was Call. Lonesome Dove is my all-time favorite movie and I'm currently re-reading the book. Larry McMurtry won the Pulitzer Prize for this novel, in case some don't know.

  10. I love these guys! I think Goodnight also experimented with breeding longhorns and Herefords to get less stringy meat LOL. My heroes always seem to be point riders along the Goodnight LOL

    I love Robert Duvall in any western. He's not my typical tall-dark-hand-some type but he really brings it.

    Great post, Celia.

  11. Stacey--I'll change the names right now. You know what? I had them correct the first time, just based on what I remembered about Lonesome Dove. But I was going though a research article, and it had the names this I changed them, thinking....well, I guess I was wrong.
    But I was right all along. Thanks for catching that---I hate little errors like that.
    Larry McMurtry's book is also displayed in the permanent Lonesome Dove exhibit in the Alkek library at Texas State here in San Marcos. I love to go through that, and have several times.
    Thanks for reading. Celia

  12. TANYA--at the Lonesome Dove exhibit here at the university, I found a large postcard. The back was a black and white photo of Robert Duval sitting on a nail keg in his Lonesome Dove outfit. I kept it propped on my desk for months. It's in a keeper file now.

    Thanks for visiting...Celia

  13. I loved this post! Not only is Oliver Loving buried in Greenwood Cemetery in Weatherford, but so is Bose Ikard, the man who was portrayed as Deke in the book and movie. Loving no longer has descendants in the area, but Ikard still has kin living in Parker County.

  14. CAROLINE--I thought this might be familiar to you. Thanks for the informations about Bose Ikard...forgot about him. Celia

  15. LONESOME DOVE by Larry McMurtry is my absolute favorite book ever. I have just re-read it. Most deserving of the Pulitzer.


  16. I guess he shoots the 'don't smoke' theory down. What an interesting life he had. Texas should be proud of all the great cowboys they've produced. great post.

  17. MARYBELLE--Larry McMurtry could write the best of books, the worst of books. He lucked out with this one! Thanks for visiting. Celia

  18. Paisley--you're the first person to mention the smoking. I thought, as you did, that smoking doesn't always kill! Look, he lived to be 93 and even married a girl in her 20s at age 91.
    Thanks for your comment--I always appreciate what you have to say. Celia

  19. A fascinating story. I've read about the fight between Loving and Comanches at Horsehead Crossing (?). Fascinating. Am I correct - the exact location of horsehead crossing of the Pecos has been lost?

    There's a nice group of people interested in western books on Facebook.

    -- Dac

  20. Hi, Dac--Horsehead Crossing is still there, according to Texas On-line,but has certainly lost its importance with the buidling of modern roads and no need for a water crossing--we use bridges now!!
    Horsehead Crossing is a fascinating topic in itself--you could write about it!
    I'm a member of the Western Books on FB--so many groups, so little time. When I see one of the posts, I at least check it out.
    Charles Goodnight called Horsehead Crossing "the graveyard of a cowman's dreams."
    Thank for visiting me today--

  21. Celia, I'm late getting here but better late ....... Anyway, I really enjoyed this blog and all the stories about the West. There is just something so romantic about those men who tamed the wild frontier. No wonder little boys are so fascinated with cowboy movies. At least they used to be.
    Thanks for a very interesting story. Linda

  22. Hi, Linda..I guess everyone loves a cowboy--in theory, anyway. Thanks for finding time to stop by--I do appreciate it. Celia

  23. Celia what a great post! I loved this! I know you will be over at P&P tomorrow, too, so I'll be getting to read yet another post by YOU. LOL You always come up with the most interesting information. Now you know I'm no fan of Lonesome Dove, but I didn't know that it was based on Goodnight and Loving.Thanks so much for a wonderful post--VERY INTERESTING (someone on Laugh-In used to say that...)LOL
    I almost forgot to tell you my cousin is the constable there at Weatherford now. You talk about a true Texas lawman...wish I could post his pic somehow so you could see him. He is AWESOME!

  24. Wow! Great history and agriculture lesson. And this sounds like a wonderfully romantic story. FYI, it saddens me as well to see so many farms (throughout the nation) going under or selling out to developers, but in this economy...

    Anyway, I love avocados. I have this great recipe for seared chicken, onions, and avocados smothered in bacon bits and cheddar that's to die for. My daughter says, "It's bangin'!"


Thank you for visiting Sweethearts of the West!