Unlike some of my fellow My Town Monday-ers I don't have centuries of history to draw upon when writing about Amarillo. Really only about 150 or so since the area was settled. I could and probably will at some point talk about the Native American tribes that called the area home long before, even the Spanish explorers such as Francisco de Coronado, but today I'm going to regale a tale of friendship that involves a man sometimes referred to as the father of the Texas Panhandle.
I never had a compass in my life. I was never lost. ~Charles Goodnight
Charles Goodnight was a cattleman and by all accounts a tough, take no nonsense kind of guy. I could write a ten thousand word post on his life if I were so inclined but I'm only going to hit the high-points and then get to the friendship aspect of this post about one of my area founding fathers.
Charles came to Texas from Illinois at the age of nine. He rode the entire way bareback and by the age of eleven was in charge of taking care of his widowed mother. he got his start in the cattle business by working and caring for a neighbors cattle once he got to Texas. His pay - he got to keep every fourth calf born for his won herd. By the time the Civil War broke out Goodnight had 180 head of his own, but he left the cattle behind and joined the famed Texas Rangers where his primary duties were to protect the western frontier.
At the end of the war her returned home to find not only his cattle ranch in ruins but that the entire industry was suffering due to ravished market in the war torn South. So gathering up the scattered herds he began to eye to West and it's booming, railroad and mining operations as a place to sell his beef.
He partnered up with a man named Oliver Loving and the two of them successfully forged a new trail across the water deprived, Indian occupied areas of the west that many other ranchers claimed couldn't be crossed with a herd. When the two man made their journey and cashed in handily for doing so, the route became widely known as the Goodnight-Loving trail.
At this time Goodnight and Loving were based in east Texas, and the two fast became hard bound friends thanks to the bonds forged on the dusty trail.
After their success others ranchers rushed to duplicate their feat. Goodnight and Loving wanted to preserve their god fortune and capitalize while they could. At stake was a lot of money in Government contracts so during that second trip Loving rushed ahead of the herd to secure the contracts while Goodnight stayed with the herd.
But Comanches caught Loving out in the plains and shot him in the wrist and hip. Loving used a riverbank to dig in and hold off his attackers for several days, before finally escaping under the cover of darkness. A passing wagon picked him up an took him to an Army hospital but his wounds were too severe for Loving to be saved.
On his deathbed, Loving sent for his partner and friend Charles Goodnight. Loving told his friend that his one regret was that he would have to be buried in a foreign land as opposed to his native Texas at which point Goodnight pledged to take Loving body back to Texas for a proper burial site.
Goodnight and his trail-hands built a tin coffin around Lovings wooden one using smashed tin cans and then sealing it with charcoal they turned the entire herd around and headed back to Texas as their competitors forged ahead.
All to keep a promise to his friend.
If the story sounds somewhat familiar to you it may be because author Larry McMurtry used the event and Goodnight and Loving's relationship the basis for his two main characters. Gus McCrae and Woodrow McCall and in the novel Lonesome Dove. Robert Duvall and Tommy Lee Jones played the roles in the mini-series.
Goodnight went on to even greater success as a cattlemen having large spread in both Colorado and the Texas Panhandle. He is said to have invented the chuckwagon as a means to feed his men on long trail drives and there is a small town that bears his name just to the East of Amarillo on the edge of Palo Duro Canyon which along with a, Englishman named John G. Adair is where Goodnight founded the massive JA Ranch. A superior cattle breeder, Goodnight is known for crossbreeding the native Texas Longhorn with the beefier Hereford breed and for mixing cattle with buffaloes to form what he called Cattalo.
Charles Goodnight lived in this area until his death in 1929 at the age of 93. He is buried next to his longtime wife Mary in the town that bears his name. Both the JA Ranch and descendants of Mr. Goodnight's original buffalo herd are surviving to this day, though nowadays the buffalo are part of the official state herd of Texas and are located at Caprock Canyons State Park.
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***And don't forget May 12th is the day to post a review of a book set in your town.***
The Anti-Wife -- Mt. Vernon, Washington