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Goodnight-Loving Trail

Charles Goodnight with buffalo
Charles Goodnight, Armstrong County Museum, Claude

Sometimes just called the Goodnight Trail, the cattle-driving route known throughout cowboy culture mythology as the Goodnight-Loving Trail ran from Young County, Texas, across the Pecos River, through New Mexico, and on to parts north in Colorado. Available live water dictated a trail’s particular route and the Goodnight was no different, hugging the Pecos through some of its route through Texas, a waterway that was once as dramatic in its breadth as it is diminutive today, reduced greatly by irrigation.

Although not completely established by cattlemen Charles Goodnight and Oliver Loving (portions of the route, such as those that occupied the Butterfield Overland Mail route, were already being used), Goodnight and Loving forged much of the route themselves, modifying passages according to available water sources and, at one time, avoiding a toll station set up by an enterprising rascal named "Uncle Dick" Wootton, who charged 10 cents a head for passage at New Mexico’s Raton Pass. The following spring, in 1868, Goodnight opened a new segment through a different geographical pass in order to cut "Uncle Dick" out of the process.

Although Loving has certainly found his place in history, Texans have whole-heartedly embraced Charles Goodnight as icon of the 19th century cattle industry, a title Goodnight deserves for his significant and enduring contribution to the era. Not only was Goodnight a distinguished cattleman, he single-handedly rescued the genetics of our nation’s native bison herd, displaced by the very cattle that helped create Goodnight’s fortune, from extinction.

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