The "Real" Lonesome Dove
In my opinion (if anyone cares) the movie "Lonesome Dove" is the greatest Western
classic of all time, based on the true accounts of Oliver Loving and Charles Goodnight.
In one of our RVing ventures "Out West" to find, and place, a Confederate headstone at
the grave of our relative Samuel Willis Tucker Lanham buried in the Greenwood
Cemetery at Weatherford, Texas, the last Confederate veteran to be governor of the
great state of Texas, we found two other graves in that cemetery of men who shaped the
West. Their names were Oliver Loving and Boze Ikard.
From Weatherford we drove north on Highway 287 to Goodnight, Texas, to find the
grave of Charles Goodnight, Oliver Loving's partner in establishing the
Goodnight-Loving Trail. We were once again...hooked on history.
An article written by Diane Alden of NewsMax.com tells the story of these men.
Goodnight and Loving
Come gather 'round me boys,
And I'll tell you a tale,
All about my troubles
On the old Chisolm Trail ...
In the history of the West gunfighters and ne'er-do-wells got most of the glory and most of the ink. The
History Channel does four efforts on outlaws and lawmen for every one they do on the parade of people
who were not so notorious.
The fact is the outlaws and lawmen were not THE story of America or the West. Ordinary and
not-so-ordinary men and women are the real story.
There have been all kinds of cowboys and cattlemen over the years. They included Teddy Blue Abbott,
Bose Ikard, Britt Johnson, John Chisholm, WJ Wilson, John Chisum, Bill Pickett, Jim Foley, Grant Kohrs,
Granville Stewart, and the King family of Texas.
If you ever read Larry McMurtry's Lonesome Dove or saw the made-for-TV movie of the same name,
you have the gist of the story of Charlie Goodnight and Oliver Loving.
Goodnight kept meticulous records, correspondence and diaries. If ever there was a true man and spirit of
the West, it was Charles Goodnight. His exploits have been made the basis of most Western movies of the
last 100 years.
Goodnight was born on March 5, 1836, in Macoupin County, Ill. He moved with his family to Milam
County, Texas, in 1845 with his stepbrother John Sheek, taking a herd of cattle from the Brazos River to
the Keechi Valley, Palo Pinto, Texas.
Goodnight also served as a guide to the Texas Rangers. He participated in the 1860 raid that retrieved
Indian chief Quanah Parker's mother from the Comanches. The John Ford-John Wayne epic "The
Searchers" was based on the Elm Creek Raid and subsequent events, wherein Goodnight played a major
In 1867, Charles Goodnight met the famous cattle drover Oliver Loving. Loving had been driving cattle
for years before he met Goodnight. A former Confederate soldier, he was a religious family man with nine
children. At the time the two met, Loving was 24 years older than Charles Goodnight, but the two men hit
it off instantly and became partners in the cattle business.
In J. Marvin Hunter's "The Trail Drivers of Texas," Goodnight wrote about his friend:
"Oliver Loving, senior, is undoubtedly the first man who ever trailed cattle from Texas. His earliest effort
was in 1858 when he took a herd across the frontier of the Indian Nation or "No Man's Land," through
eastern Kansas and northwestern Missouri into Illinois. His second attempt was in 1859; he left the
frontier on the upper Brazos and took a northwest course until he struck the Arkansas River, somewhere
about the mouth of the Walnut, and followed it to just about Pueblo where he wintered."
He continued: "In 1867 we started another herd west over the same trail and struck the Pecos the latter
part of June. After we had gone up this river about one hundred miles it was decided that Mr. Loving
should go ahead on horseback in order to reach New Mexico and Colorado in time to bid on the
contracts which were to be let in July, to use the cattle we then had on trail, for we knew that there were
no other cattle in the west to take their place."
Their first cattle drive was organized from Fort Belknap, Texas, to the Pecos River and up to Fort
Sumner, N.M. This route became known as the "Goodnight-Loving Trail." At Fort Sumner 8,000 starving
Indians were gathered together. The cattle that Goodnight and Loving had been taking to Colorado were
bought by the Army to feed the Indians instead.
If you remember "Lonesome Dove," you will remember the scene where Gus McRae and the old man are
caught in an Indian attack. Well, that attack happened pretty much the way the movie depicts.
WJ Wilson (one-armed Wilson) was the person who accompanied Loving to scout out the territory
before the cattle were to be driven to Ft. Sumner on a contract they had with the Army to feed the
Indians. They left Goodnight and the rest of the men with the cattle. Goodnight had made Wilson and
Loving promise to travel only by night lest the Comanches attack. But Loving was in a hurry and did not
listen to Wilson or Goodnight.
The Indians attacked and the two men took shelter in a river redoubt, where they held off warriors for
hours. Finally, the Indians wanted to parley and Loving stood up to see where they were. A brave shot
him and the arrow went through his arm and into his side.
Wilson's descriptions of the events that follow are in the historical records kept in Texas' Cushman Library
and other Texas Historical Society documents:
"When I went down the river about a hundred yards, and saw an Indian sitting on his horse out in the river,
with the water almost over the horse's back. He was sitting there splashing the water with his foot, just
playing. I got under some smart-weeds and drifted by until I got far enough below the Indian where I
could get out. Then I made a three days' march barefooted. Everything in that country had stickers in it.
On my way I picked up the small end of a teepee pole which I used for a walking stick.
The last night of this painful journey the wolves followed me all night. I would give out, just like a horse,
and lay down in the road and drop off to sleep and when 1 would awaken the wolves would be all around
me, snapping and snarling. I would take up that stick, knock the wolves away, got started again and the
wolves would follow behind. I kept that up until daylight, when the wolves quit me. About 12 o'clock on
that last day I crossed a little mountain and knew the boys ought to be right in there somewhere with the
cattle. I found a little place, a sort of cave, that afforded protection from the sun, and I could go no further.
After a short time the boys came along with the cattle and found me."
Loving had been picked up by some Mexican vaqueros and taken to Ft. Sumner. By the time Goodnight
arrived, Loving was in a bad way. The wound in his side had healed, but the doctor refused to amputate
the arm, in which gangrene had set in. Goodnight and Wilson had to coerce the doctor to amputate the
arm, but it was too late to save Loving. Oliver Loving asked Goodnight to provide for his family and to
return his body to Weatherford, Texas, where he wanted to be buried.
Goodnight kept his promise. The 600-mile trip was probably the longest funeral procession of all time. It
was made famous in "Lonesome Dove" when Captain Call takes Gus McRae's body back to Texas from
The African-American character of Deets in "Lonesome Dove" is based on a real black cowboy, one of
many who worked for Charles Goodnight and Oliver Loving over the years.
Bose Ikard was born a slave and went West to work for Oliver Loving in 1866. He worked for Charles
Goodnight and Oliver Loving when they were partners. When Loving died, he remained a steadfast friend
and employee to Charles Goodnight.
Following his work in the cattle drives, Ikard settled in Weatherford, Texas. He and his wife, Angeline,
were the parents of six children. He died in 1929 at age 85. Goodnight had a granite marker erected at his
Goodnight wrote about Ikard:
"Bose surpassed any man I had in endurance and stamina. There was a dignity, a cleanliness and reliability
about him that was wonderful. His behavior was very good in a fight and he was probably the most
devoted man to me that I ever knew. I have trusted him farther than any man. He was my banker, my
detective, and everything else in Colorado, New Mexico and the other wild country. The nearest and only
bank was in Denver, and when we carried money, I gave it to Bose, for a thief would never think of
robbing him: Bose Ikard served with me four years on the Goodnight-Loving Trail, never shirked a duty or
disobeyed an order, rode with me in many stampedes, participated in three engagements with Comanches,
splendid behavior. ... Bose could be trusted farther than any living man I know."
Goodnight was responsible for saving one of the few remaining buffalo herds. He and his wife developed a
passion for the animals. One of the loves of his life was cross-breeding cattle and buffalo and getting
"cataloes." Charlie also created a wildlife sanctuary that replaced his passion for cattle drives in his later
The definitive work about Charles Goodnight was written by J. E. Haley: "Charles Goodnight, Cowman
and Plainsman," 1942. The tales in that book were later the basis for such Western classics as "The
Searchers," "Red River," "Sons of Katie Elder" and, of course, "Lonesome Dove."
Actor Barry Corbin lives in Texas. A fan of Western history, particularly Texas history, Corbin put
together a one-man show a few years ago. It depicts Charles Goodnight on the last day of his life.
Corbin described Charles Goodnight: "In any part that you do, there is an honesty to your character and
you have to get in touch with that. In the case of Goodnight, it's easy because his core of honesty extended
all the way out to surface."
"Charlie Goodnight's Last Night" is a microcosm of an era marked by loyalty and devotion to personal
codes. "What is important today about Charles Goodnight is the man's unshakable belief in right and
wrong," says Corbin. "He lived by a code, which most people on the frontier did. And that's almost
unheard [of] today."
"It's a story about a man who is a symbol of what we need to be reminded about where we came from.
This is a man of absolute loyalty and a man of absolute conviction about right and wrong, north and south."
"People today are hungry for heroes. They're hungry for people who know what direction they're going in,
what needs to be done, what their mission in life is. That's because we don't know anyone like that. We're
all just drifting with the wind. But now people can come to a play about Charlie Goodnight and they see a
fella who's been buffeted by bankruptcy, the loss of his ranch, the death of his wife and all his friends."
Corbin concludes, "But he's standing up at age 93 and he's still defying the entire world to do anything to
him. It's a real refreshing thing."
Diane Alden, NewsMax.com
Reprinted from NewsMax.com
Final Resting Places:
Charles Goodnight: N35 02.804/W101 10.480, Goodnight, Texas
Boze Ikard: N32 45.798/W97 47.635, Weatherford, Texas
Oliver Loving: N32 45.803/W97 47.584, Weatherford, Texas
Classic Statement between Charlie Russell, Western Artist, & Teddy Blue Abbott, Cowpuncher
"I remember one day we were looking at a buffalo carcus and you said, "Russ, I wish I was a Sioux Indian a
hundred years ago." And I said, "Thairs a pair of us."