Watching the westerns from silver screen to television series like “Rawhide” with Gil Favor and Rowdy Yates leading a herd of cattle to market there’s always a silent character, but it was as much a part of a ‘drive’ as the point, swing and drag riders, the American version of the Mexican vaqueros ‘cowboys’ (from Spanish vaca = cow) with their lariats (from the Span. la riata) wearing chaps (from the Span. chaparejos = open-backed leather leggings made to protect the vaqueros’ legs while riding through brushy country or chaparral).
That often seen, but never heard, except when it creaked and groaned across the prairie, essential actor was the chuck wagon driven by the crusty, curmudgeon ‘cookie’ or ‘sour-dough,’ like Wishbone in Rawhide. In 1866, Goodnight while outfitting for a drive with Loving to New Mexico, bought a government wagon and refitted it with the hardest wood he could find (bois d’arc), replaced the wood axles with iron on which iron wheels rotated and invented the rolling kitchen or ‘chuck box.” He had a carpenter make a sturdy box whose cover was hinged and had a leg that swung down to make the cook’s preparation table along with a canvas fly that could provide shade and protection from rain at the rear of the wagon.
Each compartment had its own use for flour, a jar of sour dough starter and often concealed the dry beans and home remedies for when the cook acted as the field doctor on the trail. The cooks depicted in Lonesome Dove were Hispanic, so no doubt they were also curanderos (healers) and they would gather yerbas (herbs) along the way to prepare remedios for the sick cowboys as they wore blisters and boils from interminable days and nights in the saddle and from drinking stagnant, alkali and uncertain waters.
It almost seems hard to believe, sometimes that persons like Sam Houston, Davy Crockett, Jim Bowie and even Loving and Goodnight, often synonymous with Texas were not born in Texas. Loving, as mentioned, twenty-four years the senior of Goodnight was born in Kentucky.
Goodnight was born in Macoupin Co., Illinois, March 5, 1836 (at the time Texican rebels were defending the Alamo). At ten years old he was brought to Palo Pinto Co. in 1846 just after Texas had been annexed into the United States. In 1858 when Loving at 46 years old was taking cattle to Chicago the twenty-two year old Goodnight was a Texas Ranger and scout serving in the frontier regiment. Although living in the same county it appears that they didn’t meet until they were both on Keechi Creek in Palo Pinto Co.
Charles was described as stubborn and industrious. By the end of the Civil War he had accumulated a good-sized herd of cattle. As Loving had been supplying the Confederates during the war, he also had a sizeable herd. They partnered to seek out a better market than Texas in its “Reconstruction” period. They ran their herd to Fort Sumner, NM then had two more drives. Loving was wounded and died on the third drive to New Mexico up the Pecos. Charles continued using the “Goodnight-Loving Trail” to Ft. Sumner and partnered with another legendary cattleman John Chisum. In 1871 they cleared $17,000 in profit. By 1875 Goodnight ever the scout laid out the continuation of the trail to Grenada, CO.
Charles had a few cattle ranching ventures in Colorado, mostly south of the Arkansas River over to Pueblo and Trinidad and along the Apishapa R. He was part of the first Cattleman’s Association in Colorado.
An ad appearing in the Oct. 3, 1873: Colorado Daily Chieftain, Pueblo CO., read “Stock Growers’ Bank, Fifth Street, Pueblo, CO. Chas. Goodnight, H. W. Cresswell, O. H. P. Baxter, Jefferson Raynolds. Banking in all its branches. Interest paid on deposits as follows; 6 per cent. per annum for 3 months, 7 per cent. per annum for 6 months, 8 per cent. per annum for 12 months. [If we could only see that kind of interest these days!]
Oliver Hazard Perry “O. H. P.” Baxter was a successful businessman and rancher in the Pueblo area. Baxter, CO on U. S. Hwy. 50 as you approach Pueblo was known as “Camp Baxter” during the fall of 1864 and served as a training and mustering camp for Co. G, 3rd Regiment of which Baxter was Captain and took to Sand Creek in November with COL Chivington. His mansion, north of downtown Pueblo is an historic landmark and museum now. He was involved with Goodnight in the ranching and livestock business well into the 1870s
Next week: The Trail From Lonesome Dove, Part 3