Charles Goodnight Goes in Search of Oliver Loving

   Charles Goodnight Goes in Search of Oliver Loving 


                                                                 Mike Capron

When Mr. Goodnight had “One Arm” Bill Wilson resting and healing Mr. Goodnight decided to start immediately to go find Mr. Loving. I explained the matter to Mr. Campell, who was cowboss of the Burleson herd that was following the Goodnight Loving herd.  He at once volunteered to go help me by taking two of his men and I took two of my picked men, making six in all. It rained all night and so dark that they had to stop. When I finally reached the spot where Wilson told me he had left the trail, I recognized it easily from his description, although the plains were unmarked, or would have appeared so to the untrained eye.  Besides his description, the place was distinguished by the fact that a bunch of Comanches had again come  out of the mountains and passed over the same trail they had taken when chasing the two men. Their  tracks were as fresh as ours and we supposed they were under the bluffs still trying to get Mr. Loving.

‘Where they left the main cow-trail the Indians had taken a leaf out of Mr. Loving’s daybook, and had drawn a Comanche and a white man shaking hands, and it was a splendid drawing for an Indian at that. The white man was wearing a two-story silk hat. I have always wondered at this, as no one in the West wore them. They pinned the drawing with a mesquite thorn to a bush at the junction of the trails. I recognized the piece of paper as being from Loving’s book, but it gave me no special alarm, as Wilson had told me the Indians got the horses, and Loving always carried the book in his saddlebags. 

Mr. Loving had continued even with his wounds to Pope’s Crossing where he laid in the protection of some heavy brush and waited for someone to cross the Pecos River, hoping they could help him. He tried to shoot some birds but his powder was wet in his pistols and he was unable to start a fire anyway. He tried to eat his gloves, but that didn’t work either. He laid there for two days until some people passed, that were willing to help him.

Three Mexicans and a German boy came by in a wagon on their way to Texas and found Mr. Loving laying in the brush next to the crossing at the river. They cooked some dinner and made some atole for Mr. Loving. Upon feeling better Mr. Loving offered them two hundred and fifty dollars to take him to Ft. Sumner. After dinner they loaded him in their ox driven wagon and headed to Ft. Sumner.   

Mr. Burleson was returning from Ft. Sumner down the Pecos to find his herd that he had made contract on to sell at Ft. Sumner. But ran into the Mexican ox cart with Mr. Loving instead of his herd. He immediately returned to Ft. Sumner to get the Army to help. He returned with the Army Ambulance and some medical assistance. They returned to Ft. Sumner with Mr. Loving to get further medical assistance.

Mr. Burleson returned down the Pecos to find his herd and Mr. Goodnight.  Upon finding all well, he told Mr. Goodnight that Mr. Loving was safe and in Fr. Sumner with good medical help.

Mr. Goodnight saddled  his mule “Old Jenny” for the 110 mile ride to Ft. Sumner. He never got off Jenny for the whole trip. Upon arriving in Ft. Sumner he found Mr. Loving up and moving around, the wound in his side had healed fine, but his arm was not doing as well.  The young doctor at the Fort said that the arm wasn’t healing properly and needed to be amputated, but that he felt that the older doctor needed to preform the operation. They sent for the older Doctor but difficulties made his arrival impossible and after a considerable wait they decided to amputate. The surgery was preformed and looked successful but after a few days the bleeding became worse and an artery had to be repaired as it was damaged. The operation was performed but Mr. Loving never completely recovered and for 20 days he tried to overcome the complications of his body failing. The whole time Mr. Goodnight stayed with him and Mr. Loving was rational but fearful of dying with a debt that hadn’t been paid and he didn’t want to be laid in a foreign country.  Mr. Goodnight comforted him by assuring him that he need not worry about these things, he would make sure his family was taken care of and that he wouldn’t let him be buried in a foreign country and would make sure he was returned to his home in Texas.  Mr. Loving died September 25,1867.    

Mr. Loving was temporarily buried in Ft. Sumner until Mr. Goodnight could finish business with the herd and establish a ranch in Southern Colorado. He put W.D. Reynolds in charge of the whole outfit and returned to Ft. Sumner to exhume Mr. Loving’s body and make a metal casket out of flattened tin cans and mount it on the axles of a wooden wagon. February 8th 1868, with six big mules in harness, and with rough hewn but tenderly sympathetic cowmen from Texas riding ahead and behind, the strangest and most touching funeral cavalcade in the history of the cow country took the Goodnight and Loving Trail that led to Mr. Loving’s home.

The arrangements were sufficient. Down the relentless Pecos and across the implacable Plains the journey was singularly peaceful . Though miles of grazing buffalos they approached the Cross Timbers, reached the settlements, and at last delivered the body to the Masonic Lodge at Weatherford, where it was buried with fraternal honors.

In the uncertain scale of human nature, there is no standard for the computation of the influence of one noble soul upon another. Though Goodnight was then thirty-one years of age, until his death, nearly sixty-three years later, he never spoke of Loving except in utmost tenderness, and his vibrant voice mellowed with reverence as he would slowly say, ‘my old partner,’ and raise his eyes to the picture that hung on the ranch-house wall.   

Leave a comment