Horsehead Crossing Continues 1867

 Horsehead Crossing Continues 1867


   Mike Capron

Goodnight and Loving had found success with their first herd and the partnership was in the making.  They returned to Palo Pinto Texas to put together another herd to go back down the Goodnight Loving Trail. The stories of their amassing another herd and how they survived the Texas Frontier is best told by J. Evetts Haley in his book “Charles Goodnight Cowman and Plainsman”.  1936.

The second trip down the newly formed Goodnight Loving Trail was full of new surprises and the cattle were not compliant, much more stampeding from Palo Pinto to the Middle Concho. They managed to put together, road branded with the Circle Brand twelve hundred big steers on the Brazos near Belknap. Charles Goodnight and Oliver Loving both knew how important quality was in their cattle, horses, equipment, and certainly their crew of men. This is why they were so successful with each endeavor, no matter stampede, storm, or Indian Raid. They would work to overcome the situation and make it happen the way they thought was best for the task at hand.  Experience was a credit but a man’s fortitude and heart were measured greater than his experience. This is why Bose Ikard, the Wilson Brothers, and several others were always on the crew. Mr. Goodnight always honored individuals. Bose was an excellent night herder. He was the best at turning and circling the leaders. The cattle were hard to handle and would stampede at the drop of a hat. One stampede he said he would never forget was one shortly after they left Buffalo Gap. The cattle had been quiet all night, and shortly before daybreak I told Bose, who was on guard with me, to watch them and I would go wake the cook. I got to the wagon and tied my horse to the wagon wheel while I roused the crew and cook. Something happened, in an instant the cattle stampeded right down on the camp, and it looked like the wagon and men in their beds would be trampled to death. Lots of scrambling going on. I grabbed a blanket off a bed and jumped in front of the cattle that were coming at full speed, and by yelling and waving the blanket, I succeeded in splitting the cattle around the wagon and men. Charlie, my horse, was the best trained stampede horse I ever rode and was still tied to the wagon. He knew his business and was ready to go, but some cattle going around the wagon had knocked him down and a few stampeded over the top of him, I had him staked on a long rope so he could graze some, and I had my knife out and cut the rope, when he got up I was on him and I was afraid he would be unable to run, but at once he struck out at full speed with the herd.  I stayed with the cattle and was wondering why Bose had not gone to the leaders and turned them. When I had almost caught up with the leaders and Bose looked and saw me, his horse shot out like lighting and he threw the leaders around. After we got them circled, I ask him why he hadn’t turned them sooner.  

“I’ll tell you,sah,” answered the cautious Bose.  “I wazn’t  sart’in who had dis herd ’til I saw you. I t’ought maybe de Indians had ‘em.”    Bose was born to slavery in Mississippi in 1847,  brought to Texas by his owner Dr. M. Ikard some five years later and grew up on the Cross Timbers Frontier, at Ikard’s place on Grindstone Creek , nine miles west of Weatherford, where he learned to farm, hunt cattle, and fight Indians. In 1866 Goodnight brought him out to the wagon, and he stayed on the trail until 1869, when he came back to Texas with Charlie Goodnight. He was a good bronc rider, and exceptional night herder, good with skillets and pans and according to his boss ‘surpassed any man I had in endurance and stamina.  His behavior was very good in a fight and he was probably the most devoted man to me that I ever had. I have trusted him farther than any living man.  When we carried money I gave it to Bose, for a thief would never think of robbing him.   In his declining years Goodnight kept in touch with his faithful friend and often sent him money. He died in 1929, was buried at Weatherford, and just before his death Charlie Goodnight erected a marker and inscribed thereon:

                                                     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 behaviour..!

  C. Goodnight 


They hit the trail once again and the first incident not far down the Trail from there, they hit a huge herd of buffalo migrating south and the buffalo were dead set on migrating south and the buffalo cut their herd into two sections and caused a stampede, but after hard riding and a good crew they managed to get them all together once again and continue on to the head waters of the Middle Concho River, where they rested, filled and prepared for the trip across the Llano Estacado to Horsehead on the Pecos. The lessons they learned on the previous trip of 1866 paid off and they managed to reach the Pecos at Horsehead without loosing a single steer.  The cattle were less than in good shape because of the continuous stampedes and Indian raids and they were behind schedule. Loving was getting nervous about the bidding dates which were being let in early August in Santa Fe, and it was already late July. He wanted to go on ahead and make sure they were represented . Mr. Goodnight tried to persuade him not to go, as it was too dangerous going alone through the country with so many Indians. But Mr. Loving was insistent.  Mr. Goodnight finally agreed if he would let him take “One Arm” Bill Wilson with him as a guide and helper who was by odds the coolest man in the outfit, and that if he would agree to travel at night and lay up somewhere safe during the day.  They reached the Black River about daylight of the third day and slept till noon. Loving told Wilson that he detested traveling at night and that they had seen no sign of Indians. They saddled their horses and headed out for Pope’s Crossing where the trail took the high ground to the Delaware and and Black River, after which it stretched sixteen mile across the tableland again to strike the Pecos. In crossing this plain, with the breaks of the Pecos far to the right and the high-pitched peaks of the Guadalupes farther still to their left, the riders could be seen for miles. When about two thirds of the way across, Wilson saw a large band of Indians charging them from toward the end of the Guadalupes. They quit the trail and rode for the Pecos by the nearest course. Though it was a four-mile run, they easily beat the Indians to the river-bank, and spurred their horses over the incline. A sand dune intervened between the foot of the bluff and the stream, about a hundred yards away, upon which grew a few stunted bushes. The drainage from the bluff had cut through it to form a wash a few feet wide and probably two feet deep, which described a turn near where it entered the river, thus forming a shallow retreat open to view only from across the river, at this point about thirty steps wide.

Loving and Wilson jerked their saddles holsters free and took refuge in the crook of the ditch—a position further obscured by smartweeds and scrub oak, or shinnery, as we say in the West—as the Indians poured over the crest and took possession of the horses. Wilson carried Goodnights revolving six-shooter rifle and saddle holsters as well as his own six-shooter. Loving was equipped with side-arms and a repeating Henry rifle, the first metallic cartridge gun Goodnight had seen. The Indians surrounded them, and as they swarmed down the bluffs, Wilson estimated there were several hundred in all. The first that attempted to get a bead on them from across the river, through the mouth of the ditch, was shot by Loving, and no others tried the position.

Late in the evening, as Texans call the waning hours of day, someone began calling from the bluff in Spanish, proposing terms.  They suspected a ruse; yet their situation bordered on the hopeless, and Wilson said he would try to talk with them if Loving would cover the rear. He stepped up on the dune with Loving behind him, the older man carrying his Henry in his hand, his holsters across his arm. Already Indians had reached a clump of carrizo, or cane, behind them, and as Wilson stepped into view to address the warriors on the bluff, a bullet tore through Loving’s wrist and plowed into his side. Wilson whirled to take refuge in the ditch, and gave his attention to the charge. Loving felt sure the wound was mortal, but after checking the flow of blood, they settled back to endure the siege.

Wilson scanned the dune about, saw the tops of the smartweeds shiver, part ever so slightly, and then close back. A Comanche, separating the weeds in advance with his lance, was crawling upon them.  “One Arm” Bill shifted to greet him. When he was almost in view, he aroused a rattlesnake. There was a vibrant, whir-r-r, and the Comanche backed off more rapidly than he had come.

As the night was beginning they discussed their plans under the present conditions. Loving was very forceful in convincing Wilson to leave and try to find Goodnight coming up the river with the herd. Loving would not let the Indians capture him as he would choose to shoot himself first and if the Indians left, he felt he could continue up the river and find help. Wilson shed his clothes except hat, underclothes and the Henry and its metallic cartridges which were water proof. He slipped into the river and had to swim past an Indian on guard in the middle of the river.  He had to abandon his Henry as it was impossible to swim with the Henry without the  Indian guard seeing him. He left the muzzle stuck in the sand at the bottom and wedged the butt against the bank, where it was out of sight, and managed to make his famous escape down river to find Goodnight and the herd. He climbed up the bank into a cane brake and travelled until day break, well on his way to Goodnight and the herd.  Goodnight had stopped for a day and a half below the Texas line. Instead of being forty or fifty miles away, he was close to eighty. Without food or rest, Wilson stayed on the trail, swimming the trail at times to shorten the course, and on the third day, weak, feverish, and emaciated, he staggered to the crest of a hill that overlooked the trail.  In the meantime Goodnight had overtaken the Burleson Herd and they were traveling together to Ft. Sumner. They were about to the New Mexico line when Goodnight saw something in a cave above the trail, he told Charlie Wilson to bunch the herd of trouble and get the men ready for an attack, while he went to investigate the object  in the cave.  I purposely loitered along trying to make-believe that I did not suspect anything until I reached the curve in the trail. I then put the spurs to my horse, aiming to run up and see what was there.  When I started the run, Wilson came out of the cave, a quarter of a mile away, and gave me the old frontier signal “Come Here”.   ‘The river water was red with sediment, and his underclothes were as red as the river itself. But he beckoned to me, I knew positively that it was Wilson, and how I knew I will never understand. I immediately put the horse down to full speed and went to him.For a few moments he seemed unable to talk, probably overwhelmed with emotion, knowing his life was saved at last. He was the most terrible object I ever saw. His eyes were wild and  bloodshot, his feet were swollen beyond all reason, and every step he took left blood in the track. I inquired about Loving, but he could scarcely make a reply, and what he did mutter was entirely unintelligible. I put him on my horse and got him to the herd as soon as possible, which his brother had already got together for action. I tore up a blanket, wet it, wrapped his feet to remove the fever and then make a light gruel which I gave him for about an hour. By then he was perfectly himself. I asked him for particulars and he told me in detail of their trip and the attack of the Indians.

The story continues as Mr. Goodnight returns to the trail north to find Oliver Loving.    

1 comment

John Temple

Mite good Mike thanks for including me in the group.

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