Charles Goodnight – 4th Installment

In my soon to be published book, I tell the complete story of the incredible life of Charlie Goodnight.  Here is the Fourth of several continuing posts relating that life. 

Charles Goodnight – 4th Installment

As stated in the 1st Instalment, you don’t hear much about him in the history books, but Charlie Goodnight was one of the most influential men in developing early Texas and the Western US.  The Bible says that God is interested and involved in the founding and development of nations.  It is my opinion that He used Charlie Goodnight over and over again in the development of the Western US and particularly the Southwestern part.   He was one of the original men that protected the settlements along the frontier from the Indians.  These men were called “Rangers” and they predated what were later officially established as the “Texas Rangers”.

Continuing from 3rd Installment:

By Goodnight and Loving’s third drive the Indians had figured out what was happening and that those cattle could be traded profitably.  On this drive they had all manner of trouble with the Indians.  On one of their first skirmishes one of the drovers got an arrow in his neck just below his ear.   If it had been a flint arrowhead they may have left it in, but it was one of those made from hoop iron that would for sure have caused infection.

The Comanche’s had learned to take as many hoops from the settler’s barrels as possible in their raids.  They had started making their arrowheads out of that hoop iron.  It was not only easier to fabricate but would cause death if not extricated in time.  

They had to get the iron arrowhead out of the cowboy’s neck.  All they had were a set of pinchers for pulling off horse’s shoes.  Charlie got three cowboys to hold the guy down while he pulled on the arrowhead with the pinchers.  He almost lifted all of them off the ground, but finally got it out.  The fellow miraculously survived by them applying poultices of cold mud.

They got past Horse Head Crossing and then Pope’s crossing by fighting off more Indians.   Loving wanted to go on ahead and get to Santa Fe where contracts for the sale of cattle were to be let in early August and it was already July.  Goodnight was very much against it.   There were too many Indians; but finally, he agreed if Loving would promise to hide out during the daytime and travel only at night.  He sent One-armed Bill Wilson, by far their toughest and most experienced cowboy with him.

The two of them traveled by night for two days, but both being very daring decided to travel on

starting at noon the next day.  They were crossing an open area with the Guadalupe mountains off to their left and the river about a mile to their right.  They were almost across the open area when they saw a big band of Comanche’s bearing down in them from the Guadalupe’s.  They raced for the river, went over the bank and took refuge in a ditch where the water had cut through a sand dune making a hiding place.   Wilson had Goodnight’s six-shot revolving rifle as well as his own six-shooter pistols.  Loving had his two six-shooter pistols as well as his repeating Henry Cartridge Rifle, the first one in that territory.  The only way to see into their little ditch was from across the river. 

There were several hundred Indians and when one tried to shoot them from across the river, Loving killed him, and no others threatened them from that spot.  The Indians kept shooting arrows up at a high angle to come straight down to try to hit the two.

Finally, one of the Indians started trying to parlay with them in Spanish.   They considered it a ruse, but Wilson stood up to speak with him anyway.  Immediately bullets rained down and Loving was shot through the arm with a bullet that went on into his side.  He was sure his wounds were mortal, but he survived, though with great pain.

Wilson noticed that the tall grass just above them was moving.  He knew that one of the Indians was sneaking up on them and parting the grass with his lance.  Just as Wilson was about to rise up and shoot him, there was the loud whirring of a rattle snake that the Indian had disturbed.  He backed out faster than he had sneaked in.

The two of them suffered terribly from the heat, but finally night came.  Wilson slipped down and got a boot full of water for Loving.  Wilson then proposed that he slip down the river and try to make an escape and get back to the heard.   Loving said he thought he could hold the Indians off and that if he couldn’t, he would shoot himself in preference to being captured and tortured to death.  Wilson spread out all their six-shooters in front of Loving’s good hand as well as Charlie’s revolver rifle.  He took the Henry because the water would not destroy its metallic cartridges. 

He slipped down to the river and took off his boots and all his clothes except his hat and his underpants and undershirt.  He hid them under the water and pushed off into the river.  He first had to go over a gravel shoal that was only three feet deep.  But the Indians had stationed a man on his horse right there in the middle of the river.  Fortunately, at just that moment a cloud came up over the moon.  This allowed him to slip by into the deep water. 

Wilson tried to swim with the rifle three times, but almost drowned.  He finally eased over to the bank and stuck the rifle barrel deep into the side of the bank under the water and went on down the river.  He eventually eased out of the river through a little cane break and started south for the heard.

Unfortunately for Wilson , Charlie had stopped the heard to rest it, and allow the men to wash their clothes and saddle blankets.  The heard was not thirty miles away as Wilson had calculated but was eighty-five miles away down the Pecos .

He traveled only at night the first night, but come daylight, he just kept going….through the blistering sun, the rocks and cactus and the thorns growing there.

Finally, Wilson took shelter in a cave under a bluff close to the river. 

At that exact time, Charlie was approaching that spot and knew about that bluff and cave.  He was sure the Indians were waiting for them there.  He thought he saw something red go into that cave in the far distance.  He had his men bunch-up the heard in preparation for an attack and spurred his house up there to check the spot out.  He intended to just look and then race back to the heard. 

When he got there, out of the cave came One-armed Bill Wilson.  His underclothes were red from the red silt in the river.  His eyes were blood-shot from the sun and his feet were swollen beyond recognition and leaving blood behind with every step.  Charlie got him back to the wagon and tore-up a blanket and soaked it in water to wrap his feet to stop the fever in them.  Charlie fixed him a cornmeal gruel and finally got him back to where he could talk.

Wilson related everything in detail, and Charlie set out immediately with four cowboys.  When they finally got to the spot, everything was just as Wilson had described it, but Loving was not there.  Neither were the Indians which Charlie was sure would still be there.

They found the clothes and the gun just as Wilson had accurately described, but no Loving.  They could see where at least a hundred arrows had been shot up and then down.  When Charlie scouted around, he saw that the Indians had just left, since the water was still coming down the bank of the river where they had climbed out.  Goodnight calculated that Loving must have slipped into the river at night and shot himself to keep from being captured since the sign in the sand showed that they had not taken him.

Actually, Loving had stayed in that sand ditch for two more days but was suffering so much from the heat and lack of food that he decided to slip out at night like Wilson had into the river. 

Instead of going down stream, he went up stream, hoping to get to the next crossing where he may find someone using the crossing that would help him.

He did finally make it to the crossing and hid in some China berry bushes.  He lay there for two days, suffering terribly from hunger, though he could get water. 

Eventually a wagon came down from Ft. Sumner to that crossing with three Mexicans and a young German boy.  They decided to camp there and cross the river the next morning.   When the little boy went off to gather wood for their fire, he discovered Loving.

Loving told them that he would give them two hundred and fifty dollars in gold if they would take him up to the Fort.  They turned back north and carried him in the wagon.  When they got within about fifty miles of the fort, a man from there, coming down, discovered them.  He raced back to the fort and the soldiers there brought down the Fort’s ambulance to retrieve Loving and give him medical help.

So, he continued the journey in the ambulance and the Mexicans followed to be sure they got their money.

Meanwhile Charlie continued on up the Pecos with the heard.  Actually, by this time he had two herds.  A fellow named Patterson had bought a heard and was having it trailed north by a bunch of Mexicans while he stayed at the Fort to receive it. 

The Indians had attacked it, took all its provisions and burned its chuck wagon, but had not taken the cattle.  Charlie intercepted the heard and agreed to provide food for the group and have his cowboys make sure the Mexicans did their job of pushing Patterson’s heard behind his.

When they got within about 80 miles of the Fort, Charlie was scouting on up ahead as usual.

He saw one man on horseback and was sure it was an Indian scouting for one of their war parties.  He cut in front of the rider, intending to kill him, but found that it was a white man.

Actually, it was Patterson, coming down to see what had happened to his heard.  He told Charlie that Loving was at the fort, but Charlie corrected him:  “Loving was killed by Indians back down the Pecos .” 

“Man, I tell you Loving is alive at the Fort and wanting to see you”


Finally, Charlie was convinced.  He got on his best saddle horse and made that eighty miles without stopping.

They had put Loving into the little hotel that was there.  The wound in his side was healing, but his arm looked bad.

Charlie conferred with the young Fort surgeon who was from Scotland and had only been in the US for 2 years.  Charlie told him that the arm needed amputating and the surgeon agreed.  However, he kept hesitating to do it, which Charlie could not understand.

Loving told Charlie that some of their stolen horses and mules had been found where they had been sold and located up toward Santa Fe .  He wanted Charlie to go retrieve them, but he did not want to leave Loving.

He finally consented and went up there and got the animals back, but the arm still had not been amputated.  After waiting and waiting, Charlie finally told the young surgeon that he was going to amputate it, or he was going to have to put wounds on Goodnight.

He did finally amputate it above the elbow, but the artery leading down looked really swollen and bad.   It finally ruptured and it was necessary to put Loving to sleep again and tie it off again. 

The drugs they used in those days for anesthesia were really hard on a person’s system.  Loving was greatly affected by this second operation and finally died, though he was quite rational the whole time until his death.  Before he died, he had one major request of Goodnight.  He made Charlie promise him that he would take his body back to Texas and bury him in the Cemetery at Weatherford , Texas .

Charlie had other business to finish, but he eventually did that.  His cowboys got all the empty oil cans and other tin that they could find at the Fort.  They soldered them together and covered a box that Charlie had made with wheels attached to it.  They packed the body in salt and carried it back to Texas .  The grave can be viewed to this day in Weatherford.

Thirty years later Goodnight met up with that surgeon.  He asked the surgeon why he had not amputated Loving’s arm promptly as he should have.  All those years later, the surgeon answered him honestly.  He said:  “I had heard all these tales about you.  I was afraid that Loving would die anyway and I was sure you would shoot me dead if he died.”

So, folks, as you read all this, I would be surprised if these tales do not sound familiar to you.  Surely you may have read the book that was so popular a few years back called, “Lonesome Dove”.  And even if you did not read the book, surely you saw the TV series by the same name.

The gay author Larry McMurtry wrote “Lonesome Dove” and was consultant for the TV series.  Most everything in that book was stolen and plagiarized from J. Evetts Haley’s book called just “Goodnight”.   It was pretty much Haley’s life’s work to document Goodnight’s whole biography.

As one example in “Lonesome Dove” the partner and the main drover go off ahead of the heard.  They are intercepted by a band of Indians.  They hide under a shelf in this sandy bank of a river. The partner gets shot in the leg, and at night the cowboy slips off to go back and find the heard.  The Indians keep shooting arrows up at an angle to get them to come straight down and try to kill the partner.

The heard is way farther off than he anticipates.  He walks barefoot in his underwear for many, many miles through cactus and thorns.  Finally, when he is near death he finds the heard and is saved.  When the main character goes to find the partner, he finds the sandy shelf where he had

been hiding, but he is not there.  He had slipped away and was found by a traveler and taken into Denver to a hospital.   However, the surgeon at the hospital keeps putting of amputating his leg until it is too late, and he dies.  But before he dies, his partner, who has now found him, promises to grant his wish and take his body back to Texas to be buried.

So, I was waiting in an office in Dallas to keep an appointment and visiting with the receptionist about the TV section of Lonesome Dove we had both seen the night before.  I was talking about all the plagiarism and said:  “Well, you know that Larry McMurtry treated the women in Lonesome Dove so harshly since he is a ‘flaming gay dude’”.

And the nice lady receptionist said:  “Yes, I know, he is my first cousin”.

And I thought:  “Wow, have I messed-up now!”

But she graciously said:  “Don’t worry.  We don’t even let him come to our family reunions.”

So, after watching two more episodes of Lonesome Dove on the TV, I thought:  “I wonder if Mr. Haley knows how they have stolen so much of his historical book?”  I thought that he may still be alive.

My secretary found his telephone number way out in west Texas .  I just dialed the number and this old gravely voice promptly answered the phone.  I said:  “Mr. Haley, do you realize that those folks stole most every story in your book and are making a fortune with them?”

There was this long pause and he said:  “Aaaahh damn……..I’m glad somebody recognized that!!!”

I was so glad that I had called.

So now let me get back to the story of the famous Charles Goodnight.

To Be Continued

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