A Promise Made; A Promise Kept

       Charles Goodnight

Last week I wrote about Lonesome Dove.  This week we’ll take a look at the inspiration for the book.

In June 1866, former Texas Ranger Charles Goodnight and cattle rancher Oliver Loving went into partnership to drive cattle to western markets.  Settlers, soldiers stationed on forts and Navajos recently placed on reservations were all demanding food supplies, and the two men took a chance that their venture would be profitable. 

They planned to drive 2000 Longhorn cattle from Texas to Wyoming on a trail that later became known as the Goodnight-Loving Trail. That meant passing through dangerous Indian territory. But given Loving’s knowledge of cattle and Goodnight’s background as a Texas Ranger and Indian fighter, the two men were confident they could succeed. 

Not only was their venture a success, but it also led to an amazing act of friendship that inspired the Pulitzer prize-winning novel, Lonesome Dove.

                    Oliver Loving

Things went well for the two men until their third drive in 1867. Heavy rains slowed them down.  To save time, Loving went ahead of the herd to secure contracts, taking a scout with him.  Despite telling Goodnight that he would travel only at night through Indian country, he rode during the day. 

That turned out to be a bad decision as he was trapped by Comanches along the Pecos River.  Though he was shot in the arm and side, he managed to escape and reach Fort Sumner.

His injuries were not life-threatening, but he developed gangrene.  The doctor at the fort was unwilling to do an amputation and Loving died.  He was buried at the fort, but that was not his final resting place. Before Loving died, he turned to his good friend Goodnight and asked that his body be returned to Texas.  He did not want to be buried in a “foreign land.”    

Goodnight promised Loving that his wish would be carried out, and that was a promise he meant to keep. But honoring his friend’s request couldn’t have been easy.

A Promise Made: A Promise Kept by Lee Cable shows Goodnight taking his friend home to Texas.

Credited with inventing the chuckwagon, Goodnight arranged for a special wagon and metal casket to be built. With the help of Loving’s son, Joseph, he had his friend’s body exhumed and carried him 600 miles back to Texas—an act of friendship matched by few. 

Loving is buried in Weatherford, Texas.

What is the truest form of friendship that you’ve experienced?


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24 thoughts on “A Promise Made; A Promise Kept”

  1. When my husband passed away my friend of 35 years jumped right in and helped my clear my house, so I could put it up for sale. We worked nearly 3 weeks, packing and having 3 garage sales.

  2. I’ve seen markers about the Goodnight-Loving Trail here in Texas, but I never realized Loving was from Weatherford. That’s just a couple hours down the road from me. Thank you for sharing their story, Margaret. Friendship is such a precious thing. I love seeing it reflected in their story.

  3. I have a friend who passed from ovarian cancer. Her BFF (also a friend of mine) did everything for her that she could, from cooking, to taking her to all of her appointments, to moving her into her home and doing everything for her until she passed. She was so selfless and showed what true friendship is. It doesn’t surprise me that Goodnight did what Loving had asked.

  4. What an interesting post today. Thanks for sharing. My husband is my best friend. I know that sounds typical, but he is really the only person I can depend on. We do pretty much everything together.

  5. What a great story and what a Blessed friendship. My husband is my Best friend, he has always been there for me, 44 yrs. now. God has Blessed me with a Great husband and a true Best friend.

  6. As always, I enjoy reading your posts. Friendship … undying love. My husband hired a pilot to fly us to Gillette Wyoming so I could see my dad one more time. I was 30 years old. I will never forget that act of kindness. My dad died six weeks later. My heart has been blessed by that memory for many years now.

  7. Our daughter is very lucky to have four wonderful, close friends. They have been there for her since college. One day her Freshman year, she was given medication for a severe cold or infection. That night she had a really bad reaction to it physically and it was causing bizarre behavior episodes. Even though it was mid-week and they all had classes the next morning, they all stayed up all night with her to make sure she was OK. It has been a little over 20 years since that event, and they are still there for each other. They call each other frequently and meet twice a year, renting a cabin, leave family behind, and have a girls’ weekend. Especially now with COVID, job stress, home schooling, and children 24/7, these weekends are needed more than ever. They had a weekend two weeks ago. Each had their own room, they brought their own food & beverage, wore masks, spent the weekend walking in the woods, reading, and visiting. These weekends strengthen the friendships and help restore their sense of humor and ability to cope. We should all be so lucky to have such friends that are there for us in good times and bad, ready to encourage and support us.

  8. I was sick, and we were getting low on groceries, so the pickins’ were a little scarce. My son’s girlfriend ordered takeout for the family. She lives in Texas–2000 miles away.


  9. In the 7th grade I met my best friend. Her name is Theresia . we went to 7 th and 8 th grade together. Then she moved, grew up. Got married, had a son.. About 20 yrs later we connected on Facebook. And I’m 55 and we have picked up right were we left off. My grandkids are hers, and visa versa. She lost her only child, her son Kevin in a car wreck . now she adopted his 2 children . her grandkids. She is my sister.. And my best friend.

  10. What an amazing story! I just love it. Thank you, Margaret. And I love the Lee Cable art work you included. I went on his web site after I saw this, and he describes how he wanted this scene to look.

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