Charles Goodnight, "Father of the Texas Panhandle"
Charles Goodnight (1836-1929) was one of the larger-than-life Texas pioneers. His early years in Texas included fighting Comanches with both the Texas Rangers and the Confederate Army, during which time he became familiar with Palo Duro Canyon, just east of my hometown of Canyon. In 1866 he and partner Oliver Loving established the Goodnight-Loving cattle trail to take Texas longhorns to Denver markets. The novel Lonesome Dove is a fictionalized account of one of their cattle drives, during which (true in real life) Loving cashed in his chips after an unfortunate misunderstanding with Comanches. The Comanches were driven out of the Texas Panhandle after the Battle of Palo Duro Canyon in 1874 (Empire of the Summer Moon by Gwinne is the must-read history of the Comanches). In 1876 Goodnight then moved a herd of cattle into Palo Duro Canyon and established a cattle ranch in partnership with John Adair. This JA Ranch eventually had over one million acres of land and 100,000 head of cattle, and is still in operation today. After building a temporary dugout, Goodnight built his "Home Ranch" headquarters at a location about 10 miles south of today's Palo Duro Canyon State Park. In later life, Goodnight became a friend of his former Comanche enemies (Quanah Parker in particular), and he helped save the American bison from extinction. He was honored on a US postage stamp in the 1994 Legends of the West Series.
It had always been my dream growing up in Canyon to see the actual location of the Goodnight ranch headquarters, which is on private land. When I recently attended my 50th high school reunion, my friend Mike Bellah, who wisely married into a ranching family, took me to the location of the Home Ranch. It was a brutal hike with heat, humidity, a full complement of mosquitos, and almost impassible bushwhacking through mesquite, catclaw and scrub oak bushes. However, it was well worth it, and I can now claim to be one of the few people who have actually visited this historic site. You won't be getting any GPS coordinates or Google Earth images showing the location, but here are a few photos.