By Mel Rhodes
While many places in Texas and the West tap into the cowboy history of the region, often melding myth and reality to create a larger-than-life legacy, no adornment is necessary in Palo Pinto and Parker counties.
True pioneers and legends of the heady days of the great trail drives lived in and operated out of this area, chief among them Charles Goodnight and Oliver Loving.
Anyone who has spent time in this area has heard the names Goodnight and Loving, or perhaps seen them cast on roadside State Historical Markers.
These cattlemen operated during the heyday of the American cowboy, during the 20 or so years of the great cattle drives – roughly from immediately after the Civil War until the railroads came to Texas.
Executing an audacious plan to supply Texas beef to northern and western markets, thereby pulling themselves and the local economy from the ruin of post-Civil War reality in the South, these men of vision established the Goodnight-Loving Trail. Along this livestock artery – which first struck out west to the Pecos Country then north through New Mexico to avoid or at least minimize contact with hostile bands of Native Americans keen on retaining control over their traditional hunting grounds in Northern Texas – the partners moved thousands of head of longhorn cattle.
The Goodnight-Loving partnership was indeed the stuff of legend. Larry McMurtry's 1985 Pulitzer-prize-winning "Lonesome Dove" is based in part on their exploits. The novel was adapted into a mini-series of the same name which won seven Emmy Awards and introduced the Goodnight-Loving story to a different, larger audience.
Local historical groups are well aware of this rich history and promote it whenever possible. One such group is the Doss Heritage and Culture Center in Weatherford.