COBWEB CORNERS: Head ‘em up, move ‘em out!

By Mel McFarland

       I recently traveled across Kansas, but not on the Interstate. I like driving the back roads. You get to see more interesting things that way. In several towns, I stopped in to see their museums. Many of them told of the cattle drives a hundred or so years ago. We had our own cattle trail. Down in Texas, Charles Goodnight and Oliver Loving learned that the miners were hungry for beef. The two started for Denver with 1,000 cows. The trip up took nearly all winter.
       The Civil War caused the shipment of large herds to be nearly forgotten. Once the war was over, the two started moving cows north again. Their route was from Texas west into southern New Mexico, then north along the front of the mountains. After a couple trips up this way, the men were familiar with the country and, at times, ran several herds on the trail at a time.
       As their business grew, so did the problem of outlaws raiding their herds. One was "Fingerless" Jackson, who was fairly well known in the area. He was captured near Pecos, Texas and shipped north to Denver on a stagecoach. As the coach neared Colorado City (this was before there was a Colorado Springs), a vigilante group abducted him and strung him up in a tree on Fountain Creek.
       The trail followed east of where 1-25 is today. Goodnight and Loving herded cows for nearly 30 years. The cows moved north from Pueblo along Fountain Creek to Jimmy Camp Creek past what is now Fountain. The trail then swung east at Jimmy Camp through Black Forest. Denver was at the north end of the trail.
       Goodnight retired in 1869, purchasing several small ranches just west of Pueblo along the Arkansas River. Here, a small community around the ranch house was known for many years as Goodnight. He tried ranching and other businesses in town, but it was not for him. In 1875 he moved his operations to the Texas Panhandle. He moved cows from remote ranches to the new railroad stock pens. He bought and sold cattle and buffalo and even herded them to various railroads as late as the 1920s. He died in 1929 in his 90's, and many a cowboy was sad to see the old boy go.