Confederate money, payment for the thousands of cattle he had delivered to the
War ended in 1865,
mercifully, but the post war Reconstruction years in Texas were grim.
Carpetbaggers controlled local government. Oliver was in his 50s by then,
rustling had been rampant while he was away, he had a wife and nine children and
little to show for all his efforts. Little, that is, except for his reputation
as a fearless and expert drover. He remained around his home ranch, now in Palo
Pinto County in the Texas panhandle, and built up his herds.
1866, a young man by the name of Col. Charles Goodnight, a former Texas Ranger,
began gathering longhorns in north Texas to take on the trail. Goodnight had
been a plainsman and Indian fighter for most of his young life. He had raised
and worked cattle and had attempted a drive in 1865, only to have the entire
herd stampeded and stolen by Indians. Times in Texas were so bad that Goodnight
had resolved to leave the country for good, taking as large a herd as he could
gather to market with him. He knew that "the whole of Texas would start
north for market" that year, jamming up those routes, so he worked out a
daring plan to move his herd south then west below the main Comanche territory,
across the Pecos into New Mexico and then north to the gold fields of Denver.
Goodnight put together his outfit and hired hands, he happened past Oliver
Loving's cow camp. Loving had heard of his plan and waved him over and asked him
about it. After telling Goodnight the hazards and problems he faced and finding
him still determined to go, Loving said "If you will let me, I will go with
you." Goodnight replied, "I will not only let you, but it is the most
desirable thing of my life. I not only need the assistance of your force, but I
need your advice."
Thus was formed a partnership of legend. Goodnight knew Indian fighting, was a young strong plainsman, and he knew the country of west Texas. Loving, senior by 24 years, knew cattle and knew how to manage large herds over the worst terrain. Both were men of the highest honor and character, willing to go to heroic lengths to account for every stray, every cow and willing to ride for days to see that every cent of proceeds got to its rightful owner.