The pair left the frontier
of Texas on June 6, 1866 with a 2,000-head mixed herd and an outfit of 18 armed
men to blaze the trail that went down large into history as the Goodnight-Loving
Trail. Goodnight rode a dozen miles ahead of the herd scouting for water,
grazing sites and Indians while Oliver and the men broke the herd to trailing
condition and followed across the measureless plains.
Goodnight and Loving knew there would be huge obstacle ahead - a stretch of over
80 miles of treeless desert without water, the Llano Estacado or Staked Plains.
at this graphic, an enhanced modern-day satellite image, one can easily pick out
the Llano Estacado. It's the maroon colored dry desert patch that covers West
Texas, Eastern New Mexico and parts of Mexico. It was named the Llano Estacado
by the Mexicans decades before. On finding that there were no landmarks to guide
travelers, they drove a series of wooden stakes (estacado) into the desert floor
to mark a path. In 1865-67 this area was so desolate and so godforsaken, that
there were no settlements of any sort. It was here that the Comanche, the Apache
and the renegade bands ran free... in a land that the white men avoided at all
A herd can only move 12 to
15 miles a day. At the Concho River, the partners held the herd at the water for
a day, letting the dry beeves drink all they could hold. At the end of the first
days ride, they tried to bed the cattle down, but the animals were so restless
from thirst that they milled all night. Goodnight determined then to push on
non-stop until they reached the Pecos, rather than risk losing the herd.
no sleep for 3 days and nights as the exhausted troop moved westward across the
scorched landscape. There was a stampede on the second day when the cattle
imagined that they smelled water in a canyon. By the third day, they were almost
unmanageable. At the end of that day, when the herd approached the Pecos, the
crazed animals stampeded again, this time galloping right over the cliffs and
banks headlong into the river.