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.

Both 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.

Looking 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 cost.

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.

There was 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.

Many of the animals were drowned in the onslaught at the Pecos, piling into the water one on top of the other. After recovering and