In 1866, Charles Goodnight, a former Texas Ranger, and Oliver Loving formed a partnership to drive their first herd of cattle on a new trail from Fort Belknap, Texas to Fort Sumner, New Mexico. With 18 cowhands and 2,000 head of wild longhorn cattle, Goodnight and Loving set out on June 6, 1866, to blaze the trail along the former route of the Butterfield Overland Mail (1858-1861) through west Texas on to the Pecos River and then north to New Mexico. The trail followed the Butterfield route, crossing the Chimney Creek Ranch at Smith’s Station, the only Butterfield stop located in present Shackelford County. Goodnight is credited with the creation of the chuck wagon on this first trip outfitting a Studebaker military wagon to feed his team. This route was the initial Goodnight-Loving Trail. Two more cattle drives used this route - later in 1866 and finally in the spring of 1867 - before moving the origination point to South Texas by way of San Antonio and then on to San Angelo and then north up the Pecos River. At the age of 54, Oliver Loving died in 1867 on their third trail drive, from wounds suffered in a Comanche Indian attack in New Mexico.The total existence of the Goodnight-Loving trail lasted some 20 years. Charles Goodnight died at the age of 93 in 1929.
One hundred nineteen years later, Charles Goodnight and Oliver Loving were immortalized in Larry McMurtry’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Lonesome Dove. It was first published in 1985 winning the Pulitzer in 1986. The basic premise of the Lonesome Dove novel is based on the true accounts involving Charles Goodnight and Oliver Loving. A television miniseries, also entitled Lonesome Dove, first aired in February 1989 and starred Robert Duvall as Gus McRae (Oliver Loving), and Tommy Lee Jones as Woodrow Call (Charles Goodnight). The miniseries received 18 nominations at the 1989 Emmy Awards, winning seven. The miniseries also won two Golden Globes – one for Best Miniseries and one for Best Actor in a Miniseries (Duvall).