Charles Goodnight on the Death of Oliver Loving
Charles Goodnight said:
"But it so happened that a man by the name of Burleson, from the Austin country of Texas, had a herd of cattle just behind mine. With my assistance his herd had been saved from capture and the two herds were very close together each night. Burleson had gone through to Ft. Sumner some weeks before, and was there awaiting the arrival of the herd. The herd on account of delay, was late in getting in, and Burleson, being very uneasy about the cattle would make trips down the trail about once a week, as far as he could venture with a small party.
On one of these trips he met the ox-wagon, and Mexicans with Loving. He at once returned to Ft. Sumner as fast as a horse could take him and got the government ambulance and doctors, meeting the ox-wagon some fifty miles down the trail. The doctors dressed Loving's wounds and returned with him to Ft. Sumner, where he appeared to do well for a few days, but the wound in the arm would not heal, the one in the side having healed.
On another of Burleson's excursions down the trail I met him some seventy-five miles below Ft. Sumner, in rather a peculiar way. Knowing we had to pass through some broken country before camping time, it was my usual custom to go ahead, generally alone, to reconnoiter, to ascertain whether any Indians were present or not, to prevent surprise. On this evening two or three hours by sun, I had gone into these brakes a mile at least north of the trail it being my custom never to follow the trail on such excursions. While slipping around through the brakes, I saw a man coming into the hills. I was perfectly sure it was an Indian and maneuvered around keeping out of his sight, aming to cut him off from the brakes and get him. This man seemed to be very cautious, peeping from one hill to another, but coming in my direction.
When he got close enough I discovered he was a white man. I then got my horse and rode in open ground. Strange to say, I rode some little distance in the open before he saw me. However, I had worked around until I was almost behind him and he was interested in looking ahead. When he did see me, he started to run, but when he saw me making signals he halted and allowed me to overtake him. He was so anxious about the herd that it was some time before I could get any definite information.
I told him that Loving had been killed by the Indians some hundred miles below. He said, "Loving is at Ft. Sumner." I said, 'Impossible, he was killed by the Indians.' He says, 'He is not dead; he is now in Sumner.' He then related the circumstance of meeting the ox-wagon getting the ambulance and taking Loving to Ft. Sumner, saying he thought he would get well. He said Loving had sent a message to me should he find me, to come to Sumner at once. We returned to the herds and caught the best animals we had, and about one hour by sun, I started. After riding all night I reached Ft. Sumner about two hours by sun, making the distance of about seventy-five miles, in fourteen hours. I soon met Mr. Loving, who was walking around feeling well with his arm in a sling. He felt confident he would recover, yet I did not like the looks of the wound. The old post doctor being at Las Vegas on a court martial, had left the young doctor in charge who assured him it was all right. After resting two or three days, Mr. Loving asked me to go to the mountains and recover some stock which had been stolen from us several months before, six or eight fine mules and some saddle horses. The stock was scattered from in behind Las Vegas to San Jose on the Pecos River, below Sante Fe. I was gone about ten days and recovered all the stock.
When I reached within thirty miles of Ft. Sumner, I met a courier hunting me, saying that Mr. Loving had sent him for me, that he was very sick, that the arm from its long neglect and the excessive heat had become poisoned; gangrene having set in, necessitating amputation. He didn't want the operation performed unless I was there, fearing he might not survive the operation. I left the stock in charge of the hired man and in a few hours reached Ft. Sumner. The next morning the operation was performed, and he came out from under the choloform in good shape and then rallied for some forty-eight hours, when the arteries commenced to leak. They then had to re-chloroform, take the arm apart and re-tie the arties. He then revived from the chloroform, but gradually sank from that time on. While he had a great and strong constitution, he had gone through more than a man could stand, and twenty-two days later, died. He was buried at Ft. Sumner by the officers of the garrison, who showed us a great kindness.
In October 1867, I returned to Ft. Sumner from Colorado and took his body placing the metal casket in a wagon drawn by a pair of good mules and returned it to his home, in Weatherford, Texas, something over six hundred miles, where he was buried by his own lodge of Masons, and where his body now rests."
----- Charles Goodnight, as told to J. Evetts Haley
Beauty is only skin deep but Texas is to the bone.