Goodnight About Rangers

Charles Goodnight

Ranchers and their cowboys made good Rangers. Their work well prepared them for this task. Goodnight pointed out that first of all tending Texas cattle was tough, dangerous work. The local breed was much heavier than Mexican Longhorns and their horns, though shorter, were set forward, making them much more dangerous. An angry cow could hunt down and kill a man.

Early drives preceded the chuckwagon so each man had to carry his own food. Goodnight observed that at least the cowboys in those days didn't spend most of their talk complaining about the cook. Good horseflesh was vital to trail a herd eighteen or more hours a day. Speed, nerve and good horsemanship was necessary when emergencies, particularly stampedes, erupted. Though a sidearm was seldom called for and cost about half a years pay, every top hand carried one and prided themselves on their marksmanship.

Trailing skills learned from the Indians allowed the most perceptive cowboys to serve as scouts. Acute attention to the smallest details of the landscape and wildlife enabled the scout to accurately anticipate water, game and danger. Goodnight contended exceptional senses were necessary though cattle smelled water long before humanly possible and telescopes were in use. He claimed only the best ear could distinguish animal sounds imitated by Comanche signalers. His words were made more poignant by John Graves' description of night-time at the Welty cabin from his classic, Goodbye to a River.

    ...the feel of the murderous wild men in the moonlit dark all around the house, and not knowing if a screech owl's quaver was a screech owl or a wolf's yell was a wolf. Always moonlight, that was when they came. ...It must have been hard to forget, the feel of those nights.

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