Texas Ingenuity History


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Tasty Texas – From Cattle Drive
to Casual Dining

What does a Cookie have to do with the enchilada that you had for lunch? Plenty. But put that concept on hold for a minute while we take Professor Emmett Brown's time machine to the year 1866 for a look at some historical origins of Texas cuisine.

In the days after the Civil War, the early Texas cattle industry was growing by leaps and bounds. In fact, from the end of the war until 1880 about ten million cattle made the trek from Texas to trail heads in Kansas and Missouri or beyond. One of the most famous trails was called the Goodnight-Loving Trail.

Oliver Loving came to North Texas in 1845 at the age of 33. Noticing that a large number of cattle roamed free in the Texas wilds, he reasoned that he could make a greenback or two by driving a herd of those cattle from the Shreveport area to New Orleans. After a few successes at this cattle drive, he decided to try for a more lucrative market. In 1858, he drove a herd north to Illinois and started a new era in the saga of the cowboy, the great cattle drives.

The early cattle trails going north (the equivalents to today's Interstate highways – except they weren't paved) were named the Chisholm, Shawnee, and Western Trails. During the Civil War, the cattle drives were mostly halted while Texas cattlemen provided beef for soldiers. After the war and during Reconstruction, poverty plagued Texas (as it did most of the South) and the cattle industry suffered.

However, a former Texas Ranger named Charles Goodnight decided to try his hand at reviving the cattle drive, but he lacked experience. That's when he joined forces with Oliver Loving. They formed a partnership and in June 1866, left Texas with 2,000 cattle and 18 cowboys and headed north.

Continues in book. . .

Charles Goodnight

A statue of the famous cattle rancher Charles Goodnight

outside of the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum

at the West Texas A&M University campus.

Cookie ruled the chuck wagon like a drill sergeant, and other cowboys had better stay clear. For instance, cowboys were forbidden to eat at the chuck wagon table, and they never, ever rode their horse through the "kitchen." In fact, for their own benefit, they quickly learned to ride downwind of the wagon, so the trail dust wouldn't blow into the food.

Chuck Wagon

Chuck Wagon on the SMS Ranch near

Spur, Texas, circa 1944.

(Courtesy Library of Congress, LC-USF34-033327-D.)

Texas Tidbit: Larry McMurtry's Pulitzer Prize-winning (1985) novel Lonesome Dove is loosely based on the lives of Goodnight and Loving and their experiences on the early trail drives.

For more information. . .

The story continues in the book Texas Ingenuity... For complete information on this and other Texas stories...