SEPTEMBER 17, 2003

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Great Western Trail marked

Youth at the Foss Lake Adventure Program of Southwestern Oklahoma State University recently witnessed the marking of the Great Western Cattle Trail almost in the front yard of the FLAP group home.

Oklahoma City television station OETA (Channel 13) was in attendance working on a Great Western Trail special that will be aired later this fall.

It was on the trail that approximately 35,000 cowboys drove around seven million longhorns out of south Texas across the Red River at Doans Crossing south of Altus, across the prairies of Indian lands in western Oklahoma Territory to the railhead at Dodge City, Kansas.

The boys at FLAP have recently been studying about the cattle drive era in Oklahoma history under the direction of teacher Tina Barnes. Several of the boys got to help set posts marking the sites at Foss and Butler.

"I felt this was a very unique opportunity to be involved with such an historic event that passed through this community and within a few hundred yards of our facility,” FLAP director Jason Baker said. “I'm pleased that our boys could be involved in marking the trail for others to see and hope they have a better knowledge and understanding of the hardships those cowboys endured on the Great Western Trail.”

Kim Goodnight, great great great nephew of Charles Goodnight of the Goodnight Loving Cattle Trail, and his mother, Ellen, were present at the recent marking.

“Many people don' t know that the cattle industry is still important today to my hometown of Dodge City,” Kim said. “They have a large livestock market on the east side of town that runs thousands of cattle every month."
He and his mom are highly interested in preserving the history of the old cattle trails and participate whenever they can in such events.

Rancher Curt Walker was also in attendance at the recent marking. He knew the trail was somewhere close but didn' t know it went right through his property the full mile. He had his wife, mother, sister, three daughters, son-in-law and two grandsons present for the occasion.

Beverly Chisholm Murphy and her husband, Gerry, of Wichita, Kan., were also present for setting the posts and were delighted that Oklahoma was marking the trail. Beverly is the great great granddaughter of Jesse Chisholm. She was interviewed on television and indicated that Jesse spoke around a dozen languages and was an interpreter/mediator between the Plains Indians and the army as well as being a trader.

Three cowboys from the Vici and Woodward area were also present. Jim Peck, Bruce Seidel and Jim McElroy, three of around 30 cowboys on the Great American Cattle Drive of 1995 drove 300 longhorns on a 1,600-mile trek from Fort Worth, Texas, to Miles City, Montana. It took them six months to complete the drive from March to September.

Part of their drive was actually on the Great Western Trail. They all live near the Great Western Trail and will be involved as posts are set in their area.

J. W. Parker, 81 year old cattle drive historian from Yukon, related several historical stories that actually occurred on the trail. All the horses froze to death on one drive; rancher Richard King, founder of the famous King Ranch, drove 30,000 cattle in 10 herds; and a girl impersonated a cowboy on yet another drive. Herds averaged 2,000 to 3,000 longhorns and required about 10 cowboys. It took about three months to make the entire drive, one month to cross Oklahoma Territory.

Rusty Barnes, nine-year-old son of FLAP teacher Tina Barnes, had a map of all the old cattle trails. He had Kim and Ellen Goodnights’ signatures on the Goodnight Loving Cattle Trail, Beverly Chisholm Murphy’s signature on the Chisholm Trail and the three Great American Cattle Drive of '95 cowboys signatures on the trails they rode. He was offered $10 for the map but refused, thinking it might be even more valuable in years to come.

Yudell Barton, Dennis Vernon and Joe Harkins, all of Altus, were pleased with the turnout and were glad the boys and staff from FLAP were able to assist in setting the posts and taking a part in marking the trail. FLAP hosted a hot dog luncheon for the group at a pavilion in the state park at Foss Lake.

Contact: Brian Adler, 1-580-774-3063