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Charles Goodnight & the Chuck Wagon

If you happen to be traveling along U.S. Highway 287 through the Texas Panhandle this summer, plan for a pit stop at the Charles Goodnight Historical Center in Goodnight, Texas.

Don’t blink because you might miss it. Set back from the black top, you will see an 1887 Victorian-style home. The historical center is located at 4901 County Road 25. Watch for the buffalo signs and turn south on Country Road 25.

Located on its original site, the home has been fully restored and a tour with an informative guide is a must. Referred to as the “castle on the prairie”, it was the ranch headquarters for early pioneer and cattleman Charles Goodnight who first settled his cattle in Palo Duro Canyon in 1876, later to become the famed JA Ranch. With Irishman John Adair, they established the first cattle ranch in the Texas panhandle, and subsequently the Goodnight-Loving Trail, driving herds north to market.

Settee in the first floor master bedroom.

Splitting up his partnership with Adair’s widow, Goodnight moved out of canyon lands and built his home on the prairie, 60 miles north of the JA Ranch. With windows imported from England, the home also features several lead glass doors. Located inside the front entryway and behind the stairs is the receiving room where Mary Ann Goodnight welcomed friends and neighbors. The upstairs has a quilting room and a bedroom reserved for the visiting minister and his wife.

The parlor where Mrs. Goodnight entertained her guests.

Quilt room.

The second floor features a breezy, second-floor sleeping porch were Colonel Goodnight spent most of his nights. It offers spectacular views of the countryside and his precious canyon lands.

Colonel Goodnight’s office is located at the very back of the house on the first floor underneath the open porch. There is a definite reverence and calm  presence in the room. As the tour group entered, we all became silent. To think about the history and people who stepped through that door, gave me chills.  Through that very leaded glass door,  which opens from a covered porch, stepped the great Comanche Chief Quanah Parker, among others. He and Goodnight held a great respect for each other A separate entrance leads into a clerk’s office where the cowboys came for their weekly pay.

Goodnight never allowed any alcohol on his ranch. Cowboys maintained a strict code of conduct and work ethic. Often heard was the saying, “That’s a Goodnight fence.” He had no patience for foolish card games or for men who lost their head in drink. He even petitioned the cattleman’s association to outlaw mumbley peg on area ranches, a game of dare played with a pocket knife.

The great Comanche Chief Quanah Parker entered through this door to meet with his friend Charles Goodnight. They had a great respect for each other.

On your way out, stop at the unique Herd Wear Retail Store. You can’t miss the signs. Filled with jewelry, artwork and central to the items you’ll find there are the American Bison fiber wearables; socks, gloves, hats, scarves and much more. Very cool store. It’s a must to see!

Across Highway 287 are the graves of Charles Goodnight and Mary Ann. Travelers leave bandannas tied to the chain link fence, a tradition began by passing Texas Rangers, so the story goes.

View from the second floor window.

Beryl Goodnight, a great niece, designed the statue of Mary Ann feeding a tiny buffalo calf located in the yard of the mansion. It is a striking tribute.

For more information about Colonel Goodnight’s ranch headquarters and the visitor’s center, go here

Photos by N. Bright

No doubt, Charles Goodnight played a part in my newest book, KEEP ‘EM FULL AND KEEP ‘EM ROLLLIN’. Authentic recipes from the cattle trail along with dishes from today’s ranch cooks. It’s a great collection. Bring a taste of the Wild West into to you kitchen!

Now available at Amazon, Target, Walmart, and Barnes and Noble, among others.

Natalie Bright is a blogger, author and speaker. She writes a western romance series with co-author Denise McAllister, THE WILD COW RANCH. Her fun, historical western TROUBLE IN TEXAS series for middle grades, is a wild west adventure for the entire family, and the RESCUE ANIMAL series features true stories about rescue horses.  Read about Natalie’s grandmother and her cherry salad recipe, selected for “THE WESTERN WRITERS OF AMERICA COOKBOOK: Favorite Recipes, Cooking Tips, and Writing Wisdom”. Click on the BOOKS tab at the top of the page for more information.