North to Denver

I've been working on a new song for a few weeks now and it is finally done!  At least a rough version... I am still tweaking.  I got really absorbed in this one and it involved lots of research.  My writing process generally involves me playing chord progressions and humming along until a particular melody stands out.  I will also add whatever lines or words come into my head and in this case I got "headed north to Denver on the Goodnight-Loving Trail". 

Ah ha!  A song is born!  I began researching the Goodnight-Loving Trail.  The only things I knew where the namesakes: Charles Goodnight and Oliver Loving, and that the trail was an L-shape for some darn reason.  The real story is fascinating!  I didn't realize that Larry McMurtry modeled Lonesome Dove closely on the real Goodnight-Loving Trail story.  Oliver Loving died of an arm wound that went bad and Charles Goodnight hauled him back to Texas for burial.  They really had to cross the Llano Estacado, which is close to 100 miles with no water.  And one of their trail hands, Bose Ikard, was a former slave who became a trusted friend and employee.

I had already written the chorus to this song when I learned about Bose Ikard.  The chorus goes:

Singin' to the night herd, with the lonesome coyote's wail
That spring I found my freedom on the Goodnight Loving Trail

It turns out that Bose was a free man after the war and hired on to the trail crew, and he was one of the best night herders Charles had ever seen!  So naturally, the song wound up being from Bose's point of view.  Bose was the inspiration for the character Joshua Deets in Lonesome Dove.

After Bose Ikard's death, Charles Goodnight paid for a marble headstone to be placed over his grave.  This is what it reads:

Served with me four years on the Goodnight-Loving Trail,
never shirked a duty or disobeyed an order,
rode with me in many stampedes, participated in three engagements
with Comanches, splendid behavior. 
-C. Goodnight

This is a fascinating story and has been a joy to write about.  I'm excited to record this new song on my next trip to Berthoud!

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