Across The Fence
Bose Ikard: Texas Cowboy
It was in the late spring month of June, the year 1847, in Summerville, Mississippi that an African slave woman known only as ‘King’ gave birth to a son. She named him Bose. Who his father was is unknown but some suspected that King’s master, Dr. Milton Ikard was the most likely sire. However, whether by custom or by lineage, the little boy child, born into slavery on that spring day would be officially recorded as Bose Ikard.
In 1852, when Bose was five years old, Dr. Ikard moved his entire family, including his slave family, to western Parker County, Texas on the Comanche-Kiowa frontier known as Cross Timbers. Once in Texas Dr. Ikard established himself as a doctor, teacher, rancher and later Texas Legislator. It was there, on Dr. Ikard’s ranch at Cross Timbers that young Bose, owned by Dr. Ikard, grew and learned the skills of bronc riding, wild cow gathering and Indian fighting. In those days, on the Texas plains, Indian fighting was almost a daily chore, required to stay alive and to keep livestock and possessions out of the hands of marauding Comanche and Apache bands. Bose worked not only for his master but also for other ranchers in the area. Tall, lean and lanky, Bose was a natural for the role of cowboy and became well known as a good hand. Even after emancipation, Bose continued as an employee of Dr. Ikard’s.
During the years of the Civil War, a successful Texas cattleman by the name of Oliver Loving, supplied beef to the Confederacy. At the end of that long and devastating conflict it is said that the Confederate Army owed a debt of over $100,000 to Mr. Loving, a debt that would not be paid.
At that same time, several thousand Indians had been herded onto reservations around Fort Sumner in New Mexico and the U.S. Army needed beef, lots of it, to provide the required allotments to feed them. Because of this need Loving determined to trail his cattle to Fort Sumner, provide the Army with whatever was required there and then drive the rest further north to the gold fields of Colorado. There was also another aspiring rancher in the area that had a similar idea, but knew that his herd was not large enough to supply all of the beef to fill the entire allotment. He needed a partner. And so it was that Texas cattleman, Charlie Goodnight convinced Oliver Loving to join herds and head them north. Loving, 24 years older than Goodnight, was an experienced drover and Goodnight was depending on Loving’s expertise to handle the large combined herd. It would take skill and daring to accomplish the ambitious undertaking and many good men would be needed. One of the first men to be chosen by Mr. Loving was Bose Ikard.
Goodnight had in mind to take a different route to Fort Sumner than had been taken before. He proposed a route that would not head directly north but would start out by going southwest, away from their destination. Essentially, the route that Goodnight intended to take followed the old Butterfield stage route. Goodnight argued that it might be longer, but was considerably safer than going straight north through Texas and into Oklahoma Territory then west to New Mexico. Apparently Goodnight had a convincing argument because Loving agreed and in 1866 the two cattlemen headed to Fort Sumner on a route that would become known as The Goodnight-Loving Trail.
On that first Goodnight-Loving drive, more than 2,000 head of Longhorn cattle lined out to the southwest from Cross Timber near Fort Belknap on the Brazos River. Among the hand picked crew of Vaquero’s rode 19-year-old Bose Ikard. He would become Charlie Goodnight’s ‘right-hand’ man.
Heading southwesterly from the Brazos, the herd made two crossings on the forks of the Colorado River then continued on to the eastern banks of the Pecos. Swinging north at a place called Horsehead Crossing they continued toward the Texas, New Mexico border then on to Fort Sumner. Although the new route was expected to be safer, many of the cowboys argued that they would have been better off to take the old trail. There were the expected Comanche raids and one stretch of trail marched the restless Longhorns through a 90-mile stretch of no water. It took nearly a week to travel the 90 miles without water and the entire venture was at risk of perishing before water was found. At the first faint smell of fresh water that filled the nostrils of the lead cattle, the herd could not be contained and the ensuing stampede took a heavy toll on the already weakened cattle. This new trail took longer than the old and had its own share of difficulties but overall proved to be a viable route.
During those long months on the trail, Bose proved himself to be a valuable and trusted employee. He was always ready and willing for any task, dependable in every situation and maintained an amiable and cheerful disposition. Both Goodnight and Loving considered him to be the best man in the outfit.
At Fort Sumner, the U.S Army paid Goodnight and Loving $12,000 in gold for the cattle delivered. The drive a success the two men returned to Texas to gather another herd. Successive drives, over the next two years, continued past Fort Sumner, over Raton Pass to Pueblo and then Denver, Colorado.
On the third drive, in 1868, severe weather conditions delayed the progress of the drive and Oliver Loving rode ahead with a scout to let the buyers know there would be a delay. While in Comanche country, Loving and his companion were attacked by a small band of warriors. Loving was wounded and sent the scout back to inform Goodnight as to what was happening. Loving managed to make it to Fort Sumner but his wounds became infected and he died of gangrene poisoning. Before his death, Loving extracted a promise from his partner, Charlie, that he would take him back to Texas to be buried, a promise that Mr. Goodnight kept. It is said that from that time forward Charlie Goodnight and Bose Ikard were constant companions. It is thought that after the 1868 cattle drive was completed, it was Bose who accompanied Goodnight from Fort Sumner to Weatherford Texas, a six hundred mile journey, to return Loving’s body to his beloved Texas. Oliver Loving was buried in the Greenwood cemetery at Weatherford, Texas on March 4, 1868.
Bose accompanied Goodnight on two more drives to Colorado. One of those drives was to add stock to the northeastern Colorado range on a ranch known as the Iliff Ranch. Also, one of those last drives made by Goodnight and Ikard brought cattle to the Cheyenne, Wyoming area.
Long after his last cattle drive, on the fourth day of January 1929, the mortal shell of Bose Ikard passed from this earth. He was not taken by marauding Comanche. He was not taken by a wild-eyed bronc. At 85 years of age, Bose Ikard, slave, free man, Texas cowboy and Parker County Rancher, trusted friend and companion to Charlie Goodnight and Oliver Loving, died quietly at his home.
It is told that Charlie Goodnight, at 93 years of age, heard of his old friends death and arranged to have his body exhumed from a cemetery for ‘negroes only’ near Fort Worth, Texas and reburied next to his old partner, Oliver Loving, at Greenwood Cemetery, in Weatherford Texas. Supposedly Goodnight was challenged during Bose’s reburial for putting a black man in a white’s cemetery. Charlie calmly replied, “I’m busy with a buryin’ now but if any man has an issue with me buryin’ this comrade of mine in this cemetery I’d like to meet him tomorrow morning at 9 AM on the courthouse steps.” It is said that Charlie showed up packing a 12-gauge shotgun. No one else came.
Charlie Goodnight wrote these words, about Bose Ikard, in his biography. “He was a good bronc rider, and exceptional night herder, good with the skillet and pans, and surpassed any man I had in endurance and stamina. There was a dignity, a cleanliness and a reliability about him that was wonderful. His behavior was very good in fight, and he was probably the most devoted man to me I ever had. I have trusted him farther than any living man. He was my detective, banker, and everything else in Colorado, New Mexico, and the other wild country I was in. …and when we carried money I gave it to Bose. We went through some terrible times during those four years on the trail. He was the most skilled and trustworthy man I had.”
Charlie Goodnight had Bose Ikard’s tombstone engraved with these words; “Bose Ikard 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 Comanche, splendid behavior.”
M. Timothy Nolting is an award winning Nebraska columnist, freelance writer, cowboy poet and entertainer. To contact Tim, e-mail; [email protected]