The National Park Service “Draft Chisholm and Great Western Historic Trail Feasibility Study” opens the way for these two historic trails to become National Trails! These two trails are not only significant in U.S. history standpoint, but they have also shaped the popular culture of the “cowboy.” It is interesting to explore how people here and abroad have been introduced to this American icon.
My first encounter with the cowboy was thru film. As a young boy, I remember the fun I had going to my local movie theater and for 25 cents seeing cowboy double features, many of which involved cattle drives and cattle rustling. In retrospect, I must admit most of these B or B minus films were not very good and seemed to use the same location in California with big boulders where the good guys in white hats chased the bad guys in black hats. However there were also some notable films, including the 1948 “Red River” with John Wayne and Montgomery Cliff in which the complexities and drama of the cattle drive era was well presented.
American TV also contributed my awareness of cattle drives. Between 1959 and 1965, 217 one hour-long episodes told stories of driving longhorn cattle from Texas to Kansas. Clint Eastwood played a key role as ramrod and later as trail boss though the entire series. Sadly the original trail boss in the series drowned while filming a river crossing which illustrated one of the real dangers of cattle drives.
After moving to Fort Worth, Texas in 1985, I became deeply aware of how important the cattle era was to my new home as well as to Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska. In that same year, “Lonesome Dove”, undoubtedly the best novel ever written about cattle drives, was published. Four years later, it was made into the popular mini-series. Bill Witliff wrote the screen play from McMurtry’s great novel. Many of the artifacts from the mini-series are on display at Texas State University in San Marcos. I first learned about cattle drives from movies and TV. Over the last 30 years, I have given serious study to cattle drive history.
The proposed Chisholm National Historic Trail and Western National Historic Trail - Depicting the Chisholm and Western Trail and Southern Texas Feeder Trails. Found on pg. 57 of the feasibility study.
Many cities and towns along the trail routes celebrate the colorful trail drive history. The American cowboy is already an American icon. Our nation is long overdue in giving proper recognition to these famous historic trails. The National Park Service Chisholm and Great Western trail study offers our nation an excellent way to give proper recognition to this important piece of history and heritage. We should all urge the Congress and the President to designate these two trail as National Historic Trails!
To see the full report and to submit comments go to: http://tinyurl.com/nps-comment.