Tonight’s Charles Goodnight Gala in Fort Worth throws the spotlight on the 2006 National Cutting Horse Association Hall of Fame inductees. But as the anniversary of his death on December 12, 1929 approaches, we should also pause to remember Goodnight himself, who has been hailed as one of the inventors of the American ranching industry.

When the great cattle drives began, Goodnight and Oliver Loving took herds north from Texas along the trail that bore their name. Their adventures laid the foundation for Larry McMurtry’s great novel, Lonesome Dove, which in turn inspired the acclaimed mini-series of the same name.

Among Goodnight’s accomplishments were invention of the chuckwagon, growing the first wheat by irrigation in the Texas Panhandle, fencing much of his land with four-pronged barbed wire, and helping to save the buffalo from extinction. At one time, Goodnight and his company had 100,000 head of cattle in the Panhandle, and traded at every market in the United States.

Above all, Goodnight valued a good man who held to the ideals the NCHA was founded upon.

“I wish I could find words to express the trueness, the bravery, the hardihood, the sense of honor, the loyalty to their trust and to each other of the old trail hands,” he wrote. “They kept their places around a herd in all circumstances, and if they had to fight, they were always ready. Timid men were not among them– the life did not fit them.

“Despite all that has been said of him, the old-time cowboy is the most misunderstood man on earth. May the flowers prosper on his grave and ever bloom, for I can only salute him–in silence.”