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Bose Ikard: The Original Cowboy Hero

As a writer and unapologetic romantic, I love stories about the triumph of the human spirit over the most difficult and unfair of circumstances. Fortunately, the strength of the human spirit really is stronger than the circumstances we face, and there are no shortage of stories proving this out.

                 Bose Ikard

The man I’m writing about today exemplifies this point as well or better than any person I can think of. Bose Ikard rose from slave to trusted friend of both Oliver Loving and Charles Goodnight, and the success they had is due in no small part to the services provided by Ikard. Charles Goodnight stated that he trusted Bose Ikard “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.” Goodnight and Loving counted Ikard among their few close friends.

      Charles Goodnight

Bose Ikard was born into slavery in July 1843, in Noxubee County, Mississippi. Bose lived in Louisiana before moving to Texas with his master, Dr. Milton Ikard. It was in Texas that he grew to adulthood, learning farming, ranching, and Indian fighting on the harsh frontier.  Bose gained his freedom following the Civil War, and in 1866 he used the skills he had learned to get a job as a trail driver for Oliver Loving. In 1867, after Loving was killed by Comanche in New Mexico, Ikard went to work for his partner, Charles Goodnight.  He became Goodnight’s right-hand man, adviser, and lifelong friend. He was especially skilled at trailing stray cattle in the dark, a job that was both dangerous and essential.

Historical Marker at Greenwood Cemetery

During his four years on the Goodnight-Loving trail, Bose Ikard earned a reputation as a top hand with the ability to get the job done regardless of the danger or difficulty involved, including at least three skirmishes with Comanche Indians.  In 1869, Ikard decided to start a ranch of his own and considered buying property in Colorado, but Goodnight cautioned him that there were very few black people there, and persuaded him to buy in Parker County, Texas instead. He settled in Weatherford, Texas where he and his wife Angelina raised their six children. Goodnight visited him whenever he had the chance and would bring presents of money for his family. One can imagine the two men reliving the many adventures they had together on the trail, possibly with a tinge of regret for the disappearance of the way of life they had known. Bose Ikard died on January 4, 1929 in Weatherford, Texas, and was buried at Greenwood Cemetery.

Bose Ikard’s Headstone given by Charles Goodnight.

For his invaluable contribution to the Texas cattle industry, and for being a real-life hero, Ikard was inducted into the Texas Trail of Fame, and a statue of him can be seen in the Fort Worth Stockyards. Charles Goodnight bought a head stone for his grave and the inscription he carved on it sums up what he thought of the man. “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.” I can’t think of a better or more fitting remembrance for cowboy.

Not one to ever miss a Lonesome Dove tie-in, let me close by mentioning that Bose Ikard was the inspiration for the character of Joshua Deets, played wonderfully by actor Danny Glover. Thank you for reading, now get out there and enjoy all that the great state of Texas has to offer.


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