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Northwestern State receives grant to research cattleman popularized in 'Lonesome Dove'

Northwestern State University

A Northwestern State University professor has received a $50,000 grant to publish a three-volume set of the Charles Goodnight papers. Goodnight was one of the most prosperous and prominent cattlemen in the American West. The novel “Lonesome Dove” is a fictionalized account of a Goodnight cattle drive. Northwestern State associate professor of history John Price is sifting through thousands of Goodnight artifacts.

“It just has subsumed my life. In the last six years, all I’ve done is eat, sleep and drink Charles Goodnight," Price said, from his Natchitoches office which has turned into ground zero for Goodnight papers.

Price is collaborating with the University of Oklahoma Press with funding from the Summerlee Foundation. Price said this project – about 2,400 pages in all -- will be an important addition to the historiography of the American West.

“It’s letters, documents and photographs. It’s basically the lifeblood for historians of what’s important about writing history," Price said.

The papers will shed light on the correct genealogy of Goodnight’s family and give insights into the waning years of his life before he died in 1929 at age 93. The NSU professor of 43 years believes many people are waiting for this compilation of a cowboy who made allies with American Indians and is credited with saving the buffalo from extinction.

“I’m 71 years old. I got a phone call from a 98-year-old Montana rancher. He told me, Get those books done before I die! So, a lot of people are waiting to see the books, a lot of historians are waiting to see it," Price said.

The first volume of “The Charles Goodnight Papers – His Life and Times” will begin to be assembled in January.  Price plans to spend  his holiday break away from the classroom at repositories out West.

Chuck Smith brings more than 30 years' broadcast and media experience to Red River Radio. He began his career as a radio news reporter and transitioned to television journalism and newsmagazine production. Chuck studied mass communications at Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia and motion picture / television production at the University of California at Los Angeles. He has also taught writing for television at York Technical College in Rock Hill, South Carolina and video / film production at Centenary College of Louisiana, Shreveport.