Retracig the Chisholm Zrail
THE CHISHOLM TRAIL, in 1956 the path of a historical
tour, is something that Texans have been reminiscing
about, and even singing about, for three generations.
It almost could be carpeted with the pulp stories and the Holly-
wood films it has inspired. It has become a byword for the ro-
mance of the open-range era.
For the frontier cow hand, on "a ten-dollar horse and a forty-
dollar saddle," the trail stood for something more real. It meant
long hours in dust or rain. It spelled the dangers of river cross-
ings, of midnight stampedes, of raids by marauding Comanches.
Yet, even for him, the route of the Longhorn herds to Kansas
markets was a road to high adventure.
I woke up one morning on the old Chisholm Trail,
Rope in my hand and a cow by the tail.
Feet in the stirrups and seat in the saddle,
I hung and rattled with them Longhorn cattle.
This winding trail, over which several million Longhorns
plodded north, made history. It carried the greatest movement
of cattle ever known. Yet it was neglected by serious historians
for so long and was so distorted by writers of fiction that its
name came to have widely varied meanings to different people.
Local historians have applied the Chisholm name to cowpaths in
almost every Texas county, with confusing results.
To some, the Chisholm Trail denotes any cattle trail that led
from Texas northward, or perhaps even westward. Others, going
to the other extreme, say the name should be used only for the
road that Jesse Chisholm followed, with his wagons, from his
trading post on the North Canadian River to the one he estab-
lished at the mouth of the Little Arkansas, in southern Kansas.
Those who accept this narrow definition say there was no Chis-
holm Trail in Texas.
Use of the term in the period of the great Longhorn drives,
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 60, July 1956 - April, 1957. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101163/. Accessed October 30, 2014.