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A Cowboy of the Pecosby Patrick Dearen, Republic of Texas Press, 1997,$12.95 paperback.

Buffalo hunters used to say that “when a bad man dies, he goes either to hell or the Pecos.” Charles Goodnight, of Goodnight­Loving Trail fame, must have agreed. He first drove cattle along the banks of the Pecos River in 1866 and later said, “The Pecos–the graveyard of the cowman’s hopes…I hated it!” But most folks will love reading about it, at least when the writing is done by Patrick Dearen, who has written three other books about the wild Pecos frontier. The Pecos River, which runs from the Sangre de Cristo Range in northern New Mexico to Langtry, Texas, may have been the most teacherous river in the West. One Pecos cowboy of the 1880s wrote that cowboys feared just two things–“the Pecos and rattlesnakes.” Forty-niners’ cattle herds blazed three trails across the Pecos on their way through Comanche country to California (the safest trail, or Lower Road, would be remembered as the California Cattle Trail). Then, in 1866, Goodnight and Oliver Loving blazed their famous trail over to the Pecos in Texas and then upriver through New Mexico Territory to Denver–it was an indirect route, but it avoided the heart of Comanche country. The Goodnight-Loving Trail quickly became a popular route. Beginning in the late 1870s, cattle kings came to the Pecos, so even after the days of the big trail drives, ranching continued in the area. Dearen covers a lot of ground in fine style, taking his story up to the 1920s.