Saving the Great Western Trail

rotarian-dec17-hi-res-CoverFrom The Rotarian:

At Doan’s Crossing, in a remote corner of Texas near the southeastern tip of the Panhandle, the local folks hold a picnic every May. It has all the things you would expect from a small-town picnic: A few hundred people from the nearby town of Vernon and the surrounding area gather to eat barbecue and socialize. Riders on horseback cross the river from Oklahoma to attend. A Picnic King and Queen are crowned.

But the event, which claims to be the “oldest pioneer festival” in Texas, also marks a piece of American history that was nearly lost: Doan’s Crossing was a key point along the Great Western Trail, a major cattle trail that, during its 20 years of existence, was more heavily used than the better-remembered Chisholm Trail. While it was in use, some 6 million to 7 million cattle and a million horses made their way up various parts of the route.

But unlike the Oregon Trail, along which pioneer wagons left ruts that are still visible, cattle trails could be a mile wide and left few traces – except in people’s memories.

Read the rest here.

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