After the Civil War, Texas was overrun with thousands and thousands of wild longhorn cattle worth about $5 each. However, if these cattle could be driven to the railheads in Kansas, they would be worth $50 to $60 each.
Cattle drives to California from Guadalupe County had been done as early as 1854 by Maj. Michael Erskine. Several cattle drives from the Guadalupe County area then followed Erskine’s route to New Mexico, Arizona and California. However, during the Civil War only a few drives were made, mostly to fulfill military contracts.
Bose Ikard was born into slavery in July 1843 in Noxubee, Mississippi. In 1852, when he was a young boy, he moved to the frontier of Texas with his owner where he learned to ride, rope, and fight Indians. Following the Civil War, he gained his freedom but stayed on the ranch of his former owner, Dr. Milton Ikard. In the fall of 1865, Milton, Bose and their ranch hands teamed up to fight against Quanah Parker’s Comanches in a raid near Weatherford.
The next year, 1866, he used his ranching skills and got a job as a trail driver for Oliver Loving and his partner Charles Goodnight. Their cattle drives would originate in the Guadalupe County ranching area where Bose quickly earned a reputation as a top hand with the ability to get the job done.
In September 1867, when Loving died after being wounded in a Comanche Indian attack in New Mexico, Bose stayed with Charles Goodnight as a ranch hand. Goodnight said, “Bose surpassed any man I had in endurance and stamina. There was a dignity, a cleanliness and reliability about him that was wonderful. His behavior was very good in a fight and he was probably the most devoted man to me that I ever knew. I have trusted him farther than any man. He was my banker, my detective, and everything else in Colorado, New Mexico and the other wild country. The nearest and only bank was in Denver and when we had money, I gave it to Bose to carry.”
In February 1868, Goodnight and Bose exhumed Loving’s body at Fort Sumner, New Mexico, and returned it 700 miles back to Weatherford, to be reburied.
Larry McMurtry’s 1985 story “Lonesome Dove,” with its three characters, Woodrow Call, Gus McCrae and Josh Deets, was based partly on the lives of Goodnight, Loving and Ikard. The character Joshua Deets (Bose Ikard) was portrayed by Danny Glover.
When Bose died of the flu in April 1929, Charles Goodnight paid for the gravestone and had it inscribed: “Bose Ikard served with me for 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.”
In the movie, Captain Woodrow Call wrote on the gravestone, “Josh Deets served with me for 30 years, fought in 21 engagements with the Comanches and Kiowa, cheerful in all weather, never shirked a task. Splendid behavior.”
The Texas Historical marker near his grave states: Born a slave in Mississippi, Bose Ikard came to Texas as a child with the family of his owner, Dr. Milton L. Ikard. He remained as an employee of Dr. Ikard following his emancipation but, in 1866, he joined a cattle drive to Colorado led by Charles Goodnight and Oliver Loving. Ikard became one of Goodnight’s best cowboys and a trusted friend. Following his work in the cattle drives, Ikard settled in Weatherford, Texas, and became a rancher where Goodnight often visited him. Bose and his wife, Angelina, were the parents of six children when he died in 1929 at the age of 85. (Goodnight died in December 1929.)
Bose Ikard is buried in the Weatherford Cemetery in Weatherford. For his contribution to the state of Texas cattle industry and for being a real-life hero, Ikard was inducted into the Texas Trail of Fame, and a statue of him is now located in the Fort Worth Stockyards. In 1997, the new Weatherford Elementary School was named after him.