Legend Or Fact

Written by Stephen Dock

An acquaintance of mine, Wayne Ludwig, recently wrote a book “The Old Chisholm Trail From Cow Path to Tourist Stop” and in an interview he referenced a scene from the movie “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” In the scene the reporter realizes that an entire reputation is based on a myth, but after reflection, he throws his interview notes into the fire. “This is the West, sir,” he explains. “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”

The Great Western Cattle Trail may have never been called the Great Western during its historic use, but for a name we can use in our modern era that identifies the location and continues to pay homage to all the people, places and critters that made up the trail, I can’t think of a more fitting name than “The Great Western.”

The trail had many different names during its use: the Texas Cattle Trail, the Abilene & Ft. Dodge Trail, the Ft. Griffin-Ft. Dodge Trail, the Chisholm Trail, the Dodge City Trail and etc. Basically any group of people traveling up the trail used the destination they were headed for as the name. They may have even given it a name based on an event that occurred while traveling on the trail, such as the cowboy telling his story, “You remember Joe, that darned trail I broke my arm on?” So we’ll just keep calling it The Great Western Cattle Trail because if the trail had never existed, that would have not been so “Great.”


Prior to the disruption caused by Covid-19, WAYNE LUDWIG was a resident historian of the National Multicultural Western Heritage Museum in Fort Worth

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