Thank you 44MagLeo.On my Dakota I had the same noise. Turned out to be the rear end. The rear end crapped out. The driver's side bearing that supports the differential in the axle housing went bad. Swapped the rear end out. Now no noise. Check it out. Won't cost you anything but some time. Check axle end play, check pinion shaft for side play at yoke as well as end play at yoke.
I will definitely check the rear end axle end play and the pinion shaft when I jack my truck up to mount the original-sized spare tire on the right front as a test.
I can't think of any examples off hand, but so many times in troubleshooting problems over the years, I have found conditions or events that you could never have imagined would cause a specific problem, yet they were in fact the source of the problem.
This is just the kind of real-life experience I was hoping to uncover.
Thanks to everyone for these good and experienced-based problem solving suggestions. I will let you know how I make out.