Adventures of Buffalo Bill - William Cody

Buffalo Bill and His Show

There is only a word to be said of Buffalo Bill's "Wild West," because the space at our command does not make it possible to tell the whole story in detail. The enterprise is now one of huge proportions, but it started much smaller. The reason for its enormous popularity and increase is that it is almost unique among plays or shows of every kind. For it gives to the audience a real picture, with real characters, of a most exciting period of civilization in this country that never has existed anywhere else, and that never will exist again. The Indians that have mock fights in Buffalo Bill's arena to-day are absolutely the same men who used to track him and try to kill him in the Indian campaigns twenty or thirty years ago. The Deadwood coach that is attacked in the arena by Indians with the shooting of guns is the same coach that used to run across the plains and that has time and time again been attacked in the same way, but with very different intent. The cowboys and frontiersmen who ride are the same men who used to live on the plains and herd cattle, and the ponies they ride are the bucking bronchos of the West.

There have often been doubts expressed as to the reality of some of this. One instance is enough to show the contrary. When the great Wild West Show went to Europe and traveled about in the ancient cities of Italy, they came finally to Rome and gave their daily exhibition there. In one of the boxes sat an Italian nobleman, the Prince of Sermonetta, who made the statement to his friends that he doubted whether the broncho busters—the men who ride the bucking bronchos—were really as good riders as they seemed. He thought the ponies were trained to buck.

This came to the ears of Buffalo Bill, and he answered it in his usual polite but sturdy fashion. Then the nobleman met him and told him that he had some wild horses on his estate in the country that had never been ridden and could not be controlled except in a mass. Buffalo Bill at once said that if he would have the horses brought to his arena some afternoon during the show he would like to have his men make a try at riding them. Nothing pleased the nobleman more, and of course the experiment was advertised all over Italy.

On the appointed day the horses were brought on in cars. There was considerable difficulty and a good deal of excitement in getting them out of the cars and into the arena. As soon as they found themselves loose after being cooped up in such undignified fashion, they were wild indeed. The arena was cleared of everything except those furious beasts, and then half a dozen cowboys calmly walked in with their lariats to make the trial. It was probably the most interesting exhibition ever given by the Wild West Show. Quietly and warily the cow punchers threw their lassoes, wound them about the feet of the horses, threw them, and held them down. Then they saddled and bridled them, and then the riding began.

The show was not materially delayed; the audience left and got home at the usual time; but before they had quitted the arena every one of the wild horses was ridden quietly and in dignified fashion around the ring and up in front of the nobleman's box, and it was reported that no one was more pleased than that same nobleman himself.

There are many additional and interesting features to Buffalo Bill's show to-day, such as the Cossack riders, the San Juan battle, and the regiments of different European armies. But they do not add to the value of what will go down in history as "Buffalo Bill's Wild West." That is all true as gold. That is justly remarkable because of the real way in which it tells a real story, and if the boy of to-day who reads this would like to see what the Indians and the white men of the Western plains were in those days, how they fought, how they traveled, and how they lived, he may see it still by going to see the show. He will never see it anywhere else again.

In ending this little sketch of a remarkable man it is worth telling an episode of the experience of these natives of the wilderness in the midst of the centuries-old cities of the Old World. Everywhere the company went in England, in Europe, the famous scout was entertained by royalty and entertained them in return. One day after they had opened in London the King, then the Prince of Wales, expressed a desire to see the show. A box was prepared and the royal party attended. The whole exhibition was so new and interesting that in a short time the Prince went again, and expressed a desire to ride around the ring in the Deadwood coach. Buffalo Bill was ready and called for five passengers. The five passengers who accepted were the Prince of Wales himself on the box beside Buffalo Bill, and four kings who happened to be visiting in England—the King of Denmark, the King of Saxony, the King of Greece, and the Crown Prince of Austria.

As usual, the coach started. But this time the Indians who attacked and the cowboys who rescued the coach had been instructed to "do something a little extra," to give a little louder yells, to fire a few more shots. And it is no wonder if, as the rumor goes—though proof does not exist—that before the ride was over some of the four kings were under the seats. When the trip was finished and the Prince of Wales congratulated Buffalo Bill, he said to him:

"Colonel, did you ever hold four kings like that before?"

And Cody replied: "I have held four kings more than once. But, your Royal Highness, I never held four kings and a royal joker before."