Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Good fer you, Little Buffalo Billy!

"It was about ten o'clock and we were keeping very quiet and hugging close to the bank, when I happened to look up to the moon-lit sky and saw the plumed head of an Indian peeping over the bank. Instead of hurrying ahead and alarming the men in a quiet way, I instantly aimed my gun at his head and fired.

The report rang out sharp and loud on the night air, and was immediately followed by an Indian whoop, and the next moment about six feet of dead Indian came tumbling into the river. I was not only overcome with astonishment, but was badly scared, as I could hardly realize what I had done. I expected to see the whole force of Indians come down upon us. While I was standing thus bewildered, the men, who had heard the shot and the war-whoop and had seen the Indian take a tumble, came rushing back.

'Who fired that shot?' cried Frank McCarthy.

'I did,' replied I, rather proudly, as my confidence returned and I saw the men coming up.

From that time forward I became a hero and an Indian killer. This was, of course, the first Indian I had ever shot, and as I was not then more than eleven years of age, my exploit created quite a sensation."

--from Buffalo Bill's Own Story

I thought we were to revere Buffalo Bill Cody for his legendary ability to kill buffalo, not Indians! Apparently, he was an all-purpose killing machine.

Eric and I passed this lovely bronze sculpture while driving through Oakley, Kansas, yesterday evening. It was created by Charles Norton to commemorate the murderous heroics that took place on the surrounding plains and gave rise to the legend of Buffalo Bill.

Here, I'll let Buffalo Bill tell it:

"The construction of the Kansas Pacific railroad was pushed forward with great rapidity, and when track-laying began it was only a very short time before the road was ready for construction trains as far west as the heart of the buffalo country. Twelve hundred men were employed in the work, and as the Indians were very troublesome it became difficult to obtain sufficient fresh meat to feed such an army of workmen. This embarrassment was at length overcome by the construction company engaging hunters to kill buffaloes, the flesh of which is equal to the best corn-fed beef.

Having heard of my experience and success as a buffalo hunter, Messrs. Goddard Brothers, who had the contract for boarding the employees of the road, met me in Hays City one day and made me a good offer to become their hunter, and I at once entered into a contract with them. They said that they would require about twelve buffaloes per day; that would be twenty-four hams, as we took only the hind-quarters and hump of each buffalo. As this was to be dangerous work, on account of the Indians, who were riding all over that section of the country, and as I would be obliged to go from five to ten miles from the road each day to hunt the buffaloes, accompanied by only one man with a light wagon for the transportation of the meat, I of course demanded a large salary. They could afford to remunerate me well, because the meat would not cost them anything.

They agreed to give me five hundred dollars per month, provided I furnished them all the fresh meat required.

Leaving my partner, Rose, to complete our grading contract, I immediately began my career as a buffalo hunter for the Kansas Pacific railroad, and it was not long before I acquired considerable notoriety. It was at this time that the very appropriate name of "Buffalo Bill" was conferred upon me by the road-hands. It has stuck to me ever since, and I have never been ashamed of it.

During my engagement as hunter for the company a period of less than eighteen months I killed 4,280 buffaloes; and I had many exciting adventures with the Indians, as well as hair breadth escapes, some of which are well worth relating."

--from Buffalo Bill's Own Story

Wow! Colonel Cody killed more than 4,000 buffalo in eighteen months, taking only the hams and leaving the rest of the meat to the buzzards and the starving Indians.

However, if you do the math, Colonel Bill Cody fell considerably short of the required twelve buffalo per day. He was supposed to kill 360 majestic beasts every month but, by his own braggadocious account, he brought down fewer than 250. So, tell me, why the big kudos? Maybe he made up the shortfall by killing a couple hundred Indians. In any case, the man was a few humps shy of becoming a hero in my book.


1 comment:

T.R. said...

What a hero and role model. Thanks for sharing. Disgusting.