29: The "Wild West" at the World's Fair
<< 28: A Tribute to General Miles || 30: Cody Day at the Omaha Exposition >>
EUROPEAN army officers of all nationalities regarded my brother
with admiring interest. To German, French, Italian, or British
eyes he was a commanding personality, and also the representative
of a peculiar and interesting phase of New World life.
Recalling their interest in his scenes from his native land,
so unlike anything to be found in Europe to-day, Will invited
a number of these officers to accompany him on an extended
hunting-trip through Western America.
All that could possibly do so accepted the invitation.
A date was set for them to reach Chicago, and from there arrangements
were made for a special train to convey them to Nebraska.
When the party gathered, several prominent Americans were of the number.
By General Miles's order a military escort attended them from Chicago,
and the native soldiery remained with them until North Platte was reached.
Then the party proceeded to "Scout's Rest Ranch," where they were hospitably
entertained for a couple of days before starting out on their long trail.
At Denver ammunition and supplies were taken on board the train.
A French chef was also engaged, as Will feared his distinguished
guests might not enjoy camp-fare. But a hen in water is no
more out of place than a French cook on a "roughing-it" trip.
Frontier cooks, who understand primitive methods, make no attempt
at a fashionable cuisine, and the appetites developed by open-air
life are equal to the rudest, most substantial fare.
Colorado Springs, the Garden of the Gods, and other places in Colorado
were visited. The foreign visitors had heard stories of this wonderland
of America, but, like all of nature's masterpieces, the rugged
beauties of this magnificent region defy an adequate description.
Only one who has seen a sunrise on the Alps can appreciate it.
The storied Rhine is naught but a story to him who has never looked upon it.
Niagara is only a waterfall until seen from various view-points, and
its tremendous force and transcendent beauty are strikingly revealed.
The same is true of the glorious wildness of our Western scenery;
it must be seen to be appreciated.
The most beautiful thing about the Garden of the Gods is
the entrance known as the Gateway. Color here runs riot.
The mass of rock in the foreground is white, and stands out in
sharp contrast to the rich red of the sandstone of the portals,
which rise on either side to a height of three hundred feet.
Through these giant portals, which in the sunlight glow
with ruddy fire, is seen mass upon mass of gorgeous color,
rendered more striking by the dazzling whiteness of Pike's Peak,
which soars upward in the distance, a hoary sentinel of the skies.
The whole picture is limned against the brilliant blue of
the Colorado sky, and stands out sharp and clear, one vivid
block of color distinctly defined against the other.
The name "Garden of the Gods" was doubtless applied because
of the peculiar shape of the spires, needles, and basilicas
of rock that rise in every direction. These have been
corroded by storms and worn smooth by time, until they present
the appearance of half-baked images of clay molded by human hands,
instead of sandstone rocks fashioned by wind and weather.
Each grotesque and fantastic shape has received a name.
One is here introduced to the "Washerwoman," the "Lady of
the Garden," the "Siamese Twins," and the "Ute God," and besides
these may be seen the "Wreck," the "Baggage Room," the "Eagle,"
and the "Mushroom." The predominating tone is everywhere red,
but black, brown, drab, white, yellow, buff, and pink rocks add
their quota to make up a harmonious and striking color scheme,
to which the gray and green of clinging mosses add a final
touch of picturesqueness.
At Flagstaff, Arizona, the train was discarded for the saddle
and the buckboard. And now Will felt himself quite in his element;
it was a never-failing pleasure to him to guide a large party
of guests over plain and mountain. From long experience
he knew how to make ample provision for their comfort.
There were a number of wagons filled with supplies, three buckboards,
three ambulances, and a drove of ponies. Those who wished to ride
horseback could do so; if they grew tired of a bucking broncho,
opportunity for rest awaited them in ambulance or buckboard.
The French chef found his occupation gone when it was a question
of cooking over a camp-fire; so he spent his time picking himself
up when dislodged by his broncho. The daintiness of his menu
was not a correct gauge for the daintiness of his language on
these numerous occasions.
Through the Grand Canon of the Colorado Will led the party,
and the dwellers of the Old World beheld some of the rugged magnificence
of the New. Across rushing rivers, through quiet valleys, and over lofty
mountains they proceeded, pausing on the borders of peaceful lakes,
or looking over dizzy precipices into yawning chasms.
There was no lack of game to furnish variety to their table;
mountain sheep, mountain lions, wildcats, deer, elk, antelope,
and even coyotes and porcupines, were shot, while the rivers
furnished an abundance of fish.
It seemed likely at one time that there might be a hunt of bigger game than
any here mentioned, for in crossing the country of the Navajos the party
was watched and followed by mounted Indians. An attack was feared, and had
the red men opened fire, there would have been a very animated defense;
but the suspicious Indians were merely on the alert to see that no trespass
was committed, and when the orderly company passed out of their territory
the warriors disappeared.
The visitors were much impressed with the vastness and the undeveloped
resources of our country. They were also impressed with the climate,
as the thermometer went down to forty degrees below zero while they were
on Buckskin Mountain. Nature seemed to wish to aid Will in the effort
to exhibit novelties to his foreign guests, for she tried her hand
at some spectacular effects, and succeeded beyond mortal expectation.
She treated them to a few blizzards; and shut in by the mass of whirling,
blinding snowflakes, it is possible their thoughts reverted with a homesick
longing to the sunny slopes of France, the placid vales of Germany,
or the foggy mildness of Great Britain.
On the summit of San Francisco Mountain, the horse of
Major St. John Mildmay lost its footing, and began to slip on the ice
toward a precipice which looked down a couple of thousand feet.
Will saw the danger, brought out his ever-ready lasso,
and dexterously caught the animal in time to save it and its rider—
a feat considered remarkable by the onlookers.
Accidents happened occasionally, many adventures were met with,
Indian alarms were given, and narrow were some of the escapes.
On the whole, it was a remarkable trail, and was written about under
the heading, "A Thousand Miles in the Saddle with Buffalo Bill."
At Salt Lake City the party broke up, each going his separate way.
All expressed great pleasure in the trip, and united in the opinion
that Buffalo Bill's reputation as guide and scout was a well-deserved one.
Will's knowledge of Indian nature stands him in good
stead when he desires to select the quota of Indians for
the summer season of the "Wild West." He sends word ahead
to the tribe or reservation which he intends to visit.
The red men have all heard of the wonders of the great show;
they are more than ready to share in the delights of travel,
and they gather at the appointed place in great numbers.
Will stands on a temporary platform in the center of the group.
He looks around upon the swarthy faces, glowing with all the eagerness
which the stolid Indian nature will permit them to display.
It is not always the tallest nor the most comely men who are selected.
The unerring judgment of the scout, trained in Indian warfare,
tells him who may be relied upon and who are untrustworthy.
A face arrests his attention—with a motion of his hand
he indicates the brave whom he has selected; another wave
of the hand and the fate of a second warrior is settled.
Hardly a word is spoken, and it is only a matter of a few moments'
time before he is ready to step down from his exalted position
and walk off with his full contingent of warriors following
happily in his wake.
The "Wild West" had already engaged space just outside the
World's Fair grounds for an exhibit in 1893, and Will was desirous
of introducing some new and striking feature. He had succeeded
in presenting to the people of Europe some new ideas, and, in return,
the European trip had furnished to him the much-desired novelty.
He had performed the work of an educator in showing to Old World
residents the conditions of a new civilization, and the idea
was now conceived of showing to the world gathered at the arena
in Chicago a representation of the cosmopolitan military force.
He called it "A Congress of the Rough Riders of the World." It is
a combination at once ethnological and military.
To the Indians and cowboys were added Mexicans, Cossacks, and South Americans,
with regular trained cavalry from Germany, France, England, and the
United States. This aggregation showed for the first time in 1893,
and was an instantaneous success. Of it Opie Read gives a fine description:
"Morse made the two worlds touch the tips of their fingers together.
Cody has made the warriors of all nations join hands.
"In one act we see the Indian, with his origin shrouded in history's
mysterious fog; the cowboy—nerve-strung product of the New World;
the American soldier, the dark Mexican, the glittering soldier of Germany,
the dashing cavalryman of France, the impulsive Irish dragoon,
and that strange, swift spirit from the plains of Russia, the Cossack.
"Marvelous theatric display, a drama with scarcely a word—
Europe, Asia, Africa, America in panoramic whirl, and yet
as individualized as if they had never left their own country."
In 1893 the horizon of my brother's interests enlarged.
In July of that year I was married to Mr. Hugh A. Wetmore,
editor of the Duluth _Press_. My steps now turned to the North,
and the enterprising young city on the shore of Lake Superior
became my home. During the long years of my widowhood my brother
always bore toward me the attitude of guardian and protector;
I could rely upon his support in any venture I deemed a promising one,
and his considerate thoughtfulness did not fail when I remarried.
He wished to see me well established in my new home; he desired
to insure my happiness and prosperity, and with this end in view
he purchased the Duluth _Press_ plant, erected a fine brick
building to serve as headquarters for the newspaper venture,
and we became business partners in the untried field of press work.
My brother had not yet seen the Zenith City. So in January of 1894
he arranged to make a short visit to Duluth. We issued invitations
for a general reception, and the response was of the genuine Western kind—
eighteen hundred guests assembling in the new Duluth _Press_ Building
to bid welcome and do honor to the world-famed Buffalo Bill.
His name is a household word, and there is a growing demand for
anecdotes concerning him. As he does not like to talk about himself,
chroniclers have been compelled to interview his associates,
or are left to their own resources. Like many of the stories told
about Abraham Lincoln, some of the current yarns about Buffalo Bill
are of doubtful authority. Nevertheless, a collection of those
that are authentic would fill a volume. Almost every plainsman
or soldier who met my brother during the Indian campaigns can tell
some interesting tale about him that has never been printed.
During the youthful season of redundant hope and happiness many
of his ebullitions of wit were lost, but he was always beloved
for his good humor, which no amount of carnage could suppress.
He was not averse to church-going, though he was liable even in church
to be carried away by the rollicking spirit that was in him.
Instance his visit to the little temple which he had helped to build
at North Platte.
His wife and sister were in the congregation, and this ought not
only to have kept him awake, but it should have insured perfect
decorum on his part. The opening hymn commenced with the words,
"Oh, for a thousand tongues to sing," etc. The organist,
who played "by ear," started the tune in too high a key to be
followed by the choir and congregation, and had to try again.
A second attempt ended, like the first, in failure.
"Oh, for a thousand tongues to sing, my blest—"
came the opening words for the third time, followed by a
squeak from the organ, and a relapse into painful silence.
Will could contain himself no longer, and blurted out:
"Start it at five hundred, and mebbe some of the rest of us
can get in."
Another church episode occurred during the visit of the "Wild West"
to the Atlanta Exposition. A locally celebrated colored preacher
had announced that he would deliver a sermon on the subject of
Abraham Lincoln. A party of white people, including my brother,
was made up, and repaired to the church to listen to the eloquent address.
Not wishing to make themselves conspicuous, the white visitors took
a pew in the extreme rear, but one of the ushers, wishing to honor them,
insisted on conducting them to a front seat. When the contribution
platter came around, our hero scooped a lot of silver dollars
from his pocket and deposited them upon the plate with such force
that the receptacle was tilted and its contents poured in a jingling
shower upon the floor. The preacher left his pulpit to assist
in gathering up the scattered treasure, requesting the congregation
to sing a hymn of thanksgiving while the task was being performed.
At the conclusion of the hymn the sable divine returned to the pulpit
and supplemented his sermon with the following remarks:
"Brudderen an' sisters: I obsahve dat Co'nel and Gen'l Buflo Bill
am present. [A roar of "Amens" and "Bless God's" arose from the
audience.] You will wifhold yuh Amens till I git froo. You all owes
yuh freedom to Abraham's bosom, but he couldn't hab went an' gone an'
done it widout Buflo Bill, who he'ped him wid de sinnoose ob wah!
Abraham Lincum was de brack man's fren'—Buflo Bill am de fren'
ob us all. ["Amen!" screamed a sister.] Yes, sistah, he am yo'
fren', moreova, an' de fren' ob every daughtah ob Jakup likewise.
De chu'ch debt am a cross to us, an' to dat cross he bends his
back as was prefigu'd in de scriptu's ob ol', De sun may move,
aw de sun mought stan' still, but Buflo Bill nebba stan's still—
he's ma'ching froo Geo'gia wid his Christian cowboys to sto'm de
Lookout Mountain ob Zion. Deacon Green Henry Turner will lead us
in prayah fo' Buflo Bill."
The following is one of Will's own stories: During the first years
of his career as an actor Will had in one of his theatrical companies
a Westerner named Broncho Bill. There were Indians in the troupe,
and a certain missionary had joined the aggregation to look after
the morals of the Indians. Thinking that Broncho Bill would bear
a little looking after also, the good man secured a seat by his side
at the dinner-table, and remarked pleasantly:
"This is Mr. Broncho Bill, is it not?"
"Where were you born?"
"Near Kit Bullard's mill, on Big Pigeon."
"Religious parents, I suppose?"
"What is your denomination?"
"O—ah—yaas. Smith & Wesson."
While on his European tour Will was entertained by a great many potentates.
At a certain dinner given in his honor by a wealthy English lord, Will met
for the first time socially a number of blustering British officers,
fresh from India. One of them addressed himself to the scout as follows:
"I understand you are a colonel. You Americans are blawsted fond
of military titles, don't cherneow. By gad, sir, we'll have to come
over and give you fellows a good licking!"
"What, again?" said the scout, so meekly that for an instant
his assailant did not know how hard he was hit, but he realized
it when the retort was wildly applauded by the company.
Before closing these pages I will give an account of an episode which
occurred during the Black Hills gold excitement, and which illustrates
the faculty my hero possesses of adapting himself to all emergencies.
Mr. Mahan, of West Superior, Wisconsin, and a party of adventurous
gold-seekers were being chased by a band of Indians, which they
had succeeded in temporarily eluding. They met Buffalo Bill at
the head of a squad of soldiers who were looking for redskins.
The situation was explained to the scout, whereupon he said:
"I am looking for that identical crowd. Now, you draw up in line,
and I will look you over and pick out the men that I want to go
back with me."
Without any questioning he was able to select the men
who really wanted to return and fight the Indians. He left
but two behind, but they were the ones who would have been
of no assistance had they been allowed to go to the front.
Will rode some distance in advance of his party, and when the Indians
sighted him, they thought he was alone, and made a dash for him.
Will whirled about and made his horse go as if fleeing
for his life. His men had been carefully ambushed.
The Indians kept up a constant firing, and when he reached
a certain point Will pretended to be hit, and fell from his horse.
On came the Indians, howling like a choir of maniacs.
The next moment they were in a trap, and Will and his men
opened fire on them, literally annihilating the entire squad.
It was the Indian style of warfare, and the ten "good Indians"
left upon the field, had they been able to complain, would have
had no right to do so.
Will continued the march, and as the day was well advanced,
began looking for a good place to camp. Arriving at the top
of a ridge overlooking a little river, Will saw a spot where he had
camped on a previous expedition; but, to his great disappointment,
the place was in possession of a large village of hostiles,
who were putting up their tepees, building camp fires, and making
themselves comfortable for the coming night.
Quick as a flash Will decided what to do. "There are too many of them
for us to whip in the tired condition of ourselves and horses,"
said our hero. Then he posted his men along the top of the ridge,
with instructions to show themselves at a signal from him, and descended
at once, solitary and alone, to the encampment of hostiles.
Gliding rapidly up to the chief, Will addressed him in his own
dialect as follows:
"I want you to leave here right away, quick! I don't want to kill
your women and children. A big lot of soldiers are following me,
and they will destroy your whole village if you are here when they come."
As he waved his hand in the direction of the hilltop, brass buttons
and polished gun-barrels began to glitter in the rays of the setting sun,
and the chief ordered his braves to fold their tents and move on.
<< 28: A Tribute to General Miles || 30: Cody Day at the Omaha Exposition >>