1846-1917 Buffalo Bill.

Buffalo Bill's own story of his life and deeds; this autobiography tells in his own graphic words the wonderful story of his heroic career; online

. (page 19 of 26)
Online Library1846-1917 Buffalo BillBuffalo Bill's own story of his life and deeds; this autobiography tells in his own graphic words the wonderful story of his heroic career; → online text (page 19 of 26)
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it on my head."

Sample, who was as cool as a cucumber, said to Milligan :
" There must be something wrong with your hair. It must be
trying to get on end."

" It's all very fine for you fellows to stand here and talk,"
replied Milligan, " but I am not doing justice to my family by
remaining. Sample, I think we are a couple of old fools to have
come out here, and I never would have done so if it had not
been for you."

By this time the Indians had discovered us and were holding a
consultation, and Milligan turned his horse in the direction of the
camp. I never believed that he was half as scared as he seemed
to be, but that he was merely pretending so that we could enjoy
our joke. However, we did not wait any longer, but rode into
camp and notified Captain Russell, who immediately started with
his company to pursue the band. While we were riding along
with the company Milligan said to Sample: "Now, Alick, let
them come on. We may yet go back to Chicago covered with

We struck the trail going north . but as we had not come out


on a scout for Indians, we concluded not to follow them; al-
though Milligan was now very anxious to proceed and clean them
out. The hunt came to an end in a day or two, and we escorted the
visiting sportsmen to North Platte, where they took the train for
Chicago. Before their departure they extended to me a very
cordial invitation to come to their city on a visit, promising that
I should be well taken care of.


Soon after this I had the pleasure of guiding a party of gen-
tlemen from Omaha on a buffalo hunt. Among the number

were Judge Dundy, Colonel Watson B. Smith, and U. S. Dis-
trict Attorney Neville. We left Fort McPherson in good trim.
I was greatly amused at the " style " of Mr. Neville, who wore
a stove-pipe hat and a swallow tail coat, which made up a very
comical rig for a buffalo hunter. As we galloped over the prai-
rie, he jammed his hat down over his ears to keep it from being
shaken off his head, and in order to stick to his horse, he clung
to the pommel of his saddle. He was not much of a rider, and
he went bouncing up and down, with his swallow-tails flopping
in the air. The sight I shall never forget, for it was enough to
make a " horse laugh,'* and I actually believe old Buckskin Jot
did laugh.

However, we had a splendid hunt, and on the second day I


Photo by Drake.



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Who is this gallant cavalier
that rides in from the West?


1 A fellow prince among the kings,
a sovereign by the right

1 1: . ., . ,i : 5 i ; <

Where the altars of the Druids
and ancient abbeys lie,

? " * '^' .

He drove the bronze barbarians
into the setting sun.

By the Tiber, 'neath the shadow
of St. Peter's lofty dome,


'Mong the willows by the river, lfil 'Mong potentates and powers,
on mesa, hill and plain, in the cities of the kings,

He led toward the Orient
his motley, nomad throng,

When by this mighty inland sea
the vast White City gleamed,


lariated, or roped, a big buffalo bull and tied him to a tree, a
feat which I had often performed, and which the gentlemen re-
quested me to do on this occasion for their beoefit, as they had
heard of my skill with the lariat. I captured several other buf-
faloes in the same way. The gentlemen returned to Omaha well
pleased with their hunt.

In the fall of the year 1872, a convention was held at Grand
Island, when some of my friends made me their candidate to re-
present the Twenty-sixth District in the Legislature of Nebraska;
but as I had always been a Democrat and the State was largely
Republican, I had no idea of being elected. In fact I cared very
little about it, and therefore made no effort whatever to secure
an election. However, I was elected and that is the way in
which I acquired my title of Honorable.




,URING the summer and fall of 1872, 1 received
numerous letters from Ned Buntline, urging me
to come East and go upon the stage to
represent my own character. * ' There's
money in it," he wrote, " and you will
prove a big card, as your character is a
novelty on the stage."

At times I almost determined to
make the venture ; but the recollection of that night when I
stood on the stage of the Bowery Theater and was unable to
utter a word above a whisper, would cause me to stop and think
and become irresolute. I feared that I would be a total
failure, and wrote Buntline to that effect. But he insisted
that I would soon get over all that embarrassment, and become
accustomed to the stage, so that I would think no more of ap-
pearing before five thousand people than I would before half a
dozen. He proposed to organize a good company, and wished
me to meet him in Chicago, where the opening performance
would be given.

I remained undecided as to what I ought to do. The officers
at the fort, as well as my family and friends to whom I had men-
tioned the matter, laughed at the idea of my ever becoming an
actor. That I, an old scout who had never seen more than twenty
or thirty theatrical performances in my life, should think of go-
ing upon the stage, was ridiculous in the extreme so they all

A few days after my election to the Legislature a happy event
occurred in my family circle, in the birth of a daughter whom
we named Ora ; about the same time I received another letter
from Buntline, in which he requested me to appear on the stage
for a few months as an experiment; and he said that if I made



a failure or did not like the business, I could easily return to my
old life.

My two sisters who had been living with us had married
Nellie, to A. C. Jester, a cattle man, and May, to Ed. Bradford,
a railroad engineer and consequently left us; and my wife
had been wishing for a long time to visit her parents in St.
Louis. Taking these and other things into consideration I finally
resolved to resign my seat in the Legislature and try my luck
behind the foot-lights.
I informed General Eey-
nolds of my determina-
tion, telling him at the
same time that at the end
of the month, November,
I would resign my posi-
tion under him. The
General regretted to hear
this, and advised me not
to take the step, for I
was leaving a comfort-
able little home, where I
was sure of making a
good living for my
family; while, on the
other hand, I was em-
barking upon a sea of
uncertainty . Having


once made up my mind, however, nothing could change it.


While I was selling my horses and other effects, preparatory
to leaving the fort, one of my brother scouts, Texas Jack, said
he would like to accompany me. Now as Jack had also appeared
as the hero in one of Ned Buntline's stories, I thought that he
would make as good a " star " as myself, and it was accordingly
arranged tha* Jack should go with me. On our way east we


stopped in Omaha a day or two to visit General Augur and other
officers, and also the gentlemen who were out on the Judge
Dundy Hunt. Judge Dundy and his friends gave a dinner party
in my honor at the leading restaurant and entertained me very
handsomely during my stay in the city.

At Omaha I parted with my family, who went to St. Louis,
while Jack and myself proceeded to Chicago. Ned Buntline and
Mr. Milligan, having been apprised of our coming by a telegram,
met us at the depot. Mr. Milligan accompanied us to the Sher-
man house, where he had made arrangements for us to be his
guests while we remained in the city. I didn't see much of
Buntline that evening, as he hurried off to deliver a temperance
lecture in one of the public halls. The next day we met him by
appointment, and the first thing he said, was:

" Boys, are you ready for business? "

"I can't answer that," replied I, " for we don't know what
we are going to do."

"It's all arranged," said he, "and you'll have no trouble
whatever. Come with me. We'll go and see Nixon, manager
of the Amphitheater. That's the place where we are to play.
We'll open there next Monday night." Jack and myself ac-
cordingly accompanied him to Manager Nixon's office without
saying a word, as we didn't know what to say.

"Here we are, Mr. Nixon," said Buntline; "here are the
stars for you. Here are the boys; and they are a fine pair to
draw to. Now, Nixon, I am prepared for business."

Nixon and Buntline had evidently had a talk about the terms
of our engagement. Buntline, it seems, was to furnish the com-
pany, the drama, and the pictorial printing, and was to receive
sixty per cent, of the gross receipts for his share ; while Nixon
was to furnish the theater, the attaches, the orchestra, and the
local printing, and receive forty per cent, of the gross receipts.


" I am ready for you, Buntline. Have you got your company
yet? " asked Nixon.


"No, sir; but there are plenty of idle theatrical people in
tosvn, and I can raise a company in two hours,'* was his reply.

"You haven't much time to spare, if you open on Monday
night," said Nixon. " If you will allow me to look at youi
drama, to see what kind of people you want, I'll assist you in
organizing your company."

" I have not yet written the drama," said Buntline.

" What the deuce do you mean? This is Wednesday, and you
propose to open on next Monday night. The idea is ridiculous.
Here you are at this late hour without a company and without a
disma. This will never do, Buntline. I shall have to break my
contract with you, for you can't possibly write a drama, cast it,
. nd rehearse it properly for Monday night. Furthermore, you
have no pictorial printing as yet. These two gentlemen, whom
you have with you, have never been on the stage, and they cer-
tainly must have time to study their parts. It is preposterous to
think of opening on Monday night, and I'll cancel the engage-

This little speech was delivered in rather an excited manner by
Mr. Nixon. Buntline said that he would write the drama that
day and also select his company and have them at the theater for
rehearsal next morning. Nixon laughed at him, and said there
was no use of trying to undertake anything of the kind in so
short a time it was utterly impossible to do it. Buntline,
whose ire was rising, said to Nixon: " What rent will you ask
for your theater for next week? "

" Six hundred dollars," was the reply.

" Well, sir, I'll take your theater for next week at that price,
and here is half the amount in advance," said Buntline, as he
threw down three hundred dollars on the stand. Nixon took the
money, gave a receipt for it, and had nothing more to say.

" Now, come with me boys," said Buntline, and away we went
to the hotel. Buntline immediately obtained a supply of pens,
ink and paper, and then engaged all the hotel clerks as penmen.
In less than an hour after he had rented the theater, he was dash-
Ing off page afte** nage of his prop.osed drama the work being



done in his room at the hotel. He then set his clerks at copying
for him, and at the end of four hours he jumped up from the
table, and enthusiastically shouted ; "Hurrah for 'The Scouts
of the Plains ! ' That's the name of the play. The work is
done. Hurrah!"

The parts were then copied off separately by the clerks, and
handing us our respective portions Buntline said: " Now, boys,
go to work, and do your level best to have this dead-letter per-
fect for the rehearsal, which takes place to-morrow morning at ten

o'clock, prompt. I want to show
Nixon that we'll be ready on

I looked at my part and then
at Jack ; and Jack looked at his
part and then at me. Then we
looked at each other, and then
at Buntline. We did not know
I what to make of the man,


" How long will it take to
commit your part to memory,
Bill?" asked Jack.

" About six months, as near
as I can calculate. How long
will it take you ? ' ' answered I .

" It will take me about that
length of time to learn the first
line," said Jack. Nevertheless
we went to our room and com-
I thought it was the hardest work I had ever

menced studying,

" This is dry business," finally remarked Jack.

" That's just what it is," I answered ; " jerk the bell, Jack."
The bell-boy soon appeared. We ordered refreshments; after
partaking thereof we resumed our task. We studied hard for
an hour or two, but finally gave it up as a bad job, although we
had succeeded in committing, a small portion to memory. Bunt-


line now came into the room and said: "Boys, hov are you
getting along? "

" I guess we'll have to go back on this studying business as it
isn't our forte," said I.

" Don't weaken now, Bill ; you'll come out on the top of the
heap yet. Let me hear you recite your part," said Buntline. I
began " spouting " what I had learned, but was interrupted by
Buntline: "Tut! tut! you're not saying it right. You must
stop at the cue."

" Cue ! What the mischief do you mean by the cue? I never
saw any cue except in a billiard room," said I. Buntline there-
upon explained it to me, as well as to Jack, who was ignorant
as myself concerning the " cue " business.

'< Jack, I think we had better back out and go to hunting
again," said I.


" See here, boys; it won't do to go back on me at this stage
of the game. Stick to it, and it may be the turning point in
your lives and lead you on to fortune and to fame."

" A fortune is what we are after, and we'll at least give the
wheel a turn or two to see what luck we have," said I. This
satisfied Buntline, but we didn't study any more after he left us.
The next morning we appeared at rehearsal and was introduced
to the company. The first rehearsal was hardly a success ; and
the succeeding ones were not much better. The stage manager
did his best to teach Jack and myself what to do, but when
Monday night come we didn't know much more about it than
when we began.

The clock struck seven, and then we put on our buckskin suits,
which were the costumes we were to appear in. The theater
was being rapidly filled, and it was evident that we were going
to make our debut before a packed house. As the minutes passed
by, Jack and I became more and more nervous. We occasionally
looked through the holes in the curtain, and saw that the people


When at length the curtain arose, our courage had returned,
so that we thought we could face the immense crowd ; yet when
the time came for us to go on, we were rather slow in making
our appearance. As we stepped forth we were received with a
storm of applause, which we acknowledged with a bow.

Buntline, who was taking the part of " Gale Durg," appeared,
and gave me the " cue " to speak " my little piece/' but for the
life of me I could not remember a single word. Buntline saw I


was " stuck," and a happy thought occurred to him. He said,
as if it were in the play :


" Where have you been, Bill? What has kept you so long? "
Just then my eye happened to fall on Mr. Milligan, who was
surrounded by his friends, the newspaper reporters, and several
military officers, all of whom had heard of his hunt and " Indian
fight" he being a very popular man, and widely known in
Chicago. So I said:

" I have been out on a hunt with Milligan. "


This proved to be a big hit. The audience cheered and ap-
plauded, which gave rne greater confidence in my ability to get
through the performance all right. Buntline, who was a very ver-
satile man, saw that it would be a good plan to follow this up
and said: " Well, Bill, tell us all about the hunt." I thereupon
proceeded to relate in detail the particulars of the affair. 1
succeeded in making it rather funny, and I was frequently
interrupted by rounds of applause. Whenever I began to
"weaken," Buntline would give me a fresh start, by asking
some question. In this way I took up fifteen minutes, without
once speaking a word of my part ; nor did I speak a word of it
during the whole evening. The prompter, who was standing
between the wings, attempted to prompt me, but it did no good;
for while I was on the stage I " chipped in " anything I thought of.

The " Scouts of the Plains " was an Indian drama, of course:
and there were between forty and fifty * * supers ' ' dressed as In-
dians. In the fight with them, Jack and I were at home. We
blazed away at each other with blank cartridges ; and when the
scene ended in a hand-to-hand encounter a general knock-
down and drag-out the way Jack and I killed Indians was * * a
caution." Wo would kill them all off in one act, but they
would come up again ready for business in the next. Finally
the curtain dropped, the play was ended, and I congratulated
Jack and myself on having made such a brilliant and successful
debut. There was no backing out after that.


The next morning there appeared in the Chicago papers some
funny criticisms on our first performance. The papers gave us a
better send-off than I expected, for they did not criticise us as
actors. The Chicago Times said that if Buntline had actually
spent four hours in writing that play, it was difficult for anyone
to see what he had been doing all the time. Buntline, as " Cale
Durg," was killed in the second act, after a long temperance
speech; and the Inter-Ocean said that it was to be regretted
that he had not been killed in the first act. The company, how-


ever, was very good, and M'dlle. Morlacchi, as "Pale Dove,"
particularly fine; while Miss Cafarno "spouted" a poem of
some seven hundred and three verses, more or less, of which
the reader will be glad to know that I only recall the words ' J
was born in March."

Our engagement proved a decided success financially, if not
artistically. Nixon was greatly surprised at the result, and at
the end of the week he induced Buntline to take him in as a
partner in the company.

The next week we played at DeBar's Opera House, in St.
Louis, doing an immense business. The following week we
were at Cincinnati, where the theater was so crowded every
night that hundreds were unable to obtain admission. We met
with equal success all over the country. Theatrical managers,
upon hearing of this new and novel combination, which was
drawing such tremendous houses, were all anxious to secure us;
and we received offers of engagements at all the leading
theaters. We played one week at the Boston Theater, and the
gross receipts amounted to $16,200. We also appeared at Nib-
lo's Garden, New York, the theater being crowded to its utmost
capacity every night of the engagement. At the Arch Street
Theater, Philadelphia, it was the same way. There was not a
single city where we did not have crowded houses.

We closed our tour on the 16th of June, 1873, at Port Jervis,
New York, and when I counted up my share of the profits I
found that I was only about $6,000 ahead. I was somewhat dis-
appointed, for, judging from our large business, I certainly had
expected a greater sum.

Texas Jack and myself longed for a hunt on the Western
prairies once more; and on meeting in New York a party of gen-
tlemen who were desirous of going with us, we all started west-
ward, and after a pleasant trip arrived at Fort McPherson.


Texas Jack and I spent several weeks hunting in the western
part of Nebraska, and after this pleasant recreation we went \JP



New York and organized a theatrical company for the season of
1873-74. Among the people we engaged for our next tour was
Wild Bill, whose name, we knew, would be a drawing card.
Bill did not think well of our enterprise on account of our un-
familiarity with the stage, but a large salary forced him to forego
his diffidence before the public, and he accordingly made his
debut as an actor. He remained with us during a greater part of
the season, much to our advantage, and would have continued
but for a demoralizing habit that compelled us to part with


him. The habit to which I refer was that of firing blank cart-
ridges at the legs of the supers, often burning them severely and
at times almost bringing our performance to a ridiculous close.
I demonstrated with him time and again, but all to no purpose,
and at last, worn out with expostulations, I reluctantly told him
he must either quit shooting the supers or leave the company.
Without making any reply he retired to the dressing room and
there changing his clothes he elbowed his way out through the
audience, leaving word with the stage-carpenter that I could go


to thunder with my show. I met him later in the evening and
tried to persuade him to remain with me, but to no avail, and
finding him determined Jack and I paid him his wages and gave
aim an extra purse of $1,000, with which he bade us good-

The next I heard of Wild Bill was as a star at the head of a
won d-be rival organization that soon went to pieces. Bil)
left the troupe under the belief that it had disbanded, but
he directly after learned that the company had reorganized
and were presenting the same play with an actor personating
him. When Bill ascertained this fact he sent a letter to the
manager demanding that the name of Wild Bill be stricken from
the advertisements, but no attention was paid to his objections.
Determined to stop the bogus exhibition Bill went to a town
where the company was announced to appear and, purchasing a
ticket, took a seat near the orchestra, ready for business. When
the bogus character at length appeared Bill jumped over the foot-
lights and seizing his personator, threw him through one of the
scenes, and then knocked down the manager, who was dressed
in the disguise of an Indian, and kicked him over the lights and
onto the fellow who was blowing a big horn in the orchestra.
The excitement broke up the performance and Bill was arrested,
but was let off with a fine of three dollars, which he cheerfully
paid for so happy a privilege, after which he went West and
participated in several adventures of a thrilling character, a
description of which, however, does not properly belong here.


Jack and I played a very successful season, closing at Boston
on the 13th of May, 1874. Business called me to New York,
and while attending to several matters preparatory to returning
to the West, I met an English gentleman, Thomas P. Medley,
of London, who had come to America for a hunt on the plains.
He had often heard of me and was anxious to engage me as his
guide and companion, and he offered to pay the liberal salary of
one thousand dollars a month while I was with him. He was a



very wealthy man, as I learned upon inquiry, and was a relative
of Mr. Lord, of the firm of Lord & Taylor, of New York. Of
course I accepted his

When we reached
the hunting ground
in Nebraska, he in-
formed me, some-
wnat to my surprise,
that he did not want
to go out as Alexis
did, with carriages,
servants, and other
luxuries, but that he
wished to rough it
just as I would do
to sleep on the
ground in the open
air, and kill and cook
his own meat. Wo
started out from
North Platte, and
spent several weeks
in hunting all over
the country.

Mr. Medley proved
to be a very agree-
able gentleman and
an excellent hunter.
While in camp he
busied himself carry-
ing wood and water,
attending to the fire,
and preparing and cooking the meals, never asking me to do a
thing. He did not perform these m enial services to save expenses,
but because he wanted to do us the other hunters in the oarty


were doing. After spending as much time as he wished, we re-
turned to the railroad, and he took the train for the East. Every-
thing that was required on this hunt was paid for ir, a most liberal
manner by Mr. Medley, who also gave the members of the party
several handsome presents.

About this time an expedition consisting of seven companies
of cavalry and two companies of infantry, to be commanded
by Colonel Mills of the Third Cavalry, was being organized to

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Online Library1846-1917 Buffalo BillBuffalo Bill's own story of his life and deeds; this autobiography tells in his own graphic words the wonderful story of his heroic career; → online text (page 19 of 26)