His larger-than-life career linked two centuries. He was born
in Iowa Territory in February 26, 1846 and died in Denver.
Colorado on January 10, 1917 He was the stereotype of the wild
west: Indian scout, buffalo hunter, gold prospector, Civil War
soldier, pony express rider, rancher: William Fredrick Cody was
that and more. He also
was many of the things that we think of as "20th century":
career included Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, showman,
entrepreneur, town founder, owner of a dude ranch and big game
hunting preserve and even environmentalist.
On a recent visit to his Scout's Rest Ranch near North Platte,
Nebraska, I learned much about this unusual man. Cody had the two-story
second empire style mansion built on about 4,000 acres during
the heyday of his traveling show known as
and named it Scout's Rest
Ranch. The style and the cupola atop the home give it a
decidedly Gothic look.
|Having a good time visiting
Buffalo Bill's home
Today it is the site of Buffalo Bill State
Historical Park which encompasses 25 acres of Cody's original
ranch, including the house and barn. The park offers RV and
primitive camping and picnic areas but for me the main
attraction was Scouts Rest and the story it told about the man
behind the legend.
Jason Tonsfeldt, park superintendant. showed
us through the home and outbuildings. He calls it "One
of the coolest places I have ever been."
In the dining room, the wallpaper is a copy of the original
designed by BB. When the home was restored in the 1960s, a small
section of the original paper was found. The paper is in effect
a story of Buffalo Bill's life. It
is filled with log cabins, Indians, stagecoaches and buffalo.
There is a woman on a horse shooting a gun believed to represent
Annie Oakley and the man on the bottom in front of a bunch of
teepees would be Buffalo Bill himself.
The home is filled with pieces correct to
the period but only a few are original pieces owned by Buffallo
Bill himself, the sideboard and clock in the dining room and in
his den or office, there is a rolltop desk and chair that is
original to the home.
| Clock was Buffalo Bill's
Portraits reflect Buffalo Bill as a family
man. There are several in the home of his wife, Louisa
Frederici. and their four children.
He entertained a lot so he had large rooms
to accommodate a lot of people. We asked Jason what famous
people Buffalo Bill might have entertained. He named "Teddy
Roosevelt, Annie Oakley, Sitting Bull, maybe Houdini, and Grand
Duke Alexis (sixth child of Russian Emperor Alexander II)."
There was no guest book kept at Scouts Rest
but according to Buffalo Bill's diary, he was a guide for the
buffalo hunting trip in January 1872 celebrating the
duke's twenty second birthday.
Buffalo Bill wrote of the event, "Alexis at first preferred to
use his pistol instead of a gun. He fired six shots from this
weapon at buffaloes only twenty feet away from him, but as he
shot wildly, not one of his bullets took effect. Riding up to
his side and seeing that his weapon was empty, I exchanged
pistols with him. He again fired six shots, without dropping a
buffalo. Seeing that the animals were bound to make their escape
without his killing one of them, unless he had a better weapon,
I rode up to him, gave him my old reliable 'Lucretia,' and told
him to urge his horse close to the buffaloes, and I would then
give him the word when to shoot. At the same time I gave old
Buckskin Joe (one of Buffalo Bill's own horses) a blow with my
whip, and with a few jumps the horse carried the Grand Duke to
within about ten feet of a big buffalo bull. 'Now is your time,'
said I. He fired, and down went the buffalo."
|Buffalo Bill's bedroom
Another unusual feature is that every bedroom has a closet. In
that day a closet was taxed as a room. The centerpiece of the
kitchen is a shiny black woodstove that used corn cobs for
cooking. That required careful tending as you had to put in just
the correct amount of cobs. He had a good icebox, the
refrigeration of the day. Obviously he liked his food fresh and
|Barn at Scout's Rest
The house is like a big time capsule. So we
can see him a very social and family man who would spare no
expense for his comfort and that of his family and guests. It
also reflects the attitude of his time about hunting for sport.
The outbuildings are designed for the occupation that allowed
him to build such a luxurious home, showman. The barn is huge
and filled with memorabilia of his show; a covered wagon,
several buggies, lots of stalls for his prized horses. In front
of a larger-than-life painting there is a saddle where you can
pose for your own claim to fame in front of the great man.
"Buffalo Bill's Wild West" toured the Untied States, England and
most of Europe. He met the heads of state including Queen
Victoria and Prince Albert.
|Some of the buggies displayed in
Today, we tend to think of him as
environmentally thoughtless to say the least but remember he
lived in a different time. Actually, he was very environmentally
friendly and liberal in his views in his later years.
He employed many Indians in his show, paid them a fair wage and
referred to them as "the former foe, present friend, the
American." In one interview he stated "Every Indian outbreak
that I have ever known has resulted from broken promises and
broken treaties by the government."
|Covered wagon on display in the
He also supported Women's Rights. He is
quoted as saying "What we want to do is give women even more
liberty than they have. Let them do any kind of work they see
fit, and if they do it as well as men, give them the same pay."
He even spoke out against hide hunting and
campaigned for a set hunting season. He was a man of two
centuries and left his mark on both. Scouts Rest is a must for
every western fan, historian and sportsman. In fact, I can't
think of anyone who would not enjoy a visit there.
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