Title: The "Wild West" Show At Cardiff | Some of the Celebrities Interviewed

Periodical: Evening Express

Date: September 26, 1891

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THE "WILD WEST" SHOW AT CARDIFF.


Some of the Celebrities Interviewed.


A pleasant feature of the Wild West Show is the extreme courtesy and civility of the staff from top to bottom. Few of the persons among thousands who have visited the Sophia Gardens Park this week have failed to observe this. If Colonel Cody and his colleagues think highly of the intelligence and conduct of the people of Wales, it is certain that the good opinion is thoroughly reciprocated, and with excellent reason. The arrangements are splendid, and the standard of discipline exceedingly high. "I never saw a nicer lot of people than the staff of the Wild West Show," was the comment of one gentleman whose duties brought him into frequent contact with the exhibition. "Every question asked is certain to have a ready and agreeable answer, and the uniform politeness of performers and attendants alike is quite a revelation." This was said to a group of listeners, and elicited a perfect chorus of assent. Truth to tell, America has not suffered in popular estimation by reason of this visit of a band of her sons and daughters. With a preface of praise to introduce the subject, let me now give my readers the benefit of such information respecting the celebrities of the show as could be gathered by more than one day's free mingling with them in their moments of leisure, when the gates were closed and the arena was desolate and empty. Of Colonel Cody it is unnecessary to speak. I found him a soft-voiced gentleman, with the bearing of the cavalier he looks, with his long, grey locks and sweeping beard. Without knowledge of his past one would naturally conclude him to be a remarkable man, but not the kind he actually is, for little in the demeanour and the reserved, diffident manner suggests the intrepid scout, whose life has been spent in roughing it on the outskirts of civilisation. Mr. Nate Salsbury—the second in command, who conceals under an easy-going style an immense capacity for hard work—and Major Burke, the very embodiment of good nature tempered by shrewdness—are officials labouring in channels invisible to the general public. In fact, they both disappeared once the show was set fairly going at Cardiff, Mr. Salsbury hurrying to Glasgow and the major to Bristol, to superintend necessary arrangements. It is with the characters whose work brings them prominently into the view of the visitors to the Wild West that I have now to deal. First place must, of course be given to the ladies.

 

MISS ANNIE OAKLEY.

"Little Sure Shot," as the famous Sioux chief "Sitting Bull" christened her, is a typical American maiden, as sprightly and charmingly vivacious as she is agile and skilful. Twenty-three years of age, Miss Oakley shoots as naturally as she walks. Her memory fails to carry her back to the period when she could not shoot. "I don't know how I acquired the skill," was her laughing reply to a question put, "but I suppose I was born with it." A mere toddler, this Diana proved destructive to small game, and when in her teens crowned her triumphs over the deer of North Michigan by killing a bear. She took to fancy shooting almost by accident. Miss Oakley was induced to exhibit her skill at a local fair. This led to a friendly match with a recognised gentleman "shot," and step by step led to the adoption of shooting as a profession. But her heart is with the game still, and a week's sport at Shrewsbury later on is anticipated with pleasure. The winner of 41 medals and trophies by shooting feats, Miss Oakley is also an actress, with a play of her own, and her treasures include a collection of magnificent guns, worth between five and six hundred pounds. In connection with the latter the fair owner made a statement—endorsed by a number of experts present—peculiarly gratifying to us who are continually being told that the old country is lagging in the race for commerce. "The stocks are of various makes," she said, "but the barrels are all of British manufacture. No country can produce gun barrels equal to English—no, not even America. Invited to describe the impressions produced upon her mind by contact with various Europeans races Miss Oakley said: "I like Paris very much, and also the better class of Parisians. But the lower class I don't like at all; they seem so rude and forward. Austria I liked, but Germany and Berlin only indifferently. I cannot say why, because we were kindly treated, but there it is, all the same. Italy was agreeable, and Milan and Florence, but Rome—oh, the people were like heathens there." "And England——?" "There is no place like England. It was as if we had come home. There is not much difference between the English and the Americans in matters of dress and manner, but, of course, the language, as spoken, differs considerably. As for Cardiff, we are all delighted with it. The people appear to be very intelligent—much more so than the people of the North of England—and their behaviour is wonderfully good. Another reason, perhaps, for liking Cardiff is the business done— the best of all the towns." With this grateful testimony to the merits of Cardiff and Wales and the sweeping censure of the inhabitants of the Eternal City, my chat with Miss Oakley ended.

MISS FERRELL.

Miss Ferrell is one of the two accomplished backwoodswomen whose graceful riding is one of the prettiest items on the programme. A native of the silver city of Denver, Colorado, she was born and reared among a people famous for their riding. To her the art so difficult of mastery to persons differently situated came as if by instinct. At home she rode because riding was the ordinary means of moving from one point to another, and it was only when Miss Ferrell became attached to the Wild West Show that her equestrian talents were turned to purposes of exhibition. No one witnessing her graceful, easy carriage when riding the horse which has the habit of leaving the arena kangaroo fashion will doubt her perfect mastery of the art.

 

MR. FRANK CREIGER.

Mr. Creiger might easily pass muster as Ben Tillett's twin brother, and the practical identity of the costumes affected by both renders the facial resemblance very striking. Thirty-five years of age, singularly agreeable and gentlemanly, one looks in vain for evidence in his manner and speech of fourteen years' close intercourse with the Indians. For this period Mr. Creiger lived   with the tawny coloured races of the Far West. He speaks thirteen Indian dialects, is the interpreter of the show, and all the braves and squaws are in his charge. An old journalist, he acted as the special correspondent of the New York World during the Indian rising early this year, and was the first "special" to ride over the bloody scene at Wounded Knee Creek, where little "No Neck" was found among the dying and the dead. That which Mr. Creiger does not know about Indian life and thought is scarcely worth knowing. He is now engaged on a book which, when published, will, doubtless, considerably add to the knowledge possessed by the Anglo-Saxon race respecting the fast vanishing aboriginals of North America. The hundred Indians controlled by him at the show are principally Sioux, but there are also Cheyennes, Arapahoes, Oggallalas, Brulés, Uncapapas, and Minnecongows. Mr. Creiger's extended experience of the Indians has tended to produce the conviction in his mind that the copper-coloured man is pretty much what you make him. "Treat the Indian well and he will treat you well"—that, in short, is the chief article of faith held by Mr. Creiger. "The chief reason of Colonel Cody's success with the Indians," said the interpreter, "is that he is generous with them, and in his dealings treats them as he would people of his own class. The Colonel, while acting as scout, scarcely ever failed to make friends among the Indians. Not even the praise so freely bestowed upon him by such men as Generals Sherman, Grant, Crook, and Custer has done adequate justice to the services of Colonel Cody." Once started on this theme, Mr. Creiger passed by a natural course of transition to "Buffalo Bill's" fellow director (Mr. Nate Salsbury), and became quite eloquent in describing the merits of the latter as an untiring worker. It was with some difficulty that I got the talented interpreter to talk about himself, but the information extracted was worth the trouble. "At an early age," he said, "I ran away from home, and, making direct for the Western frontier, I fell in with Frank North, chief of the Pawnee Indians. Through him I drifted hither and thither among the various tribes, and from time to time held almost every known position under the Interior or Indian Department of the United States Government. I have been courier, clerk, guide, interpreter, and what not, and I also hold two honourable discharges from the 3rd United States Cavalry—one for a wound received in action." Asked if the management of the Indians in camp was difficult, Mr. Creiger stated that half the difficulty disappeared when—as was the case in this show—the Indians were well fed, well clothed, and well paid. The chief characteristic of all the Indian dialects was the predominance of the guttural sounds. Of poetry the race had practically none, and the few songs they had were in a kind of rough, uneven, blank verse. But oratory was a natural gift with some of the Indians. The painting of the face and body had occasionally a peculiar significance, since certain designs were reserved for specified occasions. One great law, however, always prevailed. The Indian endeavoured to change the colour and the design every day. An old legend attributed the practice to the desire of being "unknown to an enemy and a brother." This and more did Mr. Creiger say about his Indian charges, but exigencies of space forbid the re-production of the whole.

 

BAKER AND DALY, THE CRACK SHOTS.

It is claimed for Johnnie Baker, "the cowboy kid," that he is one of the most notable of living marksmen. And there is good warrant for the claim. The son of "Old Lew Baker, the Ranchman," Mr. Baker is a native of Western Nebraska. Ask him where he acquired his skill, and he will promptly reply, "From Colonel Cody." Nine years of the 21 he has lived have been spent with the colonel either at the latter's ranches in Western Nebraska, or at the Wild West Show, of which Baker is one of the original members. The young shot's clever performance in the arena, where he shatters two clay pigeons while standing on his head, and hits with apparent ease flying objects, seen by means of a mirror, taken alone entitles him to a place in the first rank. His only competition was with a gentleman at Philadelphia, when he carried away the victory and beat the record by killing 50 consecutive double-rise clay pigeons. His opinion of England generally, and Cardiff in particular, substantially agreed with that of Miss Oakley. England he liked, but not England's climate. "We get very cold weather in the Far West, but the atmosphere is very clear and dry. The great difference is that here it is disagreeably damp as well." Having spent his youth with Colonel Cody, Mr. Baker can tell from personal knowledge of the gigantic ranches which the former owns in the West. One of them is not less than 6,000 acres in extent. The colonel has abandoned cattle raising, and now devotes his ranches to the breeding of horses, possessing as he does the finest stud in the States. "This show is nothing to the property Colonel Cody owns in the West," said "Johnnie Baker," as genial and frank-spoken a gentleman as one would be likely to meet in a day's march.

Mr. C. L. Daly is an expert with the revolver. His favourite weapon originally was the rifle, with which he at one time won the championship of his native state of Pennsylvania. Twenty-five years of age, 5ft. 10in. high, and with the biceps of a gladiator, Mr. Daly has shot in no matches, for the good and sufficient reason that he cannot secure an opponent. Unassuming and agreeable, he holds some wonderful specimens of accurate shooting. At Brussels he carried away a gold medal by placing a hundred bullets, fired consecutively at thirty yards, within a circumference of less than three inches. He is, by the way, the brother of the Miss Daly who is a member of Mr. Wilson Barrett's dramatic company. Some of Mr. Daly's feats with the revolver are almost incredible, and his exhibition of skill never fails to command appreciation.

 

THE CHIEF OF THE COWBOYS.

Mr. Frank Hamitt, the chief of the cowboys, is 23 years of age, stands 6ft. 1in. in his stockings, and weighs over 200lb. He speaks English, French, and Spanish, is a native of Colorado, and before joining the show in 1888 was a "bronco-buster," or wild horse breaker. As a matter of course, he is at home in the saddle. Indians, he told me, using no saddles, sit heavily on the horse, and in that respect did not compare favourably with the cowboy, who was a lighter rider, and tired the horse less in proportion to the weight carried. Bronco or mustang riding took years to master. The horses used in the show were principally half-bred mustangs—that is to say, the wild horse crossed with English or Spanish stock. These half-breeds are very swift for a quarter or half a mile, and on a good gallop will travel further in a day than any other kind of horse. The Indian ponies had no mustang blood at all; they were a separate breed, reared in the West, while the mustang came from the Southern and Pacific side of the Continent. The ponies turned into the ring and lassoed were pure mustangs. Mr. Hamitt talked in a most interesting way about horses and kindred topics, and, listening to the quiet-voiced, diffident, and courteous cowboy, I had to confess that either Frank Hamitt is a rare exception to the general run or Bret Harte and other American writers have painted the class with a somewhat free hand.

THE SCOUT.

Mr. J. B. Nelson is a scout with a history. Sixty-nine years of age, but as wiry as they make   them, his activity rather contradicts the tale told by the silvered hair trailing over the shoulder. Dressed in the picturesque costume of the trapper, he looks as if he had walked out of the pages of an illustrated tale of Mayne Reid or Cooper. He is the man who, like another Moses, set out with Brigham Young in search of the Promised Land and found it in the rich domain which, belted by acrid wastes, is now known as Utah Territory. "I have lived 50 years of my life among Indians," he told me, "and have found them hospitable, and in the main good friends. Fifty years ago there was not a more generous or finer race of people than the Redskins. But," and his voice had a key-note of sadness, "contact with the white men has completely changed them for the worse. I have always got along with them without trouble. It is only in times of war that I leave, and when peace comes again I return, and we are not worse friends because I have clung to my people and they to theirs."

SHORT BULL.

Of the many Indians to whom, thanks to the good services of Mr. Creiger, I have been introduced, certainly the most interesting is "Short Bull," who has the fine eye and the benignant countenance of a Dean Vaughan. He is a great man among the Sioux, an orator and a holy man. It was he who was deputed to receive the Messiah and the message of Redemption which was expected for the Redskin race. "Many hundred moons ago," so "Short Bull" described the event, "the Messiah came to the white men, and they killed him. He is now coming to redeem the red man." Whether a forest echo of the Christian Gospel or the concoction of another Joseph Smith, "Short Bull" implicitly believes in the Divine nature of the message. In the spectacle of this leader of a vanquished people exhibited to the gaze of the multitude in the arena we seem to find a modern parallel to that experience of Caractacus, who, exiled from his island home, was exposed to the gaze of the curious Roman populace. "Short Bull" and "Kicking Bear" are also prisoners of war, hostages for the good conduct on the Indians whose religious fervour led them to the verge of a general rising. In the reservation near the creek of Wounded Knee is the wife of "Short Bull," five sons and a little daughter, or, as he musically termed her, We-chin Chal-la.

Note: Missing text is inferred where possible.

Title: The "Wild West" Show At Cardiff | Some of the Celebrities Interviewed

Periodical: Evening Express

Source: McCracken Research Library, Buffalo Bill Center of the West , MS6.3772.025.01 (Crager scrapbook)

Date: September 26, 1891

Topic: European Tours

Keywords: American frontier American Indians Anglo-Saxon Arapaho Indians Brulé Indians Cattle Cheyenne Indians Courtesy Cowgirls English Firearms French Horse processions Horsemanship Horses Hunkpapa Indians Indian women Lasso Mormons Mustang Oglala Indians Orators Oratory Pawnee Indians Ponies Rifles Revolvers Scouts Sharpshooters Shooting contests Shooting Sioux Nation Spanish language Targets (Shooting) Translators United States. Army. Cavalry United States. Department of the Interior Wild horses Wounded Knee Massacre, S.D., 1890

People: Baker, Johnny, 1869-1931 Burke, John M., d. 1917 Cooper, James Fenimore, 1789-1851 Crook, George, 1829-1890 Custer, George A. (George Armstrong), 1839-1876 Grant, Ulysses S. (Ulysses Simpson), 1822-1885 Harte, Bret, 1836-1902 Kicking Bear, 1853-1904 Nelson, John Young, 1826- North, Frank J. (Frank Joshua), 1840-1885 Oakley, Annie, 1860-1926 Reid, Mayne, 1818-1883 Salsbury, Nathan, 1846-1902 Sherman, William T. (William Tecumseh), 1820-1891 Short Bull, -1915 Sitting Bull, 1831-1890 Smith, Joseph, 1805-1844 Tillett, Ben, 1860-1943 Young, Brigham, 1801-1877

Places: Austria Berlin (Germany) Bristol (England) Brussels (Belgium) Cardiff (Wales) Denver (Colo.) England Florence (Italy) Germany Glasgow (Scotland) Italy Nebraska Paris (France) Pennsylvania Philadelphia (Pa.) Rome (Italy)

Sponsor: This project is supported in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Geraldine W. & Robert J. Dellenback Foundation.

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