Title: Buffalo Bill in Italy | Italian Riders on American Buck-Jumpers

Periodical: The Galignani's Messenger

Date: March 17, 1890

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Italian Riders on American Buck-Jumpers.

Tuesday morning, at half-past eight, some ten freight cars, supplemented by a number of first and second-class carriages, arrived with the Wild West troupe at the Porte Croce Station from Rome, and in an incredibly short space of time the hundreds of cowboys, Indians, horses, and buffaloes were on their way to the enclosed grounds on the Viale.

The city douane [1] officials, with an indiscreet zeal, insisted on weighing the buffaloes, and making them pay duty as if they were cattle for consumption, and it required much valuable time, strong language, and persuasive arguments to finally convince them that there was no possibility of the company getting hungry and sacrificing several bisons on the sly, without having paid that per centum that Florence exacts on all food eaten by her population. They were also probably ignorant that the San Donato dairy farm had contracted to furnish daily a thousand eggs and all the milk required during their stay. And here I regret to say that in no other place have the authorities, not the Municipal but those of the Prefecture and Questura, caused so much annoyance and raised so many difficulties.

Count Guicciardini and the city giunta, [2] aware what a number of people this show would attract here, did all in their power to favour it, giving them the grounds free during their stay, but Comm. Santagostino, the Questore, has done everything in his power to prevent the performances taking place. In the beginning he insisted that the barrier of ropes between the arena and audience was insufficient, and only after official correspondence with Rome became convinced that the same precautions were taken here as elsewhere, except on the occasion of taming the Duke of Sermoneta's Romagna stallions, when extra barriers were erected. In the middle of the performance yesterday he informed Mr. Nate. Salsbury that he should not allow any further representations because more tickets were sold than there were places, and it was only after some half-hour's conversation and the personal influence of Count Carlo degli Alessandri that he was induced to relent. To recount all the petty difficulties raised by the officials of various sorts would be more than the limits of this letter would allow. He had been receiving a party of well-known Florentines, among them the beautiful Countess Bastogi, her husband and boys, Marquis Pio and the Marchioness Strazzi, granddaughter of N. P. Willis, Count Digerini-Nuti and Miss Cambray-Digny, daughter of the distinguished Senator, who admired the photograph of Rose Bonheur with its dedication to the Colonel, views of his Nebraska ranche, photographs of the company at Naples with Vesuvius in the distance, diplomas and souvenirs of all sorts comprising the superb gold cup presented by the Grand Duke Alexis as an appreciation of the satisfactory manner Col. Cody had acted as chief of his hunting expedition on the prairies.

With regard to the Roman butteri, who attempted to ride Buffalo Bill's horses, and the alleged unfair treatment they received, the facts of the case are as follows, in Colonel Cody's own words:—

"A day or so after we had tamed and ridden the Duke of Sermoneta's Romagna stallions, which we did in ten minutes for each, about twenty of these butteri of the Campagna sent and asked if I would allow them to try some of our horses, to which I consented, and gave them one of our buck jumpers, whom, after working over for more than an hour, getting chains round his mouth and almost strangling, one of the men managed to keep his seat on. They then tackled another horse in the same way, until they had been at work an hour and fifty minutes, when I gave orders to stop the proceedings, as we had mounted their horses in ten minutes; besides, the brutal cruelty of their method could so break the heart of any horse as to make him give in after time. I made no bits nor promises, and whatever has been said to the contrary is untrue." Referring to the show, the Colonel said:—"I think, without exception, we had a better class of people at Rome than in any city we have visited. The roman aristocracy, great lovers of horses and sport, especially the ladies, were not deterred even by the heaviest rains from coming day after day, and remaining through the whole performance. In Spain, however, the influenza epidemic broke out during our stay there, and, as elsewhere, affected the number of our audiences, who nevertheless were very enthusiastic. Expenses were heavy, and our passage to Naples across from Spain alone cost over 35,000fr. As to our future arrangements, after leaving Florence on Thursday or Friday, we remain a day at Bologna on our way to Milan, and then work up through Munich, Vienna and Berlin to Hamburg, where we shall embark for London, arriving there, I hope, in June, and remaining a couple of months before returning home.

On Wednesday night several members of the Florence Club arranged a complimentary dinner for the Colonel, at which a large party were present. Mr. le Roy de Koven, a member of the committee, took the head of the beautifully-decorated table, having on his right Colonel Cody, and on his left Mr. Dillar, the United States Consul. The following gentlemen composed the party:— Dr. Shippen, late U.S. Navy; Major Kinney, U.S. Army; Dr. Wilson, Major Light, Captain Maquay, Dr. Orton, Mr. Whistler, Mr. Cavendish Taylor, Mr. Rhodes, Mr. Dearberg, Colonel Bernard, Mr. Huntington, the Messrs. Altrocchi, Marquis Imperiali, Count Arturo Fabricotti, Mr. Stibbert, Mr. Dalgas, Mr. Conner, Signor Collachioni, Marquis Antinori, and Mr. Best. An excellent dinner, of which the turtle soup, salmon and York ham were the best dishes, and magnums of Champagne served after the fish all through the dinner, and Pauillac, the most patronised wines, put the company into the best of humours. At the dessert Mr. De Kovin proposed the health of the guest of the evening, which was drunk standing with all the honours. Colonel Cody, after thanking the company for the kind manner in which they had received the toast, said, "I should like to explain that we do not intend to present to you tomorrow anything in the nature of a circus performance. You will find our trappings and equipments old and much worn, even bearing traces of the Roman mud which still clings to them and which I should like to take to America with me as a bit of the Eternal City that led the civilisation of the world. I would only add that the men you will see with us are those who have actually taken part in the scenes they represent, which are a faithful picture of frontier life."

The Colonel was much applauded, and the rest of the evening was spent in listening to anecdotes and interesting incidents.

As I telegraphed you, all Florence turned out for the opening performance. Thursday afternoon, which was like a day in June. The performance is too well known to require a description, but its effects on the Italian were an amusing study; the points they seemed most to appreciate were the entrance at full speed, of the different tribes, Miss Annie Oakley's shooting, and the attack on the Deadwood coach.

Great amusement was caused by the appearance of a few well-known residents on this coach. Mr. George Maquay, our popular banker, Col. Villiers, and Mr. de Kovin occupied the inside, and Mr. Huntington the box seat, and, after the usual gallop round the enclosure and timely rescue, dust-begrimed, and, aching from the bumps on the hard seats, seemed glad to leave the historic old vehicle. After the performance, people stopped to talk with Buck Taylor, that splendid specimen of manhood, "King of the Cowboys," "Ma" Whitaker, "the medicine woman," by whose influence alone can the Indians be induced to take their drugs, and the Indians, who seemed disinclined to show themselves.

It seems that the Italian public have annoyed them by touching them, pinching them, and pulliing their hair, to see if it was real, and so tormenting them that they keep their tents closed until the crowd has gone. A glance at the people present showed a quantity of the best-known Florentines and foreigners, among whom were the acting Prefect, Consul and Mrs. Diller, Prince and Princess Corsini, Marchesa Laiatico, Baroness Ricasoli, Marchesa Manelli-Riccardi, Mrs. George Maquay, Mrs. Villiers, Marchesa Strozzi, Countess Bastogi, Mrs. Cross, Mrs. de Koven, Mrs. Wagniere, Countess Gigluicci, Mrs. William Maquay, Misses Fabri, Marchesa di Montagliari, Count della Gherardesce, Marchesa Spinola, Marchesa Ginori, Countes de Talleyrand Perigord, Duke de Dino, Countess Murafiori, Countess de Larderell, Countess Gamba, Mme. Eveline Finzi, Marchesina Piciolellie, Mlle. Nunzianti and her father, the Duke of Mignano, Rev. Mr. Russell, and several thousand others.

Note 1: Customs agency or authority. [back]

Note 2: City council or board. [back]