Title: Travel and Emigration | Buffalo Bill in Italy

Periodical: The Sportsman's Journal

Date: March 15, 1890

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Travel and Emigration.


Buffalo Bill and his troupe of cowboys and Indians were the cynosure of all eyes in the Vatican, Rome, Italy, March 3, on the occasion of the twelfth annual anniversary of the coronation of Pope Leo XIII, there being assembled then the ecclessiastical, secular and military court of the Papacy to witness the ceremonies. The Commercial Cable's account thus depicts this most novel and startling pageant:

In the midst of the scene of supreme splendor, crowded with the old Roman aristocracy and surrounded with the walls immortalized by Michael Angelo and Raffaelo, there suddenly appeared a host of savages in paint, feathers and blankets, carrying tomahawks and knives.

A vast multitude surged into the great square before St. Peter's early in the morning to witness the arrival of the Americans. Before half past nine o'clock the Ducal Hall, Royal Hall and Sistine Chapel were packed. Through the middle of the three audiences was a pathway bordered with the brilliant uniforms of the Swiss guards, the Palatine guards, the Papal gen-darmes and private chamberlains. The sunlight fell upon lines of glittering steel, nodding plumes, golden chains and shimmering robes of silk and all the brilliant emblems of Pontifical power and glory.

Suddenly a tall, chivalrous figure appeared at the entrance and all eyes were turned toward him. It was Buffalo Bill. With a sweep of his great sombrero he saluted the chamberlains and then strode between the guards with his partner, Nate Salsbury. Next came Buck Taylor, who towered hugely above the tallest man in the palace, his long hair tied back on his shoulders; then came Broncho Bill in buckskin, and after him trooped the cowboys, splashed with mud and picturesque beyond description.

Rocky Bear led the Sioux warriors in the rear. They were painted in every color that Indian imagination could devise, and every man carried something to present to the Medicine Man sent by the Great Spirit. Rocky Bear rolled his eyes and folded his hands on his breast as he stepped on tiptoe through the glowing sea of color. His braves furtively eyed the halberds and two-handled swords of the Swiss Guards. The Indians and cowboys were ranged in the south corners of the Ducal Hall. Buffalo Bill and Salsbury were escorted into the Sistine Chapel by the chamberlains, and were greeted by General Sherman's daughter. A princess invited Colonel Cody to a place in the tribune of the Roman nobles. He stood facing the gorgeous diplomatic corps, surrounded by Prince and Princess Borghese, Marquis Serlupi, Princess Bandina, Duchess Grizioli, Prince and Princess Massino, Prince and Princess Ruspoli and all the ancient families of the city.

When the Pope appeared, carried above the heads of his guards, receded by the Knights of Malta and a procession of Cardinals and Archbishops, the cowboys bowed, and so did the Indians. Rocky Bear knelt and made the sign of the cross. The Pontiff leaned yearningly toward the rude groups and blessed them. He seemed to be touched by the sight.

As the train swept on the Indians became excited, and as a squaw fainted, though they had been warned not to utter a sound, they were with difficulty restrained from whooping. The Pope looked at Colonel Cody intently as he passed, and the great scout bent low as he received the benediction. After the thanksgiving mass, with its good choral accompaniment, with now and then the Pope's powerful voice heard ringing through the Sistine Chapel, the great audience poured out of the Vatican.

When the Indians went back to camp, within sight of the grim Castle of San Angelo, they found the only warrior who did not go to the Vatican dead in his blanket. Rocky Bear told his followers that the Great Spirit had done it. The same night the Indians temporarily relapsed into paganism and howled over the dead brave, some of them tearing their flesh and sprinkling the funeral tent with the blood.

Buffalo Bill expressed his delight at the way in which the company had been received. He said: "You see the Wild West is filling it mission of making history for the Indian and the Western man for the Columbus Centennial of 1892, in showing the completion of his great efforts. So tell our friends in America that the 'Wild West' is all right. Let the carpers know that from time immemorial dogs have barked at the moon, but la lune still continues on the even tenor of her way."

The day following the above ceremonies all Rome was excited over a trial of Buffalo Bill's cowboys on wild horses furnished by the Duke of Sermoneta. For several days the Roman authorities had been superintending the erection of extra barriers to keep the savage steeds from reaching the audience. The animals came from the Duke's famous herd on the Pontine Marshes, and he declared that no cowboy on earth could ride one. The cowboys laughed at the boast. Then the Duke dared them to mount any one of the six. Every man, woman and child expected that two or three men would be killed in the experiment. Over two thousand carriages were driven to the Prati di Castello, and an audience of twenty thousand people braved the dripping rain. Lord Dufferin and many other diplomatists were present in the special tribune, and among the Romans were the wife of Premier Crispi, the Duc de Torlonia, Mme. Depretis, Princess Collona, Countess Antonelli, Baroness de Reugis, Princess Brancaccia, Count Giannotti and the scions of all the noble houses.

Two of the wild horses were driven into the arena. They had neither saddle nor bridle. Buffalo Bill announced that they would be conquered.

In five minutes the cowboys had lassoed, saddled, bridled and mounted the horses. The animals leaped in the air, writhed, bucked and reared madly; all in vain. In five minutes they were ridden easily around, while the vast crowd, unmindful of the rain, roared and shrieked with delight. Buffalo Bill now dares any Roman to ride his bucking bronchos.