Title: The Last "Wild West"

Periodical: Evening News

Date: August 31, 1892

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"Buffalo Bill" Declares His Resolve to Give Up Showmanship.


Colonel Cody's Trouble With "Bible-back-Thumpers."

It is always difficult to get the public to believe that a popular favourite contemplates retirement before time makes it inevitable, and when the Wild West season at Earl's Court was announced as positively the last visit of "Buffalo Bill" to England people nodded sagacious heads and talked of the "farewell appearances" of celebrated tenors. But Colonel Cody was quite in earnest in his determination to make the present season his last in Europe, and now that the summer is drawing to a close he has issued a valedictory address in which this resolve of his is repeated and insisted upon. As a general thing there are only two reasons which induce a man to retire when once he has gained the heart of English audiences: He has either made enough money to satisfy him, or he has begun to lose money by management instead of making it. Buffalo Bill is not moved by either of them.

"Why am I going to leave the show business?" he replied, when interrogated on the point. "Because I have put in 20 years at it; 10 years in the theatres, and 10 years with the Wild West Show, and I think it is time to quit and take a rest. I don't say I'm tired of it; I have enjoyed the work very well, but I have worked very hard, and I'm tired of the towns, and anxious to get back to the free life of the country. I was born on the frontier, you know, and all the early part of my life I lived on it, moving further and further west as the line of the settlements moved out, and always keeping on the outside. I want to go back to that, to breathe the pure air of the plains, and live face to face with Nature again."

"And won't you miss civilisation now that you've been used to it for 10 years?"

"No, I think not. Besides, I don't say that I'll never come back again. I'm going to come back. I've made lots of friends in all classes of society, and I look forward to coming back and cultivating their acquaintance better than I could do whilst I have the show to look after. It's a great tax on a man's time, you see, playing twice a day and having the whole business of a big show like this to look after. Many a time I'd like a holiday, and I can't take it. I believe in keeping faith with the public, and if I was to take a holiday for a week, or even a couple of days, people would come to the show and they might think they weren't getting value for their money. They might say, 'Where's Buffalo Bill? He's part of the entertainment, and I paid to see him.' If I was away on my own pleasure they'd have every right to complain."

"So you're not bidding good-bye to England, as far as you yourself are concerned?"

"Certainly not. I hope to visit it again without the show. But I'm saying good-bye to it as a showman. I want to have that distinctly understood by the English people—that this is the last chance they ever will have to see the original Wild West Show."


"I suppose there will be imitations?"

"Of course there will. Everything that's successful is imitated. Next year, very likely, you'll have more Wild West Shows about the country than you can shake a stick at. But I finish at the World's Fair in Chicago next summer, and then I go home to my ranch and show no more."

"You can't be content without some work, though?"

"I'll have plenty of work then. I have 10,000 acres at my ranch in Nebraska, and hundreds of horses and cattle. And, mind you," he added thoughtfully, "I've had that place for several years, and when I took it I planted thousands of young trees about it. I've never seen them in leaf yet.

"But won't civilisation catch you up in Nebraska pretty soon?" was the query that woke him from his contemplative mood.

"Why, yes. It has pretty well caught me there already. But I have another place to run to, when I want to get right away, and the towns won't catch me there for a long time. It's just at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, where I have ninety-five thousand acres in the wildest sort of country, full of game, and with the grandest shooting and fishing you could want. What sort of game? Oh, bear, elk, mountain lions, and feathered game of all sorts, and the streams are full of trout."

"Well, to come back to the show. Is there really no reason, except your own wish to retire, why you should give it up?"


"You would have no difficulty in keeping up your supply of Indians?"

"Indians! I could get five thousand of them to-morrow. There is no scarcity of Indians."

"But wasn't there some trouble about the Indians this time—with the Government?"

"No, there wasn't a bit of trouble with the Government. There was this. Some people of the sort we call Bible-back thumpers told lies about the show, and would have prevented me taking out the Indians if they could. But their influence at Washington doesn't amount to a raw bean. Why, you know how I got the Indian prisoners, that are with the show. They were held captive after the war, and the thought struck me that it would be a draw to have them—men that were fighting against the whites only last year. I mentioned it to one or two friends, and they said, 'It's no use. Why, they're in prison; you can't get them.' Well, I sent in an application, and had the whole lot, over thirty, consigned to my care at once. The authorities know it's the best possible thing for them to be taken abroad, and to see that there are a great many more people outside the Territory than inside it. Many of them, you know, believe that the Sioux could eat up all the rest of the world. When they go back after seeing the big towns of America and Europe they know a good deal better."

"That's where part of the educational work of the show comes in, of course? And you mean to give the Indians and the public some specially effective object lessons in your final season at Chicago next year?"

"I hope to. We shall do the biggest show then we have ever done. You know about the congress of the world's riders which I have been getting together here and will present complete at the World's Fair. Then we shall combine with the Wild West Show some of the best things we have been doing in winter seasons under cover, with more scenic appliances than we use in the open. We give representations of the prairie on fire, of how to escape from the fire, of the destruction of a settlement by a cyclone, and so on. We have a machine that produces a small cylcone, you know—will blow a man off his feet if he stands before it."

"Will you sell any of the Wild West horses before


"Yes, I mean to sell a good many of them. You see, the cost of bringing them back to America and wintering them would be about as much as they are worth, so it will come cheaper to sell them and buy new ones. Besides, horses are a good deal cheaper in the West than they are here. I shall sell some that have crossed from America with us twice, and perhaps they will be some little special interest of a ——"

"Of a sentimental sort?"

"Well, yes. Many people might like to have a couple of ponies which have been over the world with the Wild West Show."

"Some of the buckers, for instance?"

"No, not exactly," said the Colonel, smiling. "The buckers are too valuable to us, and perhaps they would not be very useful to anyone else."

"And when do you wind up here?"

"I can't tell you to the day. In fact, I haven't settled on the ship to take us back yet, and until that is fixed we can't announce a definite date to close, as I don't want to have any idle days here between the closing of the show and our sailing. It will be almost certainly in the first week of October."

"So those who haven't seen Buffalo Bill and the Wild West must hurry up and take their last chance in this world?"

Colonel Cody signified that this was about the position, and started off to prepare for another day of hard work in the arena that will soon know him and his white steed no more.