Buffalo Bill - He Earned the Name

William F. Cody had to win his famous nickname and by doing it he proved he was indeed Buffalo Bill. Cody had already proved his worth and his nickname to the railroad as legend or facts say he killed nearly 4,300 buffalo over a period of 18 months to feed hard working and hungry railroad crews. But Bill Comstock, chief of scouts at a Kansas plains Calvary fort, challenged the legend of Cody, saying he was the real Buffalo Bill, and Cody needed to prove he was the better hunter.

The game was on and the stakes were $500 per side, pretty steep in those days, and pretty steep in this day for guys like me. Each man was to hunt one full day from eight until eight, the winner being determined by who killed the most buffalo. News of the coming contest brought a special train of fans to watch the action.

As you might have guessed, Cody won, killing 69 buffalo while Comstock killed a very respectable 46.
NOTE – Cody never referred to his breach loading buffalo rifle as a rifle or a gun, instead always as, “Lucretia Borgia,” might sound odd innless you already knew his horse’s name, “Old Brigham. He liked fancy names, as for me I once had a dog named Spot, my dog now is named Bear, think I will name my next one, “Old Brigham,” maybe not.

Wanted: Enterprising Young Men

To enterprising young men. The subscriber wishes to engage one hundred young men to ascend the Missouri River to its source, there to be employed for one two or three years. For particulars enquire of Major Andrew Henry near the lead mines in the county of Washington who will ascend with and command the party; or of the subscriber near St. Louis, signed William H. Ashley.

 The Missouri Republican, St. Louis Mo., March 20 1822

And so begin the tails of the great American West, set in the area of the Louisiana Purchase.

Brands and the West

Since the beginning of the cattle industry in Wyoming a rancher needed two things, a rope and a brand. Wyoming has a huge book of thousands of brands registered in the state. One iron brands were easy and it did not take long to reach a point where most, or all of the one iron, brands were used up. Then the ranchers got creative.

Simple letters and numbers were replaced by symbols such as letters and numbers: walking, running, flying, tilted, rocking and lazy. In early Wyoming cattle day’s two young Harvard grads came west to seek their fortune in the new cattle industry. The two registered the Duck Bar as their brand, yep, a duck with a bar under it.

Many picture brands came into being around that time, other than the duck, things like, fish, pots and pans, the pitchfork, scissors, cow horns, and in modern day goal posts have all been used as brands.

One of the most well known of picture brands, made famous by Owen Wister’s, The Virginian, was the goose egg.

Today Wyoming is still a brand state, not many left anymore. With the advent of ear tags and now ear tags with computer chips or implanted computer chips the brand my someday die out. As for me I still like to see branded cattle, I try to figure out the brand every time. Once in a while I am right.

The Strange Life and Death of Anna Richey

Anna Richey was the only women ever convicted of cattle rustling in Wyoming. She was a well read lady of culture who had once been married to a school teacher.

What did she do? She was accused, and later found guilty, of changing brands, eighth different ones. After being arrested no one was sure where to keep her, the local jail didn’t seem right for a women described as, “thirty, purty, and full of life.”

She was released to go home on bond to await trial. On her way to trial she was wounded by a hidden gunman. She recovered, stood trial, and was sentenced to six years but died under mysterious circumstance, (poisoned while out on bond) before ever going to prison.

Such was life in early day Wyoming and other parts of the old west.

We Need Snow Like it's 1886 Again

This winter has been so open in our part of Wyoming that it reminded me we are still in drought. We need snow, we’ll take rain, but we need snow. Hope the weather is not setting up for another disaster like the one in 1886. Won’t happen because we are better prepared today than the ranchers of more than a century ago, we hope.

The Wyoming summer of 1886 was hot and dry; cattle went into winter in less than perfect condition. In November heavy snow came and it stayed for two months. In late January the snows came again, snowing for four days and three nights before letting up. By spring the bad news was apparent, piles of dead cattle, many others were wobbling from starvation. Wyoming in 1886 proudly boasted of it being the greatest place on earth to raise livestock with over nine million cattle on the range. By 1895 only three million were left.

The main lessons learned from drought and blizzards were simple. Put up hay for winter feed and sell down when the grass is bad in the summer. Cattle once again cover the pasture lands of Wyoming, but never again will ranchers overdo like days past. We are getting better and proud of it. But we still need snow or rain.

How dry and warm has it been this winter? I have played 18 rounds of golf since the first of December, shouldn’t happen in Wyoming. Don’t get me wrong, I am enjoying the golf, but right now I would rather go sledding, sit by the fire and sip hot chocolate.


Among the Shoshone and Bannock tribes of early day Wyoming the coyote was a revered animal.

Many early plains and mountain Indian cultures told stories with the coyote at the center. The coyote had great powers, often that no other animal had. In any given story he might be a hero, in others a fool or trickster, but the coyote is always, deep down, wise and all knowing.

Among the Bannocks and Shoshone a tribal member would never purposely injure or kill a coyote. The coyote was blessed by the spirits and if anyone harmed or bothered it they could be overcome by evil spirits.

The night howl of the coyote was spiritual to many tribes who believed the howl was a mournful cry for all lost souls, not a simple warning of bad weather a belief held by modern non-Indian cultures.

I hope all of you have heard or will hear the mournful cry of the coyote. Every time I hear a coyote howl or the hoot of an owl I thank God for nature. It is truly all around us.


Hey There Tenderfoot

In 1830  William Sublette, one of the founders of Fort Laramie I posted about last week, brought five cattle into the Wind River area of Wyoming. These were the first cattle into the territory of Wyoming, maybe the first Wyoming rancher.

Local Indians were fascinated by the docile creatures, waiting their turn to let a cow lick their hand. Three years later Robert Campbell brought a few cattle to the Green River Rendezvous. The cattle had walked over 1400 miles and arrived with very sore feet. The cattle’s feet had became so bad, on the way west, that the men driving the cattle made shoes for them from raw buffalo hide. These footsore cattle spanned a new term for someone recently arriving in the west – tenderfoot.