Buffalo Bill the Actor

Buffalo Bill was an actor long before he came up with the idea of his Wild West show. 

 From 1872 until 1886 Cody led a troupe of traveling actors, a "Combination," through much of America presenting frontier melodramas. It was during this period that he honed, what would become, his Wild West Show. Bill Cody’s acting debut was in dime novel writer Ned Buntline’s, The Scouts of the Prairie.

In his 14 years with the traveling troupes, he tired of the same dull presentations of the west and wanted to offer a more real show of the west. It was during this time that he added shooting marksmanship exhibitions, and Indian dancers, and started to use animals onstage.

Cody started his, Buffalo Bill’s Wild West, in 1883 and three years later acted only in his show. Interesting that it was not Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, but only Buffalo Bill’s Wild West.

Cody’s portrayal of the Wild West toured widely in the United States and was so popular that eight different years the group visited Europe, putting on shows for commoners and crowned heads alike. Cody's show lasted for three decades, an excellent run by anyone's standards. 

Cody had two homes, one in North Platte, Nebraska and another in Cody, Wyoming. To most historians, this was the setting for his version of the west, central Nebraska through all of Wyoming.

How famous was he because of his show? Writer/western historian, Larry McMurtry says he was the most recognizable person in the world during the last part of the 1800s – pretty famous!

Have a wonderful and blessed Thanksgiving.

Under Western Skies - What a Book

Not sure this will ever happen again, but here it is. My book just ahead of Louis L’Amour on Amazon.

If you like Christmas stories and you love the west, this is the one for you. 14 Christmas stories, give it a look right here.  Only $1.99 for the eBook or $9.99 for the 170-page book, and hey, that would make a great gift for western lovers. 

Butch - Sundance, and the Wild Bunch

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, two of the best know outlaws of the American West. Best known, but not that well known until the movie, the 1969 movie starring Paul Newman and Butch and Robert Redford as the Sundance Kid.  This film made Butch and Sundance the well-known, lovable, outlaws that so many people know of today. Seemed like throughout the decade of the 70s everyone had seen the movie, and maybe they had. The film, still widely played on classic and western stations, was made on a budget of six million dollars and a recent estimate accounts for it taking in more than $150,000,000, not bad.

Before the movie, Butch and Sundance are left out or barely mentioned in Wyoming textbooks, after the movie they play a more prominent role, often with both text and photos.  Indeed T. A. Larson, who wrote the definitive, History of Wyoming, spent time on Cattle Kate, Tom Horn and the Johnson County War, does not mention the Wild Bunch or any of the members of the gang. 
Seated - Sundance left and Butch right 

One of the memorable and oft-quoted lines from the movie was spoken by Butch, “Who are those guys? That is a good question these two well-known and little-known bank and train robbers.

They were Robert LeRoy Parker (Butch Cassidy) and Harry Alonzo Longabaugh (the Sundance Kid).

Parker was raised a rancher and farmer in Utah and his first cross with the law involved stealing a pair of pants and a pie (not sure if it was a fruit or cream pie). He went on to fame robbing banks and trains and directing the famous wild bunch gang out of Robbers Roost and Hole in the Wall.

Longabaugh was from Pennsylvania and got his famous nickname after spending jail time in Sundance Wyoming.  He came west at the age of 15 and spent his time in the Sundance jail for pilfering a horse (a most serious crime) saddle and a gun. Longabaugh is often referred to as a gunfighter, but this is more than likely not true. He was good with a gun, but it was Kid Curry, also another member of the gang that was the real gunslinger. Possibly with both being referred to as Kid, they are interchanged in history.

Butch and Sundance and the rest of the Wild Bunch were the best known and most successful train robbers in American Old West history. Butch Cassidy is often given the credit for inventing train robberies, but this is not true. The Reno Gang was about 20 years ahead of the Wild Bunch hitting their first train in 1866. But it was Butch, Sundance, Kid Curry and the rest of the gang that perfected it and made it famous.

In my 40+ years teaching there was always a good deal of talk about textbooks, too liberal, too conservative, not factual enough, too many facts – boring.  Whether we like it or not good fiction and good movies can make or change history.

Under Western Skies - my new Christmas book

-Click anywhere on the post to take a look-

Not too many facts, but there sure is a lot of fiction in my new book. This one, another western, is a book of 14 short stories about Christmas. I have enjoyed magical Christmas stories and movies my entire life and spent three years, off and on, writing this one. 

All stories are set in the west, some in modern time, others in the old west.  Several of the stories have a Christian theme others are of Santa and his magic. 

I hope readers will enjoy these stories as much as I enjoyed writing them.


Wyoming and the Military

Starting with Fort Laramie in 1849 Wyoming has a long history of positive involvement with the military.

On the grounds of Fort Laramie

In the Spanish-American War Wyoming was the first state to respond to America’s call for volunteers with a full quota of soldiers. In fact, the state sent more than times the number of men the government asked for. In World War One, Wyoming sent nearly seven percent of its population, more than 11,000 men.

Teddy Rosevelt with the men

Wyoming today, has the oldest continuously active United States Air Force Base. Francis E. Warren – F.E. Warren, in the United States. The base, established in 1867 as  an Army Base, Fort Russell, was changed in 1947 to today’s modern Air Base.
The base houses the 90th Missile Wing of the Twentieth Air Force Global Strike Command.

F. E. Warren

Wyoming is also home to Camp Guernsey, one of America’s Premier Joint Training Centers. Camp Guernsey, a facility of nearly 80,000 acres, hosts National Guard units from around the country each year. The camp, used year round, is an active training ground for both the U.S. Army and Air Force.

C-130 Jump at the North Range


Army Rangers on a Jump at Camp Guernsey

Thanks to all have served and God Bless!

Wyoming's First School

Being an old school teacher, I am always interested in reading about early day schools and especially the schools of Wyoming. Like many of Wyoming’s firsts, the first school was at Fort Laramie in 1852.
On the grounds of Fort Laramie, about 200 yards across the parade grounds west of the school.
The second Wyoming school, although Wyoming was still 30 years away from statehood, was opened in 1860 on the other side of Wyoming but still on the Oregon Trail at Fort Bridger.
Old School Building at Fort Laramie
It’s pretty well known that early schools had little if anything made specifically,  for teaching children. Often students would share one reading book, a few pieces of chalk and some book sized slates.
Those items, along with a few hand-hewn benches and tables, were often the only start-up supplies for a new school. Pencils and paper, when available, were used sparingly, writing fully on both sides of the paper and using pencils down to the smallest of stubs was the norm. Pen and Ink were for older students but was as readily available as paper and pencils at Fort Laramie and Fort Bridger.

The subject matter of all early schools was the, well known, reading, writing and arithmetic. Teachers in early schools were most often volunteers, who may or may not have had the knowledge or ability to teach. Some early frontier teachers beat students who were not prepared, not attentive enough, or did not know their lesson of the day. Student assignments often contained long memorizations of famous speeches, writings or poetry.

In the case of Fort Laramie, soldiers that could read and write were assigned, to teach, and, for the most part, they hated it. Several sources report soldier/teachers who hated it so much they showed up drunk for school and ended up being fined and tossed in the brig. The fine was in the $10 range, a considerable sum for a soldier making $11 a month. That might be the reason that Army Officers sent their children back east to get their schooling.
I would have been the kid with the dunce hat behind the teacher