× close ? help v save end of line:Unix LFDos CR/LF Text editor: /wr.theyoungriderstv.net/WendyM/CM.html Cody's Memoirs (09)


After receiving a beautiful journal from Kid and Lou for his birthday, Cody decides to write down his memoirs.

This idea for Cody's Memoirs was inspired by the book called "The Life of Buffalo Bill" by William F. Cody.

1. My Debut 2. The Farm
3. The Move 4. The Horse
5. My Brother 6. Kansas
7. The Trip to Pa's Camp 8. The Kickapoos
9. The Race 10. The Kansas Act
11. The Speech 12. The Aftermath
13. My First Job 14. The Bully
15. Pa's Death 16. Indian Attack
17. Freight Business 18. The Raid
19. Hard Times 20. Wanted
21. Emma 22. First Impressions
23. Bumps and Bruises 24. Natural Born Leader
William F. Cody, known worldwide by the famous moniker, "Buffalo Bill", sat down at his writing desk and gazed down at the beautiful, brown leather journal monogrammed with his initials 'W.F.C.'. It had been a gift from Louise and Kid Kidrickson, sister and brother of his heart on his last birthday. Lou had enclosed a note along with the gift, stating how she thought it was time that he put down the story of his life for posterity's sake.

Over the years there had been countless newspaper articles written about him and his 'Wild West' show, along with many a dime store novel. He had learned in time that only those who truly knew him really got their retelling of a tale they had experienced together accurately, or could really describe what kind of a man he really was. Cody was touched by the wonderful gift and had decided that once he was able to, he would sit down and actually try to recall some of the memories of his long and fulfilling life.

He wasn't certain anyone would want to read any of them once his memoirs were completed, but he could at least pass the book down to one of his many assorted nieces and nephews, blooded or otherwise, as a remembrance of him after he'd passed on to the grand stage overhead.

Cody dipped his pen into the inkwell, opened the book to the first clean page, and began to write.

My Debut-1845

My debut upon the world's stage occurred on a cold, blustery day in February 1845. The scene of this most important event in my adventurous career happened in the state of Iowa. My folks, Isaac and Maryann Cody, bestowed upon me the illustrious moniker of William Frederick. I was a welcomed and expected addition into the Cody household and doted upon by all.

I was the fourth child born to my folks. Martha, Julia and Samuel preceded me. After me came Eliza, Nellie, Mary, and Charles, born in the order for which I have just named them. We were a handsome lot, and who were well liked by our friends and neighbors.

My Ma told me that she would take walks with me in the afternoons, and often her friends and strangers alike, all clamoring to see me would swarm upon my carriage. Women, even then, seemed anxious to take a gander at my handsome features. They 'oohed' and 'aahed' over my cherubic face, sky blue eyes, golden locks, and infectious smile.

She told me that they would remark to her about how good a baby I was. How sweet natured my personality, and how eager I seemed to perform for them at such a tender age. I suppose one could call these earlier moments in my life the stepping-stones in my lifelong quest to entertain others.

The Farm

1845-1850

At the time of my birth, we all lived on the family farm, which my folks named "Napsinekee Place'. It was an ideal place for an adventurous boy like me to grow up. There were trees to climb, a pond to swim and fish in, animals to play with, acres upon acres to explore, and mischief to get into, as I was prone to do from time to time.

Besides all the fun things to do on the farm, there was a lot of work too. Granted at my young age, I was exempt from doing a vast majority of the many chores, which was required to operate a prospering farm. I did have to do some things, like throw out the dishwater, help set the table, dry dishes, etc, but nothing too strenuous. That kind of work rested mostly on the shoulders of my folks, and my older sisters and brother. The brunt of the majority of the work, my folks took on. I do recall my Ma and Pa working hard from sun up to sun down to provide for us children. They did not complain about any of it though. Whatever difficulties my folks faced in the raising of us eight children, we were never made aware.

My brothers, sisters, and I, had everything we could possibly want. We had warm beds to sleep in, plenty of good food to eat, the freshest air to breathe, a sturdy roof above our heads, fine playmates to play with, and an abundant amount of love showered upon us all by our folks.

These formative years were strengthening ones for me. I learned at my Pa's knees all the important things a man should know in life: how to shoot, fight, and protect what is mine. From my Ma I learned to read and write, cipher, and how mind my manners, something of which has kept me in good stead over the years.

The Move

1852

When I was seven years old, my folks sold the farm, and moved the family to LeClair, a small town located on the bank of the Mississippi, fifteen miles above the city of Davenport. I recall that my brothers were as eager as I was for the move, whereas my sisters were not. As fond of them as I am, I remember feeling at the time a little disappointed that they didn't share my love of adventure.

As previously noted, I was thrilled about the move. Up until that time, I had not been further than the Gutman's farm, home of our closest neighbors, and close friends with our entire family. They lived less than a mile down the road from 'Napsinekee Place'.

Even at such a young age, I would already become a very friendly fellow. Smiling at folks, waving at other children I saw, and calling out 'howdies', to perfect strangers too. We were barely settled down into our new home when I made the acquaintance of two boys my age that lived in the same town. We became fast friends and were inseparable right from the start. We were also pretty matched up on stirring up mischief and getting into trouble.

One day we went sailing, after building a raft out of old wood and some twine. We used large branches, stripped bear of their leaves, as poles to maneuver us along the bank. Somehow or another, we soon found ourselves in the middle of the Mississippi River, caught up in its rapids, and upon becoming frightened at the dangerous situation we found ourselves in, we lost our presence of mind and out branches.

We set to screaming and fortunately, for us, a man came along and rescued us. We were unable to take much joy in our being saved the moment our Pas were told what we'd done. Pa gave me a licking for the first time in my life that day. I remember him scolding me about how foolish a stunt it was and that he'd better not catch me pulling another dangerous act like it again or he'd give me worse than a licking. I never doubted for a second that he would carry through with his fatherly threat, and steered clear of trouble after that. Well, for a few weeks at least.

The Horse

1852 It was also in LeClair where I acquired the skill to ride a horse. My first experience was less than desirable. One afternoon I hopped a fence into the McArthur's corral and cornered a grand steed. He was a rich, chocolate brown in color and he towered way over me, maybe two or three feet. Staring up at this great beast alone in the corral with me, fear froze me momentarily in place. What I gotten myself into?

Cody stopped writing and thought back to that day so long ago when he had faced down the horse. He had been so full of confidence and bravado when he had hopped the fence, thinking even at his youthful age, that there was not any animal he could face, and not best. How foolish he had been. He shook his head and continued writing.

I do not know how long I stood there frozen in place before I snapped out of it. I swallowed my fear down and cautiously approached the horse, knowing that if I let my fear show, he would do his worse to trample me to death.

Sweat poured from my head and stung my eyes as I inched close enough to rub my hand across his silken coat. When he did not move away, kick or bite my hand, I felt a little relieved, and my confidence was renewed. After taking a deep breath, I swung up onto his back. Barely had I settled onto him when he turned into Satan's disciple. One moment he was still, and the next minute, he was bucking and kicking. I clung to his mane with all my might, terrified, that I would be killed at any second.

I do not know how I managed to stay on for as long as I did. Finally, during one particularly nasty body-twisting move by the horse, I went flying through the air and fell violently to the ground. Among my many cuts and abrasions, I severely wrenched and strained my arm. There was talk among my folks and the doc that I might not be able to use it properly again, but fortunately that was not the case.

My Pa was sorely mad at me. All the while the doc had been tending to my arm, I couldn't help but think of the warning a few weeks earlier that he'd given to me, and wondered if he would follow through with his threat. With my Ma's intervention, I was given a reprieve from receiving a licking or anything else of a physical nature, but my ears rang for two hours straight after the severe scolding I received from my Pa.

Cody could almost hear his Pa's voice running inside his head, repeating the words of that scolding given him so long ago, and realized how fortunate he'd been to grow up with a Pa like the one he had. He had been a lucky boy and had not known it then.

My Brother

1852

Samuel was a brilliant, handsome boy who was good at everything he did. He was my best friend, my sometime tormentor, and my constant companion I looked up to him and tried to be like him. He was the one who taught me to spit, how to shine my boots until they shone, helped me with my school work, and he beat up anyone who tried to pick on me.

One day Samuel and I went out on horseback for the cows. Instead of taking one of the more docile horses we owned, he chose to ride Betsy. Our Ma had told Samuel time and again not to ride Betsy, as the mare had an ugly disposition, but on that fateful day, he did not heed her words.

After we had brought the cows in, Samuel and I headed down toward the schoolyard to join some of our friends. As we rode into the schoolyard, the other children immediately surrounded us, all clambering about, and asking for rides, or for us to show off by doing some tricks. I was not too good at any at that time, and so I refrained from doing any, but did give a couple of the kids a ride on my mount.

Samuel, ever eager to show off how good he was as a horseman, immediately began showing off. The children clapped and cheered causing Betsy to become unmanageable. She reared up and fell backward upon Samuel, giving him grievous internal injuries.

Cody stopped writing, and used a hand to wipe away the tears that were streaming down his face. He had not thought that simply remembering the tale of his brother's death would cause him to react so emotionally toward it so many years later. He would not thought about Samuel in quite a long time, so busy was his daily life, and he hoped that his brother understood that his love for him was still as great as it ever was. When he had his emotions under control, he set to work on finishing the rest of this entry in his journal.

A neighbor passing by picked up Samuel and carried him home. A doctor was called to attend to my brother. We all waited anxiously for word on Samuel's condition, my Ma and sisters weeping and praying, my Pa, Charles, and I all taking up silent vigils in the sitting room.

The doc did everything that he could, but Samuel died later that same night. His death left a hole in our family's collective heart that had never healed. He was the best brother a boy could ever have and I will always miss him.

Kansas

1852

Samuel's Death devastated our family. Not a day went by in the weeks that followed that one or more of us didn't burst into tears at mention of is name or when we came upon an article of his clothing, or some other item that belonged to him. My Ma and sisters carried on so much that eventually they each took to their beds in emotional exhaustion.

It was at this time that my Pa decided another move was in order. His desire to see more of the world had never entirely died upon our move to LeClair, and now with such sadness hanging over the house, he thought that there was no time like the present for us to pull up stakes again.

Pa told us that we were going to immigrate to Kansas. He had a brother, Elijah Cody, living in Weston, near the Kansas line. We would visit him for a spell before heading into Kansas. It was still dark outside when we climbed aboard the wagons and headed out.

Our route to Kansas lay across Iowa and Missouri, and the trip proved of interest to all of us, and especially to me. There was something to be seen at nearly every turn of the road. At night, the family generally 'put up' at hotels or camped out along the way. Finally, we arrived in Weston, and Uncle Elijah was waiting for us.

He was an interesting man full of exciting tales of his work with the Kickapoo Indians, and as a trader. He had the same coloring as my Pa, but his eyes were a different color, and he was a little taller too. He carried a gun on his hip, a bowie knife in his knee high moccasins, and he was dressed in buckskins from head to foot.

From the first moment I saw him, I knew that I wanted to be just like Uncle Elijah. I wanted to work with the Indians, be a trader, wear buckskins, carries a knife, and be fast with a gun as he was. Farming, sounded so boring compared to all the exciting experiences Uncle Elijah shared with us, and I vowed that someday I would do them too.

That's why I was thrilled to learn that my Pa decided to open a trading post in Kansas with Uncle Elijah's help. The rest of the family and I would stay on one of Uncle Elijah's farms in Weston, while he would travel over into Kansas and set up the trading post. Once things were established, he would come back for the rest of us.

The Trip to Pa's Camp

1853

One day after he had been absent some time, my Pa came home with two ponies, and said he would take me to Salt Creek Valley, where his camp and trading post were set up. We set out the next day, with my Ma, sisters, and brother Charles calling out well wishes for a safe travel.

We came to the Missouri River, and I stared out at the murky, dark water and felt an involuntary shudder sweep over me. I recalled the terrible raft trip my friends Jack and George, and I had experienced back in LeClair, and was thankful now that I could actually swim, but still the thought of going into that water terrified me. Fortunately, for me, Pa told me that we were not going to be braving a swim across it on our horses' backs, but that we would cross it on the Rialto Ferry.

I still exhibited a bit of fear as the ferry started its way across the rapidly moving water, but I tried not to show it. After all, my Pa was watching me, and I did not want to disappoint him at being scared over such a little thing. Once safely across the river, we continued on our way toward Pa's camp.

On the way, we had to cross over a high hill known as Salt Creek. We looked down upon the most beautiful valley I have ever seen. It was almost twelve miles long and five miles wide. While the valley greatly interested me, I particularly found the vast number of white covered wagons or 'prairie schooners' which were camped along the different streams, even more fascinating.

My Pa explained to me that they were immigrating wagons bound for Utah and California. He also stated that the Mormon and California trails ran through the valley below. There were wagons as far as the naked eye could see. Some of the wagons belonged to the government freighters named Majors and Waddell.

Pointing out the army of wagons camped below us, he showed me which were the Mormons and which were the Californians, and explained that we must steer clear of the former as cholera was raging among them. As we looked on they held a funeral for some of their dead and I felt sympathy for the families who had lost someone they loved.

We passed through this 'valley of death', toward my Pa's camp. The plight of the sick Mormons plagued me for quite a spell. I thought of Samuel and how his death had struck us all so hard, and could not imagine losing more than one family member at the same time. I do not expect I could have lived afterwards. I was getting rather melancholy by this time and gave myself a firm shaking, not wanting to spoil this special trip with my Pa on sad tidings.

A short time later, we arrived at my Pa's camp, and I was soon caught up in the exploring of it, and the store that he'd set up to trade furs and other goods in with travelers and nearby Indian tribes alike.

The Kickapoos

1853

While at my Pa's camp, we visited the Kickapoo agency. I had never seen any Indians before and was very excited to be accompanying my Pa. I did not sit still in my saddle, so busy was I taking it all in, gazing this way and that, trying to get my fill of the Kickapoo's.

Some of them lived in lodges or teepees, but most resided in log cabins. All the buildings were white washed and looked neat and clean. The Kickapoo's were a fine people with strong features, copper skin, shiny ebony hair adorned with feathers. They wore a colorful outfits made of hides and cloth. The men dressed in breechcloths, leggings, and tunics, and knee high, moccasins like the ones my Uncle Elijah wore. The women were tunic styled dresses adorned with beads and buckskin leggings and moccasins. They were a very friendly lot who did not speak much English, but smiled and laughed often, and communicated with my Pa via Indian sign.

I, inadvertently, became the center of attention while we were there. The women and girls were fascinated with my long, golden hair and sky blue eyes. They couldn't seem to get enough of coming over and moving about me, touching, lifting, and smelling my hair, before rushing away to gather in groups to yammer away in their native language. It was rather bothersome to me but I was careful not to do anything considered rude, afraid that if I did so, my Pa's trading with them would be put into jeopardy, or maybe they would even decide to kill us. Such is the odd musings of a young boy.

By the time, we returned to Pa's camp, I was tuckered out. The day had been an eventful one to me, for it was filled with excitement and awe to my youthful mind, and I think no apology is needed for mentioning so many of the little circumstances, which so greatly interested me in my childhood, and which no doubt had a great influence in shaping my course in after years. My life long love of adventure, was the result of these early surroundings.

The Race 1853

My Pa acquired a new horse during our travels from Iowa. The horse was of prime racing stock, and gray. We affectionately named him 'Little Gray'. I know it was not the most imaginative name that we could have come up with, but Pa felt it suited the stallion just fine. In one of the small Missouri hamlets that we traveled through an opportunity to test 'Little Gray's' racing qualities arose. Upon our arrival in the bustling community, we discovered the townsfolk were celebrating the settlement's establishment in a number of ways, including a horse race. Pa quickly arranged his entry into the race. The men of the town matched their fastest horses and were confident of cleaning out the 'emigrant', as they called Pa. They were a hard looking lot who wore pantaloons in their boots, their hair was long, bushy and untrimmed; their faces had evidently never made the acquaintance of a razor.

Ma and my sisters fretted a bit that these rough men would resort to one dastardly trick or another against Pa during the race and some injury would befall him. but Charles and I weren't worried. We knew Pa was too smart to fall for any of them. All these incidents attracted my attention and became firmly impressed upon my memory. Bets were exchanged between hands of the town's men. Pa acted with caution when he made his own bet because he did not trust any of the men.

Finally, all the preliminaries of the contest were arranged. The judges were chosen and the money exchanged hands. The race was to be a single dash of a mile. The horses were brought side by side, and mounted by their riders. At the signal, all the horses started like a flash. One of the other rider's horses took the lead, but then Little Gray passed him and eventually he and Pa won the race. We were all excited and proud of Pa for winning the race.

Pa's winning created a great deal of enthusiasm between the townsfolk. Two of the men in the race were sore losers, but the race was conducted with honor and fairness, and he collected his winnings. That night, instead of eating the usual trail fare around a campfire, Pa treated us out to supper at the restaurant in town. It was a glorious day, full of wonder and excitement, and I've never forgotten it.

The Kansas Act-1854

The summer of 1854 was an exciting and dangerous period in the history of the new territory. Thousands of folks, seeking new lives, flocked to Kansas. A large portion of them arrived in Kansas from adjoining states. Folks were outraged about whether or not Kansas should be admitted to the Union as a slave state or a free state.

Among the folks most vocal on this issue were the Missourians. They were eager to express their opinions on the matter, and the consensus believed that Kansas should be a slave state. They were determined to make their beliefs a reality. In an effort to persuade others to support their views, they often held enthusiastic meetings to discuss the topic.

Many of the men my Pa did business with at his trading post expected him to share the same views as they and my Uncle Elijah did, but he didn't. At one of these meetings, Pa was pressured into giving a speech. He reluctantly did so.

Uncle Elijah tried to get Pa to just go along with the crowd and voice similar opinion as the other men, but Pa was a man of conviction, and would not deceive them. He told the gathered group that he believed Kansas should be a free state. Pa believed that all men were created equal.

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Cody stopped writing and pondered the words he had just written. There were many things he had learned from his Pa, but he supposed his sense of justice and equality for all men was the best one. He thought of Noah Dixon. The freed black man who had joined the PX a short while before it ended. He would come to them with a chip on his shoulder caused by the extensive prejudice he had experienced in his life.

While there had been some adjustments to be made, Noah had eventually settled into life at the station and had become a full fledge member of the PX family. Noah had been a man of strong convictions and a sense of justice, which rivaled Teaspoon's. He had died because of these convictions and his death left a lasting impression on Cody.

He had been with Noah the day he died. He remembered the hunched way Noah had held himself, and the exclamation of pain he had expelled as he died. He remembered holding Noah cradled in his arms, and mourning for the loss of his friend and PX brother.

It was also he who had taken Noah's body back to the station and told the rest of the PX family members how Noah died. Losing Noah so soon after they had lost Ike McSwain, had nearly done them all in. Kid and Lou's joy at finally being married dimmed, harsh words had been shared between Kid and Jimmy over Rosemary Burke's part in Noah's death, as well as Frank and Jesse James's, and afterwards an overwhelming sense of finality and separation had settled over them all.

Cody used the pads of his thumbs to wipe away the moisture from his eyes and let out a sigh. He could not help wondering what kind of man Noah would have turned out to be if he had lived. He could not picture Noah being a rancher or a farmer. Maybe he would have established and orphanage or a school of some sort to educate former slaves so that they could learn to take care of themselves, after the Civil War ended.

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Pa's sentiments were not accepted well by the Missourians. The accused Pa of being an abolitionist and threatened to kill him. Despite their differences of opinion on the matter, my Uncle Elijah was ready to protect Pa if necessary, but he was not quick enough.

A hotheaded pro slavery man lunged at Pa and stabbed him twice. Before the man could finish the job, Uncle Elijah and other men in the crowd protected Pa from being injured any further. Uncle Elijah and another man carried Pa to his carriage and Uncle Elijah raced home, while someone was sent for the doctor and my Ma.

We were all frightened that Pa would join Samuel in the Great Beyond, but the doc's capable hands and extensive skills, saved Pa's life that night. It took Pa weeks to recover from his near fatal injuries, and even then, he was never in the best of health afterwards. Eventually future complications due to the injuries he sustained that night would prove to be the cause of his death.

The Speech - 1854

My Pa's indiscreet speech that night brought upon our family all sorts of misfortunes and difficulties. As soon as he was well enough to tend to business again, the Missourians harassed him in every possible way.

Kickapoo City, a small town that had sprung into existence seven miles up the river from Ft. Leavenworth, became the hotbed of the pro-slavery doctrine and the headquarters of its advocates.

My Pa, upon his return to the trading post, was notified to leave the territory, and was threatened with hanging or shooting if he remained.

One night a body of armed men on horses from Kickapoo City, rode up to our house and surrounded it. We were all terrified that we were going to be killed. Pa ordered us children to hide in the root cellar. He wanted Ma to go with us but she adamantly refused to leave his side.

Pa, worried that something would happen to Ma or us children, determined to make his escape by a little strategy. Hastily he disguised himself in Ma's bonnet and shawl and boldly walked out of the house and towards the cornfield. His ruse worked because the horsemen were unable to identify him in his disguise, and because of the darkness.

The horsemen soon dismounted and banged on the door. Ma bravely opened the door and told them Pa was away from home. They were not happy with her answer and searched the house. They raved and swore when they could not find Pa. The men threatened to kill Pa once they found him and took everything of value in the house when they left.

Pa secreted in the cornfield for three days, until he finally made his escape to Ft. Leavenworth. Knowing that he could not come home, Pa started a sawmill in Grasshopper Falls. We learned of another plan to kill Pa, so Ma sent me to warn him.

During my journey to warn Pa, I came across the very men who sought to kill him. One of the men recognized me as a Cody, and came at me. I instantly started my pony on a run. I glanced over my shoulder and saw that three or four of the men, who no doubt thought that they could easily capture me, were pursuing me. I urged Prince into a faster speed and led my pursuers on a lively chase for four or five miles before they finally gave up. I arrived safely at my intended destination and warned Pa that another threat had been made against him.

The Aftermath - 1854

That was a perilous time for my Pa. He was afraid to come home for fear that he would be killed as soon as he set foot on our land. As often as he could he would sneak home by cover of darkness to visit with us, but he never stayed long.

It was a difficult time for all of us, but especially for my Ma. She was constantly harassed by the pro-slavery men, who visited us almost daily, asking questions about Pa, and helping themselves to valuables, and made my Pa and sisters cook for them.

The terror of which my Ma and the rest of us lived under made me angry. I hated hearing my Ma and older sisters crying at night, while my younger siblings had nightmares. As the man of the house while my Pa was away, I sat up often at night to guard the house, fearful that some of the men would decide that the best way to retaliate against my Pa was to do bodily harm to my Ma, siblings, and myself.

My Uncle Elijah and other friends advised her to leave Kansas and move to Missouri because they feared for our lives too, but Ma would not budge. She was determined not to be driven off the land by the pro-slavery men. She said that they had already taken too much from her and she was not about to let them have anything else.

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Cody paused to think about the woman who had given birth to him. It had been years since she had joined his Pa in Heaven, and her death still pained him. She was a woman who had more courage and strength than some men that he had met during his travels. She had fought against adversity as hard and determined as his Pa had, and he credited her with keeping their family together after the death of his Pa.

He and his siblings had been fortunate to have both a Ma and Pa who felt so strongly about their convictions that they were willing to lay down their lives to uphold them.

My First Job - 1855

One day, Pa's friend, Mr. Russell came to visit. He listened to me as I related all my troubles, and his generous heart was touched by my story. He offered me job-herding cattle in Ft. Leavenworth for twenty-five dollars a month.

I accepted the offer, heartily thanked him, and went to obtain Ma's consent. She refused to let me go because I was too young at ten years of age to venture so far from home. Even though I was young, my ideas and knowledge of twenty-five dollars a month was a temptation, which I could not resist. The remuneration for my services seemed very large to me, and I stole away in the middle of the night and went to Ft. Leavenworth.

Mr. Badger, one of Mr. Russell's superintendants, immediately sent me out, mounted on a little gray mule, to herd cattle. I worked for two months and then returned to Ft. Leavenworth. I had not been home during all this time, but my Ma had learned from Mr. Russell where I was, and she knew I was safe.

When I arrived in Ft. Leavenworth, Mr. Byers, who was the bookkeeper for Mr. Russell, paid me my wages. I put the bright silver coins into a sack, tied it to my mule, and started for home, thinking myself a millionaire. My Ma and siblings were overjoyed to see me. I was proud to hand over the money to my Ma, who wept at the amount, and I knew she had forgiven me for running away.

Thus began my service for the firm of Russell and Majors, later known as Russell, Majors, and Waddell.

The Bully

The Bully-1854

My Ma and Pa were intent on all us children receiving a proper education, and were relieved when a school was started nearby. Even thought I did well in my studies, learning did not hold much attention for me as Mary Hyatt did. She was a little filly with golden curls, big blue eyes, and a smile that could light up a dark room. She and I were inseparable, and that did not set well with Stephen Gobel, who was three years older than I, and the school bully. He had taken a shine to Mary too, and did not like the fact that she liked me instead of him.

The boys at school used to build playhouses or arbors among the trees and bushes for their sweethearts. I had built one for Mary, but Stephen leveled it to the ground. We immediately got into a lively fight, in which I was badly beaten. The teacher heard of our fight and whipped us both.

At recess, next morning, I began construction of another playhouse. When I had it about two thirds finished, Stephen slyly sneaked up on my and tipped the whole thing over. I jumped for him with the quickness of a cat, and clutched him by the throat. For a moment, I had the advantage of him. He was too strong for me and soon had me on the ground, beating me severely.

It was then that I pulled the knife I had acquired while working with Mr. Russell from its sheath and sank it into Stephen's thigh. He let out a terrified cry of "I'm killed", and all the other children rushed onto the scene.

The uproar attracted the teacher's and he came running with a big club in his hand. Terrified of what the teacher would do to me, I took off running for home. The teacher followed me and I put on extra speed, to keep him from catching me, and finally he gave up pursuit.

Fearing what might happen to me at the hands of Stephen's father, Ma allowed me to go with Mr. Russell on a trip to Ft. Kearney. She fixed me up a bundle of clothing and gave me a quilt. I kissed her and my sisters, gave my younger brother Charles a hug, and waved goodbye to them all.

The trip was most enjoyable to me, and by the time, I returned home, Ma had spoken to the Gobels and cleared things up. Our two families remained friends for the rest of our lives, and there has been a time or two that Stephen and me met up and had drinks and laughed over the whole affair.

Pa's Death

Pa’s Death-1857

In the winter of 1856-1857 my Pa, in company with a man named J.C. Boles, went to Cleveland, Ohio, and organized a colony of about thirty families, whom they brought to Kansas and located on the Grasshopper.

It was during this winter that Pa, upon his return from Cleveland, caught a severe cold. This, in connection with the stabbing wound he would receive after he gave his speech in 1854, from which he’d never entirely recovered, affected him seriously, and in April he died at home from kidney disease.

His death devastated us all, especially Ma. Not only had she had to deal with the frequent harassments and indignities of cooking for the men who threatened Pa’s very life, but over the past three years she had been forced to endure long periods apart from her husband, she also had to care for us children, and work hard to make ends meet. Pa’s dying left the family in dire straits financially, and I determined to follow the plains for a livelihood for them and myself.

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Cody paused in his writing to think on that day when his Pa died. He remembered the tears falling from his sisters’ eyes, and the wails of his Ma. He could see her draped over his still warm body, clinging to him, and crying. The heart-wrenching scene had imprinted itself in his mine and he had never forgotten it.

Indian Attack

Indian Attack-1857

On another trip, I encountered my first hostile Indians. We had settled into camp for the evening, most of the men had already gone asleep, out in the open, or under the mess wagon; the cattle were grazing under the watchful eyes of three men. No one had any idea that Indians were anywhere near us. They swooped down into out camp, with savage cries and a volley of gunfire.

Chaos ensued. All the men jumped up and grabbed their guns, and ducked for cover. I scrambled under one of the wagons, and brought my rifle up to bear on one of the savages. I squeezed the trigger and heard it echo in my ears, as I watched in fascinated horror as the brave flew backward off his mount. I felt bile rise in my throat at the realization that I had just taken another life.

Hastily, I swallowed it down and took careful aim at another brave. The battle raged on, and men on both sides fell as if flies swatted away from a cooling pie. I remembered then my mother's fears about me falling into the hands of hostile Indians, and I shuddered at the thought of capture, imagining all sorts of torture they would do to me if I fell into their hands.

Before my terror could take hold, I heard a shrill cry, and the remaining hostiles raced off into the darkness leaving behind their fallen. Relief flood through me as I realized the ordeal was over and I was safe.

Freight Business

Freight Business-1857

I will endeavor to give a better description of the freighting business that was owned by Mr. Russell, and his two partners Mr. Majors, and Mr. Waddell.

My employers had two hundred and fifty trains, composed of 6,250 wagons, 75,000 oxen, and about eight thousand men in their freighting business. The wagons were known as 'J. Murphy' wagons, and they were very large and strongly built, each capable of carrying seven pounds of freight each. The wagon boxes were very commodious-being as large as the rooms of an ordinary house, and were covered with two heavy canvas sheets to protect the merchandise from the elements.

These wagons were generally sent out from Leavenworth, and drawn by several yokes of oxen guided by one driver. The trains usually traveled in twenty-five wagons, and each one had a wagon master. Usually there were thirty-one men assigned to each train. All took care of the duties of camp, from cooking to caring for animals.

Many a night I set around a campfire listening to these plainsmen tell jokes and share their thrilling adventures and hair splitting escapades, and I dreamed of the day when I would have my own stories to tell. Besides the one about the hostile Indian raid, I already had tucked away.

I considered myself fortunate to be a part of the men in camp. Although I was the youngest of them all, most of them treated me very good, but there was one ugly fellow who liked to bully me around.

One day this man slapped me across the face and I retaliated by throwing hot coffee on him. He let out a bellow and lunged at me. I thought I was a goner for sure, but Lew Simpson, our wagon master, stepped in and saved me. For the rest of the trip I stuck close to him and the bully never bothered me again. Author's note: The actual person who saved Cody from the wagon train bully was actually James B. Hickok, however, I chose to make it the wagon master instead, to keep true to the idea that the two didn't actually meet until the PX.

The Raid

The Raid-1857

Another night, after everyone had settled down for the evening, we were suddenly surprised by a group of men. They came out of nowhere. We had no suspicions that anything was a wry, until it was too late for us to react. They were twenty strong and heavily loaded down with guns. The leader of the gang stepped to the forefront of the group and said, "How are you Mr. Simpson."

"You have me at a disadvantage," said Simpson.

"I rather think I have, "coolly replied the stranger, whose words seemed to hold a double meaning that none of us understood, especially our wagon master.

We all were frozen in our places, watchful of the men holding weapons on us, ready to do anything to get an upper hand if Mr. Simpson gave the word.

"My men and I have come to attain supplies. As long as you and your men cooperate, no one will be hurt. Make a move, and the boy gets shot first."

Fear swept through me at the man's words, but I tried not to let it show on my face. I gazed across the campfire at Mr. Simpson.

"Take what you want. Be quick about it and then leave us in peace." Mr. Simpson told the men.

"We'll leave when we're good and ready." The leader of the group of bandits said.

He gestured for a few of his men to get to work, while he and the others stood guard, including the fellow holding a gun on me.

By the time, the men had obtained what they wanted, and left us in peace, I was sweating bullets. My young life had passed before my eyes and I had decided that I had not done enough to warrant leaving it so soon, and I was very relieved when the unpleasant men made their departure, and I was safe at last.

Hard Times

Hard Times-1857

After our wagon train was raided, and they had stripped us of much of our supplies, we finally arrived at Fort. Bridger. There were a great number of troops there along with about four hundred of Russell, Majors, and Waddell's employees.

Everyone at the fort knew that our supplies would run short during the winter, so all the men were put on rations, including me. We started with three-quarters rations, and then as supplies started to dwindle, we were cut down to only one quarter rations.

We were forced to kill our poor, worn out cattle for beef. When that food was gone, we killed our mules. I would never felt so hungry before. My folks were not wealthy by any means, but we kids had always had plenty of food to eat.

My stomach grumbled constantly, and I could have gnawed on wood, I was so hungry. Eventually winter finally passed and everyone was overjoyed. We were able to travel again and met a supply train bound westward on our way to Ft. Laramie and we have a grand feast of hard tack, bacon, and beans. We finally made it back to Ft. Leavenworth about the middle of July 1858. Never was I happier to see my ma and siblings again.

Wanted

Wanted-1860

Young, Skinny, wiry fellows not over eighteen. Must be expert rider willing to risk death daily. Orphans preferred. $25 per week.

I wanted to ride for the Pony Express the moment I first heard about it. I was getting bored with the monotony of the freight business, despite the perilous aspects that it entailed. I did not quite fit the ideal of being an 'orphan' though, because Ma was still living, and I had siblings, too.

Ma was not thrilled about the idea when I told her about it. She had just gotten me home after a long spell away, and she was not ready to give me up yet. However, when I explained to her how much money I would be making, she reluctantly agreed for me to take a job riding for the Pony Express.

Mr. Russell sent me to talk to Mr. George Christian, the leading wagon master of Russell, Majors, and Waddell. He had doubts about whether or not I was cut out to be a rider, but my personal recommendation from Mr. Russell changed his attitude.

He sent me to Sweetwater, Wyoming to be trained by an ex- Texas Ranger by the name of Teaspoon Hunter. Upon my arrival at the small settlement, I inquired in the General Mercantile where I could find this Hunter fellow, and the location of the Pony Express station.

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Cody paused in his writing, thinking about the day he would first met William Tompkins. It had been a warm spring day, but the frosty stare upon which Tompkins had greeted him when he stepped into the man's establishment, sent a shiver down his spine. He remembered the man eying him from head to toe in disapproval and distrust, and felt his own dander spark. The frosty gaze had seemed to soften just a moment when Tompkins had given him directions to Emma's place.

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I thanked the proprietor politely for the directions he had given me, and left the store. It was very easy for me to find the place, and I was impressed with the condition of my new home away from home.

Emma

Emma-1860

It appeared to me that I was perhaps the first employee to arrive at the new station. I did not see any other folks about the buildings or corral, so I rode up to the house and reined in Lancer. I dismounted, secured the gelding's reins to the hitching post, hopped the gated fence, and strolled toward the steps leading up to the two-story yellow clapboard house with its white trim. I stepped onto the porch and was just about to knock, when the door opened.

A woman stood framed in the doorway, a rifle tucked under one arm, and a wary look in her soft brown eyes. She had fiery red, curly hair done up in a bun at the nape of her neck, but a few tendrils had come lose and framed her face. Her slender form was clothed in faded calico. She had a natural beauty, and held herself in a manner that exuded determination and confidence. I had not delusions that she would expertly wield the rifle she so casually held under her arm, if I gave her the slightest notion I meant to do her any harm.

"Can I help you?"

The question was not spoken unkindly, but directly.

I swept my hat off my head with one hand, and raked through the long, sweaty blond tresses until I was certain it did not appear to be so unkempt.

"Excuse me, Ma'am. The shopkeeper town told me that this was the Shannon place."

"That's right."

"Could I speak to Mr. Shannon?" I asked, thinking it wiser to speak to the man of the place, certain he would be able to direct me to where I might find Teaspoon Hunter.

"If you can find him, you can talk to him."

I had the feeling that I wouldn't find Mr. Shannon anywhere on the property I realized then that I hadn't introduced myself, and thought maybe if I did, the woman I was speaking to would be more forthcoming with information.

"I apologize, Ma'am, for not introducing myself properly. The name's Cody, William F. Cody. I have come to work for the Pony Express. I was told that this is where I was to come to be trained by a Mr. Teaspoon Hunter."

The woman's countenance changed and a warm smile brightened her face, changing her features from simply pretty to beautiful. "I'm Emma Shannon, and I own the led that you and the other boys are going to call home while you are in the employed as riders. I'll also be tending to your daily needs by doing the cooking, cleaning, mending, and anything else that comes up that you lot of boys are going to need."

While she had been talking, I was relieved to see her set down the rifle and gesture for me to enter the house.

"Mr. Spoon and I weren't expecting anyone to arrive until about the end of the week, so you showing up surprised me. A woman alone can't be too careful around these parts with being too friendly with strangers." Emma continued as she turned and headed deeper inside the house.

I had no choice but to close the door and follow her. I found her in a bright and airy kitchen at the back of the house, stirring a large pot of something on the stove. My nose was assaulted with the spicy scent of onions, seasoned meat, and potatoes and my stomach gave an embarrassingly loud growl in appreciation for what my nose smelled.

"Wash up in the sink over there, Billy, and then you can join me for supper. Afterwards I will take you over to the bunkhouse so you can stake, your claim on what bunk you want, and store your gear. Mr. Spoon will not be back 'til morning at the earliest. He's out procuring horses."

I did as Emma directed and washed up, all too eager to partake in the delicious meal she was preparing. I was a little disappointed that I was not going to make the acquaintance of a real live Texas Ranger that day, but I hid it well. There was enough time for that the following day, tonight I could revel in Emma's undivided attention, something I was sure was going to be in short supply when the rest of the riders arrived. I was also keen on the idea that I would get to have first pick of a bunk in the bunkhouse.

First Impressions

First Impressions-1860

Teaspoon Hunter was nothing like I expected. Instead of a dashing, distinguished figure in impeccable clothing, with a charming personality, and an air of authority about him. Hunter had leathery, wrinkled skin, silvering hair, and a stout body dressed in faded denims and patched flannel.

He had an eccentric personality, quirky eating and bathing habits, and a quick wit. His sage advice and life experiences enabled him to be more than just an employer to us. He first became our friend and confidante, and then our surrogate father.

Cody sat back in his chair and chuckled. He had such high notions when he was a youngster. He had thought the way a man looked and dressed meant he was something, but Teaspoon had taught him different. It was a man's ethics and actions that were important, as well as how he carried himself, and not anything else.

He had never known anyone like Teaspoon, and never would again. Next to his Pa, Teaspoon was the best man he had ever known. He leaned forward and started writing again.

Jimmy Hickok was cocky, quick tempered, and fearless. I knew that by the way he swaggered over to the corral when he arrived at the station that first day so long ago. It made me wonder if we would be friends as well as co-workers.

Cody paused in his writing to contemplate the last line he had just written. He was so glad that he and Jimmy had not become friends, but brothers' of the heart as well. Jimmy was much more than the notorious 'Wild Bill' so many dime store novelists had so incorrectly written about. He was a fast draw with a gun, but he was not as quick to pull the trigger as one would think. He usually only did so to protect his friends and loved ones, or to defend himself. Jimmy was an honorable, loyal man, and he had been lucky to count him as a friend and surrogate brother.

Ike McSwain was quiet, gentle, caring, and compassionate; yet he was also tough and dangerous if he needed to be. Ike was steadfast and loyal friend who could always be counted on to lend a hand or help out in a gunfight. His capacity to love was what had eventually gotten him killed.

Cody felt moisture fill his eyes. This brother of his heart had been taken away from all of them too soon. Ike had died protecting the woman that he loved, and Cody knew it was a sacrifice that the mute rider would have made for any of them. That was just who Ike was. He wiped the tears from his eyes with the back of his hands and set back to work writing again.

Buck Cross was a conflicted young man. Troubled by the prejudices he had experienced most of his life for being half-Kiowa and half-white, he had kept himself closed off from all of them for awhile, except for Ike. The two of them were blood brothers who had met at an orphanage a few years before they had signed up for the Pony Express.

Buck soon learned that they were all different at the PX. They saw him as a person, not as and Indian. Buck was a loyal and true friend. Someone who really cared about how his loved ones were feeling. He was a good listener and confidante.

Cody missed Buck. It had been a few years since he had last seen Buck, his wife Cherokee, and their small brood of children. Buck had stayed in Rock Creek for awhile, before he had headed back to his tribe. It was soon after that he had learned through Rachel that Buck had gotten married. Now Buck and Cherokee ran a trading post near the Kiowa reservation, and he had not been down that way in awhile, so busy he had been lately with his Wild West show. He made a decision there and then that he would make a visit soon to go see Buck and his family.

The Kid. This brother was quiet, strong, loyal, caring, and stubborn to boot. Those were just a few of the character traits he admired most in his friend. What you saw was what you got when it came to Kid. He was as fast with a gun as Jimmy, steadfast in loyalties, and could be counted on in a fight.

Cody smiled. He had never met a truer friend than Kid. He was as strong and true now as he was back when he had first met him. Kid had worked hard to make a life for Lou and their children, and now the family lived quite comfortably on the sprawling ranch they had built around the old home station they had shared in Sweetwater.

Lou McCloud was puny, but spry. She had proven right off that she could ride and shoot as good as the rest of them. She was quick-tempered, passionate, stubborn, and loving. She did not let anyone boss her around and was determined to do right by her younger siblings. Lou had a heart of gold and the capacity to love anyone who was fortunate to get close to her.

He was closer to Lou than his own sisters. Maybe it was because she had experienced so much with him and the others. Lou was as handy in a gun battle as nay of them, and she had proven time and again that she was capable of protecting their backs as they were hers.

Noah Dixon had a chip on his shoulder the size of Texas. Like Buck, he had experienced cruelty and prejudice because of the color of his skin, even though he had been born a freed man. He had butted heads with a few of them, especially Kid due to his Southern upbringing, but eventually Noah grew to trust them all, and became a part of their PX family.

A sigh escaped from Cody's lips as he paused in his writing to read what he had just written. Even though many years had passed since that day when Noah died, he remembered it in vivid detail. He had ridden with the military to stop a band of Southern sympathizers from stirring up trouble. Noah had wanted to ride with them, but the Army CO had turned his request down. Noah had been furious.

So mad, in fact, that he had allowed Rosemary Burke to coerce him into going with her to see the military take care of the sympathizers, and they had inadvertently found themselves smack dab in the middle of the battle. Noah had defended Rosemary until he, himself, had ridden up on them and lay down some cover fire for them. They had all thought they were in the clear, but then more shots rang out and Noah was struck twice. He had crumpled to the ground with a stunned expression on his face.

He had gone to Noah, held his friend as he died, and wept for the loss of his brave, noble brother

Cody swiped more tears from his eyes and let out a wry chuckle. Who would have thought that writing down memories would draw such emotions from an old codger like him? He rose from his chair and moved across his room to the dresser where he kept a bottle of whiskey. He used his teeth to pull the cork out of the bottle, and took a long swallow, before returning to his desk. When he was resettled in his chair, he dipped his pen in ink and began to write again.

Marshal Sam Cain was a man integrity, grit, and courage. He stood for justice with every fiber of his being and he made it easy for others to look up to him. He had had a bit of a checkered reputation in the past, but that all changed when he put on the badge. There was not a man he trusted more to have at his back in a gun battle, than Sam Cain. Once Sam had married Emma, he had become another member of their family. When Sam had taken a job as Territorial Marshal, he had Emma had married, and they had moved away.

Rachel Dunne had joined the Pony Express soon after Sam and Emma had left Sweetwater, taking over Emma's job as housekeeper. She was a buxom beauty with a steel edge to her that she kept hidden under a caring nature.

Cody gave a low chuckle as he recalled how he and the other boys had made fool out of themselves over her appearance. His own mind had run with lewd thoughts until Rachel had put him and the others in their place. Her spunky attitude and candor had quickly earned their respect.

Jesse James had come into their lives at a rocky time. They had all just moved from Sweetwater to Rock Creek, and the town's citizenry were not too keen on accepting them in their bustling community. Jesse introduction to most of them came after he had tried to steal Lou's horse, Lightning, and had taken a couple of potshots at Jimmy. To say the least, Hickok was not thrilled with the incident, and would have throttled Jesse, if Lou had not stopped him.

They had soon learned that Jesse's guardian was murdered and they had helped him bring the man's killers to justice. Hickok had had a shadow from that day on. Jesse was hell bent on growing up too fast, and had a thirst for blood that most fourteen year old's did not. His quest to prove himself as a man had led him to ride with his older brother Frank with the rest of the Southern sympathizers the day Noah died.

For a long while after that day, Cody had carried a lot of animosity towards Jesse. He had believed the boy to be a betrayer to them all, and partially responsible for Noah's death, even though he knew that Jesse had not been anywhere near their location when his fellow rider was shot. It had taken time, and some growing up, for him to finally forgive the young boy.

Unlike the rest of them, Jesse had not heeded Teaspoon's advice, and had allowed his brother to lead him into a life of violence and crime, which ultimately got him killed by someone he trusted.

Cody spent a few moments rereading over the entry he had just written in his journal, changing a few words, adding in others, but eventually deciding he had done his friends justice in his depictions of them. It made him realize not for the first time, just how fortunate a man he was. He had been lucky enough to have been blessed with two families'; the one he was born with, and the other that had chosen him.

He hoped one day, that after he was gone, that someone would read his journal, and learn for themselves just how special this group particular group of Pony Express riders really was.

Bumps and Bruises

Bumps and Bruises-1860

What I thought I knew about riding and shooting was nothing compared to Teaspoon's vast experience. He taught us things that none of us would have ever have though of on our own. A few of them we thought were plain foolish, but we quickly learned how wrong we were. Like when he told us to carry a bunch of firecracker in our saddlebags.

A few of us laughed when he mentioned the firecrackers, but after Kid survived a renegade Indian attack on a ride using some as a diversion, none of us ever laughed again about carrying them.

Besides showing us the usefulness of firecrackers, Teaspoon taught how to fall from a horse to lesson injury to ourselves, how to use out horses as cover in a gunfight when nothing else is available, and numerous other things that would have taken us all a lifetime to learn on our own.

Cody paused in his writing to reflect on the man who had become a surrogate father to him and the other PX riders, before jotting down:

Teaspoon had taught them all more than a handful of tricks. He had taught them what was really important: loyalty, honor, trust, family. He was a unique man who was a gift to all who knew him. There isn't a day that goes by since he passed, that I haven't missed him, and wished he was still alive.

Natural Born Leader

There was something about Kid that said to me that he was someone who could be depended on…who could be trusted. He had a quiet strength about him that suggested even back then that he was a natural born leader. Our first understanding of this came when he led us throughout a battle with some nefarious outlaws.

It was back during the first days of the express. Lou had been shot when she encountered the outlaws at a way station where she was supposed to exchange horses while she was on a ride. Not only did they take the mochila from her, but they took several horses, including Kid’s prized paint mare, Katie.

By the time the rest of us arrived at the station, he and Lou were both ready to go after the outlaws. Buck cautioned us that there were twice as many outlaws as us and Kid devised a plan to even up the odds. He sent Ike back to the station to retrieve the box of Gatling guns, while the rest of us rode on.

We found the outlaws camped out in a little valley, and thanks to Ike’s arrival with the Gatling guns, we quickly made the outlaws surrender. Jimmy wanted to string the men up then and there, but Kid told him ‘no’, and we all rounded them up and escorted them back to town and Sam. It was the right thing to do.

His quiet strength and strong moral code are only two of the things that made Kid the man he is today. I’ve been lucky to have such a man as my friend and brother.


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