As our town is named after “Buffalo Bill” Cody, and since his birthday is fast approaching, I thought it appropriate to write a few lines about the old gentleman. As with any historical personage, Cody had his supporters and his detractors. Problem being, as time advances and the legend retreats into history, we somehow find more people willing to rewrite history, misrepresent facts and even malign those involved.
It’s called revisionist history and all one has to do to experience it, is to tune into so-called historical programs like the history channel’s “Gunslingers,” on satellite television, to understand what lesser minds and so-called politically correct historical writers are doing to change what was, into what they think it should have been.
Bill Cody’s detractors are like that, nay-saying his accomplishments and trying to denigrate his memory. However these distorters of fact have bumped into at least two historical facts they can’t refute concerning our town’s founding father. One being that Bill Cody was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for outstanding service and bravery as a scout for the frontier Army. An action that has stirred controversy ever since.
One other irrefutable fact from Cody’s earliest history is his participation in the pony express. Reportedly, at age 15, Cody encountered agents for Russell, Waddell and Majors, the founders of the pony express. The route from St. Joseph, Missouri, to Sacramento, California, was connected with relay stations, many of which Cody reportedly helped build. Each relief station was spaced at the distance a good horse could gallop before tiring, roughly 10 miles. These way stations were used by the young riders to change to a fresh horse and to change riders roughly every 180 miles.
During one ride of note, Cody, discovering that his relief rider had been killed, completed one of the longest nonstop rides in the history of the company. The trip was 322 miles long and took 21 horses to complete. As impressive as that ride was, it was not the record. That was held by “Pony” Bob Haslam. Pony Bob was well known at the company for both his loyalty and his bravery.
Born in England in 1840, Haslam arrived in the U.S. as a teenager. Like Cody, when the pony express commenced operations, he helped establish several way stations before being hired as a rider. During the earliest years of the pony express, Paiute Indians started raiding farms, ranches, way stations and other outposts, stealing relay horses, burning way stations and killing way station operators and express riders. Many of the youthful riders were too terrified to ride their routes, as on this particular occasion.
This left “Pony” Bob with no choice but to ride on, eventually covering 380 miles before a relief rider saddled up. During the ride, young Bob was shot through the jaw with an arrow which reportedly resulted in his losing three teeth, but not his courage.
After the Civil War, Pony Bob worked for the Wells Fargo company and, well into his 50s, like Cody, was an active scout for the Army. Apparently he and Cody remained lifetime friends.
To paraphrase, “History is made by those who do, and debunked by those lessor individuals who are fainter of heart.”
Happy Birthday Old Scout.