Pawnee Bill greets an old
acquaintance, the Chief of the Pawnees. The pictures was
taken the week of Pawnee Bill's House Warming at Blue Hawl
"Little Giant of Oklahoma"
Article by G. L. Savage
The first time I saw Pawnee
bill I thought he was a big man. He was riding around the
arena in Chicago before the first act of his and Buffalo
Bill's Wild West Show. Cody and Pawnee Bill appeared to be
about the same height with their ten-gallon hats pointing
toward the clouds. But a few years later Pawnee Bill told me
that Cody rode a horse a few inches shorter than the one he
rode. "I don't think he ever forgave me for being a little
man!" Pawnee Bill laughed. One morning in New York City he
wanted to take a walk right after breakfast and got lost in
the crowd. He was wearing ordinary street clothes. Buffalo
Bill caught him and had him pose for pictures for the paper.
It was necessary to borrow Cody's jacket and hat. He had to
stuff paper in Buffalo Bill's hat band and hide the glove
tips, and sit on the New York telephone directory for a little
extra height all to please Buffalo Bill!
I met Gordon W. (Pawnee Bill)
Lillie in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and visited him often on his ranch
in Pawnee after that. He was not at all rough or unmannerly
as some writers have tried to make him seem. He was gracious
and friendly and loved good conversation.
Gordon was born in Bloomington
Illinois in 1860 but grew up in Kansas and left home while he
was still in his teens. Accompanied by a friend he headed
west to make his fortune. But one-night with the wolves
howling around their blankets was enough for his pal so Gordon
had to go it alone. He met a group of professional buffalo
hunters and was invited to ride with them. In those days
buffalo hunting was a paying business. Hides were in demand
all over the country.
Pawnee Bill told me the first
time he heard a big herd of buffalo coming toward camp he was
frightened. They thundered past all day, and all night. The
hunters dropped several close together and used them as a
barricade to hide behind as they shot others. Thirteen
hundred hides were taken and it required two weeks to skin the
dead. The hunters worked all winter and in the spring took
their hides to St. Joseph, Missouri, sold them, and went their
Pawnee Bill decided to go home
and visit his family and later went to work on the Zimmerman
Ranch (in 1882). While riding herd with a group of cowboys
there he got into his first fist fight. Among the cowboys was
a young man from England who had come west to recover from
lung trouble. The cowboys never knew his real name but called
him "Pell Mell." A cowboy named Don kept teasing the young
Englishman and finally challenged him to a fight. The sick man
soon fell and Don began to ridiculed him. That was too much
for Pawnee Bill. He jumped in and forced the bully back,
Angrily, the young tough drew a knife but Bill took that away
from him and the bully skipped camp.
One winter day when Pawnee Bill
was looking for strays, he was caught in a blizzard. Those
prairie blizzards are treacherous and those who are not
familiar with them can be caught without warning. The air
becomes still and sultry, a little warm drizzle falls, then
wham the weather comes at you from every direction, the sky
letting loose with everything it has-rain, hail, sleet and
snow. Pawnee Bill was given shelter by a young stranger whom
he recognized as an outlaw, and he never told the boys back at
the ranch who had helped him through the night.
Bill felt close to the Pawnee
Indians and spoke their language well. He also knew several
other Indian languages. The Indian Agent asked him to work
for them as an interpreter and Bill gave it a try, but the
work was too tame for him. When a Pawnee friend, Left Hand
came to him and said the Sioux had raided their camp and run
off their beat horses Pawnee Bill was back in the saddle. He
and Left Hand rounded up enough young warriors to go after the
raiders. The raiders expecting pursuit, divided the horses
and sent them back to Sioux country by various routes. Left
Hand and Pawnee Bill divided their warriors and followed.
They recovered some horses but lost some warriors. So did the
grand old Plainsmen, each a strongly forged link to the West
that was. From left to right, Pawnee Bill, Luther "Capt."
Richard "Deadwood Dick" Clark, "Doc" Carver, B. R. "Idaho
Bill" Pearson, and Richard "Diamond Dick" Tanner.