Roy and his dad joined the throng headed for the show grounds. Several thousand folks decked out in their best dresses and suits roamed about the many tents set up outside the main arena.
They joined a group in front of a shooting demonstration. The sharpshooter lit a 12-candle candelabra. He set it on a gentleman’s head. Bang, out went a candle flame, bang out went the next and next until all were blown out.
The crowd clapped and cheered at the end of the demo. “Don’t forget folks, you’ll see much more if you get a ticket for the main event,” said the sharpshooter.
Roy touched his father’s elbow, “What do you say, we head over to the main arena and get our seats?
iHis His father walking in front of him said, “that’s splendid idea.”
They joined the long line that snaked around the main arena. The line moved quickly and soon a, a man took their tickets, “Enjoy the show and stick around afterwards for more side shows.”
“Will do, “said Roy as he gave the ticket taker a brief wave.
The soft sound of mini booms accompanied by the buttery sweet smell of popcorn filled the air. Roy’s dad sniffed. “That smells mighty good. What you say I spring for a couple of bags.”
Roy rubbed his stomach. “Thought lunch stuffed me, but who can resist that smell.”
“Two popcorns,” said his dad to the man working the popping machine.
The man handed them each a bag, “That will be 20 cents.”
Roy’s father handed him two dimes. Popcorn in hand, they headed for the crowded grandstand. They found their seats in the front row of wooden bleachers.
Roy leaned toward his dad, “whoa aren’t these dandy seats.”
His Dad nodded in agreement as they settled themselves.
Roy grabbed a handful of popcorn and munched as he watched all the stagehands scramble to get things set up. “Hard to believe how much stuff they bring in for one of these shows, isn’t it?”
“Yep, I read in the paper this morning, it took 48 train cars”
“Forty-eight,” repeated Roy, “that’s a lot.”
The two men grew quiet as they munched on their popcorn. Marching music filled the air as a voice over the loudspeaker announced, “Ladies and Gentlemen may I present Buffalo Bill’s Wild West and Congress of Rough Riders.”
The crowd stood and roared. “Ladies and Gentlemen please, be seated,” blared the loudspeaker as Buffalo Bill sitting tall upon his horse entered the arena.
He wore his trademarked fringed leather jacket, work gloves, felt hat and in one handheld his shotgun. The crowd let out a deafening roar as he took off his hat, held it high and circled the arena.
Roy yelled over the roar of the crowd. “I can’t believe it I am looking in person at the most famous in all the world.”
Roy’s dad leaned over closer to Roy’s ear. “When I knew him, he wasn’t famous or gray, guess I wasn’t either,” he laughed.
Buffalo Bill put his hat back on.
The loudspeaker blared, “May I present the Congress of Rough riders.”
The clipped clop of horse hooves filled the air as riders from all corners of the world filled the arena, Russian Cossacks, mounted troops from Germany, Mexicans, Spaniard, Filipinos, Cowboys, and Chief Sitting Bull with the Sioux warriors in full headdress.
Roy’s dad yelled over the crowds cheering, “And I thought I could ride, they put me to shame.”
He had never seen such an extravaganza, he, and his dad along with the rest of the crowd, sat transfixed as one incredible act followed another.
Buffalo stampeded across the field as a buffalo hunt was reenacted.
His dad leaned over; “I heard about those buffalo hunts but never experienced one myself.”
They both stood to cheer and applauded with the rest of the crowd when the Deadwood stagecoach raced onto the field followed by blood thirsty whoops and holler of Indians in hot pursuit. Other acts featured Indians dressed in the native costumes and feather headdresses preformed some of their native dances. Riders on horseback showed off their riding skills and sharp shooters their shooting skills. Roy sat breathless as cowboys sat astride horses that did their best to buck them off, and other showed of their skills as they lassoed cattle and horses.
Roy nudged his dad, “I certainly never mastered those skills when we lived in Oklahoma, but Milo wasn’t bad at it.”
“I reckon so,” said his dad. “That would’ve been something if he had gone to work for Cody. Don’t suppose he’d ever want too though.”
The reenactment of Custer’s last stand interrupted their conversation. The crowd went wild and Roy found he needed to sit and catch his breath after all the cheering he did. Only to have his heart race again when finale started. An Indian attack on a settler’s cabin.
As the announcer announced the end of the show, Roy put his bowler hat back upon his head. “That was quite the show. What did you think Dad?”
“I’d say Cody found his niche in life, all right. Thanks for bringing me, son. I never believed I could enjoy it so much.”
“They exited the Arena. Roy waved toward the tents set up around the grounds. Let’s take in a few more side shows before we head home.”
They watched some Indians show off some of their dancing. Their bodies rose and dropped up and down with the beat of the drum. The bronco bucking and sharpshooting acts reminded Roy he would never have made a good cowboy.
After viewing the elephants his dad said, “I reckon it’s time we called it a day.”
They walked past a row of performer’s tents toward the exit. A voice said, “If it isn’t Sam Caple. It’s been years since I saw you.”
His father stepped toward the nearest tent. “Why, Bill, I am surprised you recognized me, it’s indeed been years.”
Oh my God, thought Roy, It’s Buffalo Bill himself. Dad wasn’t telling a tale; he really knew him.
He heard Buffalo Bill say. “I’d recognize those blue eyes of yours anywhere. So, are you living here, now?”
“Sure do,” said his dad, “Well, actually next door in the town of Puyallup.”
He motioned for Roy to come closer. “This is my son, Roy. “
Cody reached out his hand to shake, “Glad to meet you. Your Pa and I go way back to our scouting and freighting days.”
Roy gulped, what did one say to someone so famous. “Nice, nice to meet you, sir,” he stammered.
A man came to Cody’s side. He whispered something in his ear, Cody nodded and turned back to them, “I’d love to reminisce with you but I have some affairs to attend to.”
He leaned over and shook his dad’s hand. “Sam, it was nice seeing you after all these years. Take care,” and he turned and disappeared into his tent.
Details for the Wild West show came from watching clips of the show on You Tube. My grandfather often mentioned going to see this show with his dad and how surprised he was when after the show Cody recognized his dad calling him by name. The Puyallup newspaper has an interview with his dad shortly after Cody passed away where he tells of their freighting days when he knew him. Another newspaper article in Kansas mentioned Milo’s prowess as a cowboy.