Roy stood on the corner of Meridian and Pioneer and watched cars weave in and around the horse driven wagons going down the street. In 1907 Doc Kushner had brought the first car to Puyallup, and now three years later everyone seemed to be yearning for a car. If he hadn’t spent more time in a logging camps than town, he’d be tempted, too. He turned to the building looming above him. Plastered on the side of its wall was a huge advertisement. “Buffalo Bill Cody Wild West show, coming soon to Tacoma, Washington, September 16, 1910.”
Roy ran his fingers across his thick, black mustache. How many times had he heard his dad brag, “I knew Cody back in the day before he was famous, when we both freighted between the forts in Kansas.” Though it had been long before he was born, Roy had never quite believed the story. He’d probably worked in the same area as Cody all right but he suspected he only knew him from afar.
Just then, his friend Jimmy Phillips startled him with a tap on the back. “Surprised to see you here, what brings what brings you to town?”
“Just taking a short break from logging. I got bruised pretty good by some falling branches the other day and decided a few days of rest were in order. I’ll be back at camp soon enough.”
Jimmy waved at poster behind Roy’s back, “what I’d give to go to that Wild West show.”
“I’d love to go too,” said Roy.
“Well, I definitely can’t afford it right now.” said Jimmy. “Between your logging and berry fields you must have some money saved up. You certainly aren’t one to drink and gamble it away. I bet you could swing it. I’d like to talk longer but I have an appointment to make. Stop by the house if going to be around a few more days. Maybe we can do a little fishing before you go back to camp.”
Roy watched his friend cross the street and pondered. I’m not one to spend money foolishly, but I do have a nice nest egg saved up. Seeing that Wild West show would sure be something. But do I really want to spend the money? I’d have to stay here in Puyallup a couple of extra days, but I bet Dad would get a kick out of going with me. We don’t get a chance to spend time together much anymore. We could just go and partake in the parade and free parts of the show. No if I’m going to do it, I should take in the whole show. Maybe I should make sure Dad is free first. Oh heck, if I don’t get the tickets now I never will. I’ll take Lida if Dad can’t go. She would love going, too.
Throwing caution to the wind, he strode into the drug store.
“May I help you,” said the pretty young woman at the counter.
“Yes, I’d like two tickets to Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show.”
“Certainly, she said, and will there be anything else. “No, thanks” said Roy, “just the tickets will be fine.”
“All Right, that will be two dollars.”
Roy took out his worn, leather wallet from his back pocket and handed the woman two green backs.
She handed him the tickets, “Enjoy the show. I wish I could afford to go.”
“I probably shouldn’t splurge either,” he said, “but I want to do something special for my dad, I’m taking him.”
At home that evening, he pulled the two tickets out of his wallet and waved them in front of his dad’s face. “Look what I bought? How would you like to go with me on the 16th?”
His Dad’s eyes widened, “Those set you back a bit. I’d love to go. Why I remember how Cody and I ran freight back in Kansas like it was yesterday. He was quite the performer, even then.”
“Great,” said Roy. “What you say you and I make a whole day of it.”
“Sounds like plan to me,” nodded his father.
The morning of September 16, 1910 dawned bright and sunny, both men dressed in their Sunday best.
Roy’s Mother handed them both their bowler hats at the front door and waved them goodbye. “Have a wonderful time.”
They caught the electric train into Tacoma and joined the throngs of people all decked in their finest suits and dresses to watch for Cody’s arrival.
Clip- clop, clip-clop down the street appeared two fine white horses drawing a carriage where Buffalo Bill himself sat. The throngs cheered. Behind him trailed Cossacks, Indians, Mexican Spaniards, Filipinos, cowboys, the famous Roosevelt Rough Riders all dressed to the hilt and interspersed with bands.
When the last of them disappeared into the distance. Roy turned to his dad, “what you say we get ourselves an early lunch and then head over to the event grounds in plenty of time for the 2:00 show.”
His dad tipped his head, “Sounds good to me. I wouldn’t mind getting a load off my feet for a bit how about we try a meal across the street in that Jap restaurant. Since you bought the tickets, lunch is on me.”
Roy stepped off the curb. “Deal.”
The two men negotiated their way past the cars, buggies and throngs of people and crossed to the other side of the street.
They found a table inside the restaurant and sat down.
A man came and filled their glasses with water.” What can I get you?”
Roy scanned the menu, “I’ll take the number 3.”
His Dad lifted his eyes from the menu, “make mine the same.”
The waiter bowed his head, “two number 3’s coming right up.” And he walked away.
His father leaned into the table. “He speaks pretty good English, don’t you think?”
“Yes,” said Roy, “I imagine he was born here and not Japan.”
“Getting to be a lot of them farming in the valley,” said his dad. “Wasn’t that parade something else. Never saw so many interesting folks or animals in my life.”
“Sure was,” said Roy. “Cody is quite a show man. His fancy carriage even had a footman.”
“Yep,” said his dad, “It sure wasn’t that way back when I first knew him, he drove an ordinary freighting wagon.”
Roy was glad the arrival of food interrupted his dad’s story. He’d heard enough of his freighting stories with Cody to last a lifetime.
The two men dug into their food. Roy thought the rice tasted particularly good. He wasn’t something he partook in often. Meat, plenty of potatoes and bread were the mainstays of logging camp food.
When they finished, their waiter returned with the check. His Dad took out his wallet and paid the sum then he pushed back his chair, “I reckon we should mosey over to show grounds. Don’t want to miss anything.”
My grandfather often talked about how his father had worked with Cody freighting in Kansas and their visit to the Wild West show when it had come to Tacoma. He said he was so surprised when Cody recognized his Dad. There is a Puyallup newspaper article written after Cody died where Sam is interviewed and said the same thing. An archivist at the Cody museum in Wyoming told me that for my grandfather getting to meet Cody would be much like meeting the most famous person of today.