I’m headed to Pawnee for the weekend….
Welcome back. As a child growing up in the 1860s in prosperous Bloomington, Illinois this young boy would dream of the west where buffalo still roamed the plains. After getting his education he held several good jobs but the west kept calling to him. Popular magazines of the times like the Saturday Evening Post were full of stories about battles between the U.S. Calvary and plains Indians and the exploits of a man he came to worship Buffalo Bill Cody. The Dime Store novels of the 1870s telling stories about Wild Bill Hickok and Buffalo Bill inspired him and after a chance encounter he started living out his dream.
There were several Calvary scouts touring the country with Buffalo Bill telling stories about life in the west which was still a wide-open area. Although he was now a successful business man running his family’s mill, when the young man heard their stories he decided that his destiny lay out west and west he went. Over time the Pawnee tribe became like family to the now middle aged man as he traveled throughout the west on one adventure after another.
Always a showman he would follow his hero Buffalo Bill into show business creating his own act with his Pawnee brothers which toured the country. This city boy turned plainsman who was now the subject of his own Dime Store novels was named Gordon William Lillie or better known as Pawnee Bill.
Pawnee Bill’s life story is well known; how he married the love of his life, toured the world with his show and then in 1909 he and his idol Buffalo Bill joined their two shows together. The “Two Bills” show as it was called combined Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show with Pawnee Bill’s Great Far East Show and friends people came in droves.
The show was successful for years until motion pictures became popular and put an end to this kind of traveling show. After the show closed, Pawnee Bill continued to be successful with other ventures. In 1930 in an effort to preserve the history of the old west he built a place called Buffalo Ranch on Blue Hawk Peak just outside of Pawnee, Oklahoma. He had built a house there years before and now in his seventies, this would be Bill’s last showplace. As they had in the past, people came by the thousands to see his show. The show went on for several years until his wife died. After that Bill was never the same and in 1942 he passed away, many say from missing her.
I am bringing you this man’s story because on June 9th and 10th the Pawnee Bill Original Wild West Show will be taking place at the original Buffalo Ranch just outside of town. It is an honor to be taking part in this event on both days which will have all the excitement of the 1930s show. The house where Bill and his wife lived will also be open to the public and everything is in its original condition just like when the two of them were there.
The town of Pawnee is quite a place to visit as well. Opened to non-Indian settlers in 1893, the town actually grew during the great depression because of all the WPA projects going on in the area. With the presence of two major rail lines, Pawnee which is named after the tribe, continued to have steady growth in the following years. One more little tidbit: Moses J. “Chief” Yellowhorse from Pawnee was the first full blooded Native American to play pro baseball.
For all the show info call (918) 762-2513.
Till next time, I’ll see ya down the road………………