Buffalo Bill legend started here

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Posted: Monday, March 3, 2014 12:00 am

In a time when the West was still wild, where Native Americans were scouted and fought, the legend of Buffalo Bill began and took off like a wildfire.

And this character, once the most famous man in the world, started right here in Nebraska.

To tell the long tale of Buffalo Bill, the La Vista Public Library had presenter and author Jeff Barnes speak on Saturday, helping to give as truthful an account as possible in regards to the man and the myth.

“This was one of Nebraska’s most famous sons,” Rainer said of Buffalo Bill.

Rainer began his presentation by clarifying a difference between the character of Bill and the person of William F. Cody, comparing them to Christopher Reeve and Superman. He said the man, Cody, was born in Iowa, was raised in Kansas, invested in Wyoming and died Colorado, but “Nebraska is where he truly lived.”

Rainer’s presentation covered Buffalo Bill’s history in Nebraska, from his time as a young scout in the Indian Wars against Native American tribes, to finding the campsite and scouting for the Royal Buffalo Hunter in 1872 and the many years of his time in show business, which began with “The Scouts of the Prairie.” Other feats of the legend included being nominated for congress by the Democractic National Party for the North Platte District — earning his self-entitled title of “Honorable” William F. Cody — as well as serving again in a war on Native Americans, earning the “first scalp for Custer” at Warbonnet Creek.

However, Rainer said Buffalo Bill’s global trek to fame didn’t begin until 1883, when he founded “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West.”

“Omaha became the very first presentation of ‘Buffalo Bill’s Wild West,’” he said.

The first show had gathered more than 8,000 people, Evans said.

“Everyone knew of Buffalo Bill already, he had been drinking there for some time,” he added.

From here, the show launched and was widely popular, including shows outside with the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago as well as multiple European tours.

“Bill took what he saw as the Wild West in Nebraska and presented it to the world,” Rainer said.

Despite his success, Rainer said Bill made poor financial investments and was often too generous with his money, in addition to having a troubled relationship with his wife, which include divorce proceedings, though they eventually worked things out. William F. Cody eventually died in Denver in 1917.

Jan Bolte, Public Services Librarian, said she was pleased with both Rainer’s presentation and the turn out, having more than 30 guests attend.

“I’m very happy everyone came in and participated,” she said.

Bolte said Rainer always does a great job, noting he has spoken before. She said the library has plans for future presentations, such as a three-week exhibit on the Civil War this October to November, and encourages patrons to attend.

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