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Willie Cody's First Trip Across the Plains

Title

Willie Cody's First Trip Across the Plains

Description

Excerpt from The Life of Hon. William F. Cody Known As Buffalo Bill The Famous Hunter, Scout and Guide An Autobiography, Chapter 4, Youthful Experiences, page 53-57.

Creator

William F. Cody

Publisher

Frank E. Bliss

Date

1879

Language

en

Text

Like all school-boys, I had a sweetheart with whom I was "dead in love"—in a juvenile way. Her name was Mary Hyatt. Of course I had a rival, Stephen Gobel, a boy about three years my senior—the "bully" of the school. He was terribly jealous, and sought in every way to revenge himself upon me for having won the childish affections of sweet little Mary.

The boys of the school used to build play-houses or arbors among the trees and bushes for their sweethearts. I had built a play-house for Mary, when Steve, as we called him, leveled it to the ground. We immediately had a very lively fight, in which I got badly beaten. The teacher heard of our quarrel and whipped us both. This made matters worse than ever, as I had received two thrashings to Steve's one; I smothered my angry feelings as much as possible under the humiliating circumstances, and during the afternoon recess built another play-house, thinking that Gobel would not dare to destroy a second one; but I was mistaken, for he pushed the whole structure over at the first opportunity. I came up to him just as he finished the job, and said:

"Steve Gobel, the next time you do that, I'll hurt you." And I meant it, too; but he laughed and called me names.

At recess, next morning, I began the construction of still another playhouse, and when I had it about two-thirds finished, Steve slyly sneaked up to the spot and tipped the whole thing over. I jumped for him with the quickness of a cat, and clutching him by the throat for a moment I had the advantage of him. But he was too strong for me, and soon had me on the ground and was beating me severely. While away from home I had someway come into possession of a very small pocket dagger, which I had carried about with me in its sheath, using it in place of a knife. During the struggle this fell from my pocket, and my hand by accident rested upon it as it lay upon the ground. Exasperated beyond measure at Steve's persistence in destroying my play-houses, and smarting under his blows, I forgot myself for the moment, grasped the dagger and unthinkingly thrust it into Steve's thigh. Had it been larger it would probably have injured him severely; as it was, it made a small wound, sufficient to cause the blood to flow freely and Steve to cry out in affright:

"I am killed! O, I am killed!"

The school children all rushed to the spot and were terrified at the scene.

"What's the matter?" asked one.

"Bill Cody has killed Steve Gobel," replied another.

The uproar reached the teacher's ear, and I now saw him approaching, with vengeance in his eye and a big club in his hand. I knew that he was coming to interview me. I was dreadfully frightened at what I had done, and undecided whether to run away or to remain and take the consequences; but the sight of that flag-staff in the school teacher's hand was too much for me. I no longer hesitated, but started off like a deer. The teacher followed in hot pursuit, but soon became convinced that he could not catch me, and gave up the chase. I kept on running, until I reached one of Russell, Major & Waddell's freight trains which I had noticed going over the hill for the west. Fortunately for me I knew the wagon-master, John Willis, and as soon as I recovered my breath I told him what had happened.

"Served him right, Billy," said he, "and what's more, we'll go over and clean out the teacher."

"Oh, no; don't do that," said I, for I was afraid that I might fall into the hands of the wounded boy's friends, who I knew would soon be looking for me.

"Well, Billy, come along with me; I am bound for Fort Kearney; the trip will take me forty days. I want you for a cavallard driver."

"All right," I replied, "but I must go home and tell mother about it, and get some clothes."

"Well then, to-night after we make our camp, I'll go back with you."

The affray broke up the school for the rest of the day as the excitement was too much for the children. Late in the afternoon, after the train had moved on some considerable distance, I saw Steve's father, his brother Frank, and one of the neighbors rapidly approaching.

"Mr. Willis, there comes old Gobel, with Frank and somebody else, and they are after me—what am I going to do?" I asked.

"Let 'em come," said he, "they can't take you if I've got anything to say about it, and I rather think I have. Get into one of the wagons—keep quiet and lay low. I'll manage this little job. Don't you fret a bit about it."

I obeyed his orders and felt much easier.

Old Gobel, Frank and the neighbor soon came up and inquired for me.

"He's around here somewhere," said Mr. Willis.

"We want him," said Gobel; "he stabbed my son a little while ago, and I want to arrest him."

"Well, you can't get him; that settles it; so you needn't waste any of your time around here," said Willis.

Gobel continued to talk for a few minutes, but getting no greater satisfaction, the trio returned home.

When night came, Willis accompanied me on horseback to my home. Mother, who had anxiously searched for me everywhere—being afraid that something had befallen me at the hands of the Gobels—was delighted to see me, notwithstanding the difficulty in which I had become involved. I at once told her that at present I was afraid to remain at home, and had accordingly made up my mind to absent myself for a few weeks or months—at least until the excitement should die out. Mr. Willis said to her that he would take me to Fort Kearney with him, and see that I was properly cared for, and would bring me back safely in forty days.

Mother at first seriously objected to my going on this trip fearing I would fall into the hands of Indians. Her fears, however, were soon overcome, and she concluded to let me go. She fixed me up a big bundle of clothing and gave me a quilt. Kissing her and my sisters a fond farewell, I started off on my first trip across the plains, and with a light heart too, notwithstanding my trouble of a few hours before.

The trip proved a most enjoyable one to me, although no incidents worthy of note occurred on the way. On my return from Fort Kearney I was paid off the same as the rest of the employees. The remainder of the summer and fall I spent in herding cattle and working for Russell, Majors & Waddell.

I finally ventured home—not without some fear, however, of the Gobel family—and was delighted to learn that during my absence mother had had an interview with Mr. Gobel, and having settled the difficulty with him, the two families had become friends again, and I may state, incidentally, that they ever after remained so. I have since often met Stephen Gobel, and we have had many a laugh together over our love affair and the affray at the school-house. Mary Hyatt, the innocent cause of the whole difficulty, is now married and living in Chicago. Thus ended my first love scrape.