BILL CODY’S marksmanship, tracking ability, and bravery made him a highly valued, well-paid Army scout. Once he made his way through blinding snow¬storms to find a command lost in the Texas Panhandle. Often he carried dis¬patches through hostile country in the dead of night.
With the job went a log house at Fort McPherson near North Platte, Nebraska, for his growing family. By 1872 the Codys had three children, Arta, Orra, and Kit Car¬son. Sadly they lost Orra and Kit to child¬hood diseases. Their la st daughter, Irma, was born in North Platte in 1883.
For 30 years Cody’s loyalty to the West would focus on North Platte, today a major agricultural warehouse and rail yard. Back in 1871 the little fort—today the site is a farmer’s cornfield—was a center of activity. When soldiers weren’t out chasing raiders, they were entertaining tourists. In a master¬ful public relations gesture, General Sheri¬dan invited prominent New Yorkers for a hunt: James Gordon Bennett, editor of the New York Herald; financier Leonard Je¬rome, grandfather of Winston Churchill; and others. Sheridan selected Cody as guide; the Army supplied china, ice, and French chefs. Recognizing that it was to be a “nobby and high-toned outfit,” Bill recalled, “I de¬termined to put on a little style myself.”
Cody selected a high-stepping white horse, a broad sombrero, and a suit of light fringed buckskin with a crimson shirt, em¬broidered, no doubt, by Louisa, a skilled seamstress.
The New Yorkers declared the ten-day hunt a success, counting among their kill the meat of 200 elk and 600 buffalo. Bennett invited Cody to New York as his guest. There Cody realized, as so many of his troupers would, that “I had seen but a small portion of the world.”
On his big-city hunt, Bill charmed high society with his frontier dance steps, buck¬skins, and gallantry. Then he broke harness to attend the Bowery Theatre with Ned Buntline. The eccentric temperance lectur¬er and dime novelist had met Bill at Fort McPherson and asked “a great many ques¬tions.” Ned wrote a Civil War romance based on the exploits of Wild Bill Hickok, but titled Buffalo Bill, The King of Border Men. The manager of the Bowery offered Cody $500 a week to play himself in the the¬atrical adaptation. Cody refused, but back home the old idea took hold. “I could make more money.”