Buffalo Bill Days

(Frank) Today on Around Kansas, Deb is in the oldest city in Kansas talking
about her favorite Kansan…Buffalo Bill Cody. Buffalo Bill is a true Kansan, 
shaped by Kansas and in turn, shaping Kansas history, and Leavenworth has 
returned to those roots by reinstating Buffalo Bill Days. Enjoy the show.
 
Closed Captioning brought to you by the Kansas Soybean Commission.
The Soybean Checkoff, Progress Powered by Kansas Farmers. 
 
(Deb) Welcome to Around Kansas. I’m your host, Deb Bisel. We’re standing 
on the banks of the beautiful Missouri River in the oldest town in Kansas, 
Leavenworth or Leavenworth City as it was called in the Territorial period. 
Now we’re here today to talk about my favorite Kansan, Buffalo Bill Cody 
and the Cody’s came to Kansas territory in 1854. In fact, they were on this 
very river riding the ferry across to stake their claim when they found out 
that the Kansas-Nebraska Act had been signed a couple of weeks before 
and it was okay to go ahead and make that claim. Now as you can see, if 
you’ve got a good arm, you can actually throw a rock across the river to 
Missouri, so the Missourians had had their eye on this part of the Kansas 
territory for a long time. There’s some beautiful countryside here and little 
Will Cody would recall that a lot of those Missourians would come across 
the river with whiskey bottles and when they were empty, they would drive 
those into the ground at the corners of their claims to mark their land claims 
with. Now as Bill Cody grew up, of course, he became the world famous 
showman, Buffalo Bill. He took the American west to the entire world. He 
took the wild west show to Europe, to London, the Vince, to the crown heads 
of state, all over the world and when you visit Germany, England, many of 
those countries today, they still love the American west because of Buffalo 
Bill and Buffalo Bill is a true Kansan. He’s shaped by Kansas. he, in turn, 
will come to shape Kansas history and Leavenworth has returned to those
roots by reinstating Buffalo Bill Days that will be happening later on here 
today and as we spend some time in Leavenworth, we’re gonna talk about 
the places that Buffalo Bill would have seen as he was growing up and
 becoming a young man and some of the mark that he left on this incredible 
country. So stay tuned, we’ll be right back with more of Around Kansas. 
 
(Deb) Welcome back to Around Kansas. I’m Deb Bisel, your co-host and I’m 
joined by two Buffalo Bills, at this point. We have Cale Denny, who is four 
years old and Bob Spear, who is the owner of the Book Barn and historical 
interpreter and actor of great renown. It’s great to have both of you 
here and, Cale, can you tell me about Buffalo Bill? What do you know about 
Buffalo Bill Cody? Do you know anything about Buffalo Bill? Did your mama 
talk you into being Buffalo Bill today? Yes, I thought she probably did. So 
are you gonna learn a lot about Buffalo Bill today? You think so? Is that 
is picture behind us on the mural? Did you notice that? Well we picked 
little Cale to come with us today because Buffalo Bill Cody used to be 
little Will Cody when we lived in Leavenworth and grew up here and he was 
just a boy when we came to the Kansas territory, so I think it’s a great 
reminder to have that beautiful, young face to remind us of just what a 
childhood in the Kansas territory would have been like and I hope Cale has 
it a lot easier than the guy he’s portraying did. Cale, it’s nice to meet 
you and thank you for joining us. We look forward to seeing you again. Can 
you tell everybody bye? (Male) Bye-bye. (Deb) Bye-bye. We’ll be right back. 
(Deb) Just across the bridge that you see behind me, just a couple of miles 
is Weston, Missouri, a beautiful little river town and Elijah Cody, who was 
Bill Cody’s uncle lived in Weston. He was a very prosperous businessman in 
Weston, Missouri and it was Elijah that urged his brother Isaac, who lived 
in Iowa at the time with his family, to come to the new Kansas territory 
and settle. So when the Cody’s came to the Kansas territory, they actually 
stayed in Weston with the brother for a while and the brother was also a 
slave owner, a very prominent slave owner and, of course, slavery was the 
big issue of the day, so when Isaac Cody came with his family to the Kansas 
territory, the neighbors assumed that he would be like-minded, and this was 
pretty much a pro-slavery, pro-southern community, so Isaac Cody, with his 
abolitionist beliefs, was not very welcomed. In fact, it wasn’t long before 
he began being harassed pretty seriously. Now Isaac had this beautiful 
farmland, basically just outside the post at Fort Leavenworth now, and he 
had a contract with the post to raise hay for the horses and mules at Fort 
Leavenworth, so he made many trips back and forth from his farm to the post 
at Leavenworth, and it was one of those trips that these Border Ruffians 
were hanging out at a country store along the side of the road, stopped 
Isaac Cody, and they forced him up onto a freight box say, about 
that tall, to make a speech. He was reluctant. He was not an overbearing, 
in-your-face sort of man, but he was also not a man to back down from what 
he believed in. so he got up onto the freight box and is making an appeal 
that why can’t we live in peace and we really don’t need slavery and was 
making a very reasoned speech when one of the men jumps up and stabs him. 
Now Mr. Cody was severely injured, but he didn’t die then. He actually 
lived a year or so past that, but constantly on the lookout for these men 
who were going to come and finish him off. So little Will Cody becomes the 
man of the house very early on and there is an episode that Bill’s sister 
Julia describes later on where their father is home visiting and he had to 
sneak back home each night. He would hide his horse at a neighbor’s house 
and walk through the woods to even visit his family and he was there one 
night. He was too ill to get up and leave the next morning when one of 
these Border Ruffians came into the house demanding dinner and wanting to 
know where that damned abolitionist was. Mrs. Cody fixed him a meal, 
remained calm, sent little Bill and Julia upstairs to be with their dad who 
was hiding and the father upstairs tells the children and Bill is eleven 
and Julia might be thirteen, that if that man comes looking for me, you’ll 
have to protect me and he tells Bill Cody to get the gun and he tells his 
sister Julia to get the ax and he says, If that man starts up the steps, 
Willy, you shoot and if he misses, Julia, you get him with the ax because 
I’m too sick to defend myself, and that was the constant fear that the Cody 
family lived in. it wasn’t long after that that Isaac Cody did die and 
became one of the first martyrs to the cause of Bleeding, Kansas and 
leaving young Will Cody truly as the man of the house. 
 
(Deb) I’m Deb Bisel. Welcome back to Around Kansas. We’re in historic 
Leavenworth today. Once again, the oldest city in Kansas and with me is Bob 
Spear. Bob, I’m so glad to have you with me today. (Male) Thank you very 
much, Deb. (Deb) And you might have noticed that Bob bears a striking 
resemblance to that gentlemen on the mural behind us, Buffalo Bill Cody. 
So, Bob, tell me how you got interested in portraying Buffalo Bill?   
(Male) Well I used to be just a storyteller and started that in 1997, then 
eventually raised to the next level in storytelling, becoming a story 
performer and I selected two characters, one was Burl Ives because I sing 
and play guitar as well, but the other was Buffalo Bill Cody because he had 
a history here in Leavenworth and because I could portray him appearance 
wise, as well as a knowledge of history. You know Cale, the young, little 
boy, four years old, Buffalo Bill was only eight years old when we came 
here from Iowa and they settled in the Salt Creek Valley area. (Deb) And I 
think that’s a really good point, again, having Cale on and I was so glad 
to see him because we forget. You know Buffalo Bill has become such an icon 
of American history that Kansans tend to forget, we’ve got a real strong 
claim on him. (Male) Exactly. He was only eleven years old when we became 
the breadwinner in his family and he became a herd boy for the same 
contractors that eventually put together the Pony Express, but he was a 
herd boy for the wagon trains going out west. They would trade him oxen and 
when some of them got tired, they joined the herd. He kept that herd 
together, eleven years old, and he killed his first man at age twelve. 
(Deb) It’s an amazing story and Bill Cody, one of the things that I really 
enjoy reading is his autobiography and then the writings of his sisters and 
like you said, he became the breadwinner, not just making pocket money, but 
he’s supporting the family when he’s just a child himself and his sisters 
remained so loyal to him throughout his life, he could have set the house 
on fire and it would have been okay. They were so protective and so loyal 
to him the rest of their lives. (Male) And played an important role. He 
helped them get setup once he made his claim to fame and, so, they were a 
family and they acted like a very strong family. Buffalo Bill, it’s very 
interesting, 1969, we had some community leaders who saw the need for a 
park and they wanted to name the park after Buffalo Bill, Cody Park and 
that’s how the Buffalo Bill Festival got started and it went for quite a 
few years and then it lapsed and we had River Fest, things like that and 
finally, two years ago, we started the Buffalo Bill Festival and that’s 
going strong. That goes on today and tomorrow and that’s gonna be a lot of 
fun, very exciting. We’ve got all kinds of period type people coming in to 
portray different things and I’m really looking forward to it. (Deb) You’re 
a man after my own heart, Buffalo Bill and books, how much better can it 
get? Stay tuned. We’ll be right back with some more of Around Kansas. 
 
(Deb) Buffalo Bill is such a huge part of the American west, but again, his 
stamp on Leavenworth is tremendous and the way Leavenworth formed him and 
he, in turn, helped shape the history of the town, so I think it’s really 
appropriate to revive that as an annual event. (Male) It is. This town is 
incredible. Remember Horace Greeley, the famous publisher in New York City 
who had advice to a young man, the young man said, Where should I go to 
make a career, and Greeley replied, Go west young man, go west. Well the 
young man was his nephew and he had just returned from checking out 
Leavenworth and was so impressed. That’s where he was talking about when we 
said, Go west young man, go west. (Deb) And then, of course, we’ve got the 
Lincoln statue right over here and Lincoln commented many times when he was 
in the White House that he considered, after his retirement, you know, 
after he left the presidency, I think I would like to go to Kansas.   
(Male) Well, you know, he practiced the speeches for his campaign here. 
There was a theatre just across from my bookstore where he gave many of 
those speeches. Four years later, an acting troop came to town and they put 
on a play and everybody was very impressed with the star actor whose name 
was John Wilkes Booth. (Deb) Isn’t that amazing? The crossroads of history, 
Kansas and Leavenworth truly are the crossroads of history and then, of 
course, Abraham Lincoln was in Leavenworth the day that you’re talking 
about when he got news that John Brown had been hanged. (Male) Yes, that is 
correct. (Deb) And they asked him for his comments about John Brown, so 
truly, truly a crossroads of history. Now tell me about the book business, 
tell me a little bit about your store because it’s a tremendous asset to the  
community as well. (Male) Well, you know, we got started in Junction City 
while I was still in active duty back in 1979 as a used bookstore and then I got 
a medical discharge from the army and came here as a civil servant and we 
moved the store here in 1981 and we became more and more new books and 
finally we did a flip-flop, we became mostly new books instead of used 
books, but we’re an icon. We’ve been around here forever and my wife, 
Barbara, is the one that runs the store and does a superb job of it and 
this has just been going on for a long time, but we’re very unusual. We’re 
a mom and pop, independent bookstore that has somehow managed to survive 
against the big chains and it’s because of her work and because of the 
events that we have. We’re very fortunate. We’ve received both state and 
national awards for the events that we put on because we set them around 
the history and what better place to have history events than the historic 
Leavenworth, Kansas. (Deb) I hope you’ve enjoyed our visit to Leavenworth, 
Kansas as much as I have. Not only is it the first city in Kansas, it 
obviously remains a very thriving city in Kansas and I hope you get the 
opportunity to come and visit for yourself. There’s so much to enjoy here, 
whether it’s the history, the food, the riverfront, the vibrant downtown, 
the fort itself. There’s so much to see and do in Leavenworth and, you 
know, join us next time on Around Kansas, Frank Chaffin and I guarantee 
we’ll make it a great trip. Thanks. 
 
Closed Captioning brought to you by the Kansas Soybean Commission.
The Soybean Checkoff, Progress Powered by Kansas Farmers.

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