Buffalo Bill Cody: The Man behind the Legend

By Robert A. Carter | Go to book overview

19
The Old Scout on
“His Native Heath”

While the good Colonel was pursuing his hapless divorce litigation, in its fecklessness so reminiscent of his Cleveland real estate suit so many years earlier, his show had moved from England to France. Huge crowds turned up in Paris. Absent Annie Oakley, Johnny Baker was now the undisputed star marksman of the show; he was also its equestrian director, and he was almost as popular in France as Cody. So well known and loved was the Colonel, however, that posters heralding his show needed only to display his picture with the words “Je viens”—I am coming—to bring in eager audiences. The Paris engagement from April 2 to June 4 has been called the most prosperous in tent history. An elaborate program was pub/ lished for the show, with eighty pages devoted to Le Dernier des Grand Eclaireurs, a literal translation of the title of Helen Cody Wetmore's book. Featured acts were “Le Dernier Combat du General Custer” and “Attaque du Dead Wood Mail Coach.” One-day stands followed the Paris engagement: Chartres, Alencon, Fleury, St. Lo, and Cherbourg. The first four days of July were spent at Lille, where James Bailey paid his last visit to the show.

There was competition for the Wild West in France—principally from J. T. McCaddon's International Shows, which included a Wild West. Cody was so successful in outdrawing his rival that McCaddon was forced to flee across the English Channel to escape his creditors. A more serious setback to the show's prosperity came when there was an outbreak of glanders, a highly contagious disease that can be controlled only by slaughtering the infected animals. Cody had to destroy two hundred out of his three hun/ dred horses. This blow, which put the show deeply in debt, was followed close on by the sudden death of James Bailey early in 1906. A note with Cody's signature on it for $12,000 was discovered, and Bailey's estate wanted it paid. Cody insisted that he had already paid it, and Don Russell

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