Buffalo Bill Cody: The Man behind the Legend

By Robert A. Carter | Go to book overview

15
Crossing the “Big Water”

On Thursday, March 31, the ship weighed anchor from New York har/ bor, while Bill Sweeney's thirty-six-member cowboy band, wearing uni/ forms of gray shirts, slouch hats, and moccasins, played “The Girl I Left Behind Me.”

The New York Times said “Good-Bye to Buffalo Bill” in an editorial on March 31: “Buffalo Bill tears himself away from his native land this morning … to show the effete Europeans just what real life in America is like.… Mr. Cody expects to make the trip to London in 12 days. The demonstration he expects to make when he lands on the other side will give the stolid Britishers new ideas of the magnificence of this Western Hemisphere. A good many friends will be down at the dock this morning to say good-bye to the Wild West heroes.”

Once out on the high seas, almost all the passengers were seasick at one time or another. The Indians kept pinching themselves to see if they were wasting away; and now and then, the Sioux death song was heard. Buffalo Bill, “sick as a cow with hollow-horn” himself, did his best to keep his passengers calm. Annie Oakley, who did not suffer from seasickness, said that the worst came as the ship rolled in a stormy sea for forty-eight hours until a damaged rudder could be repaired. After the third day out, there was smoother sailing, all recovered, and the rest of the voyage was fairly pleasant. Various entertainments were devised: Cody and Red Shirt, a Sioux chief, addressed a Sunday prayer meeting, and Salsbury revived some acts from his Troubadors. During the transatlantic crossing, only one horse was lost—a remarkable accomplishment, considering the weather— and not a single Indian wasted away.

On April 3, 1887, even as the State of Nebraska was on the open Atlan/ tic, a controversy erupted. An American who signed himself “INQUIRER” wrote a letter to the New York Times in which he attacked that “curious

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