How would you like to be buried?
Would you like to be creamted? Or buried? Sorry to be morbid but it’s a legitimate question.
Dave would like me to float his body over the Swan River and then fire an arrow into his casket, setting it on flames like a true Viking funeral.
I would like to be creamted and my ashes scattered all over the world to different places I’ve travelled to and loved. When I told Dave this, he fondly called it ‘Carmen’s last trip’. Nice!
Buffalo Bill’s burial
Buffalo Bill, the famous American showman and cowboy, wanted to be buried up on Lookout Mountain in Colorado, which has sweeping views of the Great Plains and the Rockies.
According to his wife, describing his grave site was apparently along his last words.
But according to the people living in the town of Cody in Wyoming, which was founded by Buffalo Bill a.k.a William Cody, he wanted to be buried there.
Nearly 30 years after Buffalo Bill was buried in Colorado, in 1948, the American Legion offered a reward for anyone who brought back his body to Cody.
Worried about his body being snatched, the town of Denver covered his grave with concrete and mounted a guard over his grave to protect it from grave robbers. This included a tank!
Stepping back into time
We visited Buffalo Bill’s grave on a cold and windy Colorado day. Yet the Rockies looked stunning in the distance and it was easy to see why Buffalo Bill chose this spot as his final resting place.
The museum adjacent to his grave is small yet very informative. There are loads of props to play with and different original items from Buffalo Bill’s life that you can look at.
Who was Buffalo Bill?
Perhaps you’ve never heard of Buffalo Bill, or maybe you just don’t know all that much about him. Before coming to the US, I thought Buffalo Bill was an Australian ice cream! So if you’re as ignorant as I was, here’s a quick insight into Buffalo Bill’s life…
William Cody was born in 1846 and by the time he was 21 he had experienced ‘every adventure’ most men in America don’t even experience in their lifetime.
What exactly does this mean? Well, he’d enlisted in the army, searched for gold in the gold rush, got married, become a scout for the army and hunted buffalo.
He was well on his way to becoming a cowboy.
Buffalo Bill’s showmanship
When Cody was 26 – the age I am now – he decided that not enough people new about the ‘Wild West’ and that the tradition of life in the ‘Wild West’ was dying out.
In order to spread the word about these traditions he decided to form an acting troupe – called Buffalo Bill’s Wild West – which toured the world enacting scenes which wouldn’t look out of place in a cowboys and Indians western.
Before going to the Buffalo Bill Museum, I only really knew about Buffalo Bill the cowboy thanks to visiting Cody, so this was a great insight into his acting life.
The highs and the lows
Buffalo Bill experienced some high moments in his life, like when he brought his show to the UK and Queen Victoria attended a performance.
But Cody also had some low points.
Just because Buffao Bill was a famous actor of his time, didn’t mean he was wealthy.
He couldn’t retire because he didn’t have enough money and towards the end of his life, and so Buffalo Bill borrowed $20,000 to continue his show. But because of bad weather and other problems, the performances had small audiences and Buffalo Bill couldn’t pay the money back. The sheriff seized the show and that was the end of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West.
At the time of his death, most of his fortune had dwindled away.
A man of contradictions
One of the most surprising aspects for me as I was walking around the Buffalo Bill Museum was to discover that he was certainly a man of contradictions.
In the early days, Buffalo Bill got his name because he hunted buffalo. But later on, when buffaloes were on the brink of extinction, Buffalo bill tried to save them from dying out and campaigned against them being hunted.
Buffalo Bill’s relationship with American Indians was also extremely contradictory.
When Buffalo Bill was 11, he claimed to have killed an American Indian and yet he also claimed to have been great friends with the Kickapoo Indian tribe and even learned their language.
Many American Indians were in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show, and he hired between 40 and 120 American Indians each year the performance was running.
Buffalo Bill argued that by employing American Indians he was doing a ‘good’ thing for the people because he was paying them wages and allowing them to support their families.
Yet in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West, American Indians were portrayed as scalp-gathering crazies who were nothing more than savages.
So was Buffalo Bill really improving European and American Indian relations?
I walked away from the museum impressed with how much Buffalo Bill managed to cram into his life. Yet I felt a little disturbed about his life and even the legacy he left.
There has been much criticism, especially in the years immediately following his death, that his grave was turned into a ‘tourist trap’ by his family as they built a gift shop and began the museum next to his burial place.
But perhaps you should visit and decide for yourself – I quite enjoyed my time there, aside from the facts about Buffalo Bill I learnt and didn’t agree with.
But isn’t that how history works?