Pawnee Bill greets an old acquaintance, the Chief of the Pawnees.  The pictures was taken the week of Pawnee Bill's House Warming at Blue Hawl Peak.


"Little Giant of Oklahoma"


Article by G. L. Savage


The first time I saw Pawnee bill I thought he was a big man.  He was riding around the arena in Chicago before the first act of his and Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show.  Cody and Pawnee Bill appeared to be  about the same height with their ten-gallon hats pointing toward the clouds.  But a few years later Pawnee Bill told me that Cody rode a horse a few inches shorter than the one he rode.  "I don't think he ever forgave me for being a little man!"  Pawnee Bill laughed.  One morning in New York City he wanted to take a walk right after breakfast and got lost in the crowd.  He was wearing ordinary street clothes.  Buffalo Bill caught him and had him pose for pictures for the paper. It was necessary to borrow Cody's jacket and hat.  He had to stuff paper in Buffalo Bill's hat band and hide the glove tips, and sit on the New York telephone directory for a little extra height all to please Buffalo Bill!


I met Gordon W. (Pawnee Bill) Lillie in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and visited him often on his ranch in Pawnee after that.  He was not at all rough or unmannerly as some writers have tried to make him seem.  He was gracious and friendly and loved good conversation.


Gordon was born in Bloomington Illinois in 1860 but grew up in Kansas and left home while he was still in his teens.  Accompanied by a friend he headed west to make his fortune.  But one-night with the wolves howling around their blankets was enough for his pal so Gordon had to go it alone.  He met a group of professional buffalo hunters and was invited to ride with them.  In those days buffalo hunting was a paying business.  Hides were in demand all over the country.


Pawnee Bill told me the first time he heard a big herd of buffalo coming toward camp he was frightened.  They thundered past all day, and all night.  The hunters dropped several close together and used them as a barricade to hide behind as they shot others.  Thirteen hundred hides were taken and it required two weeks to skin the dead.  The hunters worked all winter and in the spring took their hides to St. Joseph, Missouri, sold them, and went their different ways.


Pawnee Bill decided to go home and visit his family and later went to work on the Zimmerman Ranch (in 1882).  While riding herd with a group of cowboys there he got into his first fist fight.  Among the cowboys was a young man from England who had come west to recover from lung trouble.  The cowboys never knew his real name but called him "Pell Mell."  A cowboy named Don kept teasing the young Englishman and finally challenged him to a fight. The sick man soon fell and Don began to ridiculed him.  That was too much for Pawnee Bill.   He jumped in and forced the bully back,  Angrily, the young tough drew a knife but Bill took that away from him and the bully skipped camp.


One winter day when Pawnee Bill was looking for strays, he was caught in a blizzard.  Those prairie blizzards are treacherous and those who are not familiar with them can be caught without warning.  The air becomes still and sultry, a little warm drizzle falls, then wham the weather comes at you from every direction, the sky letting loose with everything it has-rain, hail, sleet and snow.  Pawnee Bill was given shelter by a young stranger whom he recognized as an outlaw, and he never told the boys back at the ranch who had helped him through the night.


Bill felt close to the Pawnee Indians and spoke their language well.  He also knew several other Indian languages.  The Indian Agent asked him to work for them as an interpreter and Bill gave it a try, but the work was too tame for him.  When a Pawnee friend, Left Hand came to him and said the Sioux had raided their camp and run off their beat horses Pawnee Bill was back in the saddle.  He and Left Hand rounded up enough young warriors to go after the raiders.  The raiders expecting pursuit, divided the horses and sent them back to Sioux country by various routes.  Left Hand and Pawnee Bill divided their warriors and followed.  They recovered some horses but lost some warriors.  So did the Sioux.


Six grand old Plainsmen, each a strongly forged link to the West that was. From left to right, Pawnee Bill, Luther "Capt."

North, Richard  "Deadwood Dick"  Clark, "Doc" Carver, B. R. "Idaho Bill" Pearson, and Richard "Diamond Dick" Tanner.





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