Halliday Sutherland

"A born writer, especially a born story-teller. Dr. Sutherland, who is distinguished in medicine, is an amateur in the sense that he only writes when he has nothing better to do. But when he does, it could hardly be done better." G.K. Chesterton.

Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show


When Halliday Sutherland was fifteen, William Frederick Cody – “Buffalo Bill” – took his show to Britain. Sutherland saw the show in Glasgow, later describing it as “the best entertainment of my childhood…a better show for boys of all ages was never staged in any amphitheatre.”

Glaring lights, smell of tan, oranges and popcorn; bucking bronchos, cowboys, buffaloes, gunpowder, prairie fires, the blazing homestead, Indians attacking the mail coach, revolvers with lots of cartridges, the white settlers’ last stand behind the stockade, the massacre of General Custer and his men, mounted troops riding to the rescue, led by Buffalo Bill, as once in real life they were; moonlight on the battle-field, men and horses standing like statues; Buffalo Bill uncovering his head in the presence of death – “Too late, too late!” – and a bugler sounding “The Last Post.”

At the show, he fell in love:

The beautiful Miss Cody, daughter of Buffalo Bill, shot with a repeating rifle dozens of glass balls thrown into the air by an Indian Brave running alongside her galloping horse. Do not say you know the trick, because I am going to tell you how I loved this beautiful and fearless girl with a great love. Her long black hair floating in the breeze, she looked fifteen, and only a few days older than I was. So great was my love that I had the courage to make my way one afternoon behind the scenes to speak to Buffalo Bill, who in private life was Colonel Cody. I did not ask for his daughter’s hand, but that I might join his show and travel the world. He was blunt but kind, and told me to wait until I was older. Then with a thumping heart I asked: “May I speak to Miss Cody, sir?”

“Why sure thing, that’s her standing over there. A fine girl, and she’s a grandmother. Yes, sirree.”

My horizon fell into the sea. I did not speak to Miss Cody. Behind the scenes she looked old – this grandmother who galloped astride with a rifle in her hands. The only other person to whom I spoke was Sitting Bull, but he shook his head and said, “No speak.”

from A Time to Keep.

There is a link to the Cody Archive here and the colourful posters promoting the show here.

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This entry was posted on 18 May 2014 by in Early life.

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