Buffalo Bill, Fact or Fantastical?
There has always been a unique captivation with the Wild West. From watching favorite rugged stars, like John Wayne, in Hollywood westerns to dressing up like cowboys on Halloween, there is a certain fantastical delight surrounding this era of our history. The life of the pioneers was certainly exciting. However, it is the sensationalized interpretations of showmen and dime novel writers that produced the fearless cowboys we have come to know and adore. There is no greater example of this than Buffalo Bill Cody.
Part performer and part true frontiersman, Buffalo Bill became one of the most legendary men in the world during the early 1900s. Even in death, his legacy continued to stray into the gray realm between fact and folk tale. Embracing the charismatic Wild West character he had become known for proved fruitful for Buffalo Bill while alive. Yet, his lack of real financial and life planning exposed the fool’s paradise he was living in when he passed on.
The True Source of Buffalo Bill’s Tales
The first half of Buffalo Bill’s life was that of a true adventurer. By age 14, he was a rider for the Pony Express. His namesake came from an eight-hour buffalo shooting match between him and another Bill for the rights to the name! During the American Civil War, Buffalo Bill served for the Union from 1863 to the end of the war in 1865. Later, he served as a civilian scout to the U.S. Army during the Indian Wars. He even received the Medal of Honor in 1872.
Once his name began to catch the attention of novelists and playwrights, Buffalo Bill entered theatre, playing none other than himself. For a while, Buffalo Bill continued his grand adventures in scouting, hunting, and serving in the wars against Native American tribes while also hamming it up on stage. Eventually, he formed the Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show in 1883. He took his large company on tours throughout the United States. Then, beginning in 1887, the show hopped across the pond into Great Britain and Europe.
The Legacy of Buffalo Bill
Despite being a worldwide phenomenon, at the time of his death, Cody’s once great fortune had dwindled to less than $100,000. Burial arrangements were left to his wife Louisa who controversially chose to bury him in Denver. She claimed that her husband had always wanted to be buried on Lookout Mountain in the city. Yet, it was suspect that the citizens of Denver had offered her $10,000 to choose their city for tourism reasons. This raised eyebrows among some and spurred pure outrage amongst others.
The most upset were the people of Cody, Wyoming. They adamantly felt that Buffalo Bill should be buried in the town that he founded. Legend has it that a few of Buffalo Bill’s closest friends went on a covert mission to Denver. They then did the old “switcharoo” with another body! The story goes that they were successful in their mission and Buffalo Bill’s body now rests overlooking Cody, Wyoming.
We love Buffalo Bill Cody and all the marvelous mythology around him. Albeit, he’s hardly a model of good estate planning. He caused a lot of financial strain for himself and his family. Not to mention, he caused a near up rise from not taking more measures to plan for his death. While you might not have to deal with a caravan of friends trying to sneak your body off to a different resting place, it’s important to create a clear plan for your future. If you wish to protect your own wealth and legacy for long after you are gone, contact The Mendel Law Firm, L.P. for a free consultation on estate planning, trust planning, and/or probate issues.