Texas cowboys tended to kick up their heels after a long trail drive is well documented.
But one driver’s experience deserves serious consideration as the lead steer of
all wild cowboy tales.|
In the summer of 1896, a circus arrived in Denver. That had nothing to do with
Texas cowboys except that it reminded a Colorado newspaper editor of the time
a circus ran out of operating capital in Pueblo. One of the show’s creditors went
to court and got a judgment against the owner. To satisfy the judgment, the county
sheriff would auction some of the circus stock.
As preparations proceeded
for the auction, a visitor from Texas was having a little better luck financially.
The cattleman had driven a large herd of cattle from the Panhandle and sold the
steers, as the newspaper writer recalled, “on the Arkansas (River) to John Hill.”
Though the editor used the name of the buyer, he did not identify the seller from
Texas by anything other than his nickname: Buzzard. The only other clue he offered,
not something that would really set one Texas cattleman apart from another, was
that Buzzard had a fondness for booze.
On the day of the forced sale of
circus stock, Buzzard, in the vernacular of the Victorian press was “full.” Today,
we would use the word “drunk.”
His pocket book also full, Buzzard got caught
up in the spirit of the moment and “commenced bidding on everything that was offered
Buzzard’s first successful purchase was a 17-foot-long snake.
He got the reptile for a mere $500. A Texas-sized snake was exciting enough, but
then a Bengal tiger caught Buzzard’s eye. Through the cowboy’s sheer persistence,
the big cat was his for $2,000 – surely a bargain at twice the price.
“He bid on everything in such a reckless manner that the sheriff and the show
people were in an ecstasy of delight,” the editor recalled.
Next on the
block was an elephant. Buzzard checked his wallet and flung himself into the spirited
bidding. To his boozy delight, he came in as high bidder on the pachyderm for
“Buzzard paid for everything, and being troubled with an
irresistible desire to treat everybody, he soon had the show people, and every
one who would drink with him, as full as himself,” the editor continued.
No one in Pueblo was having a better time than the owner of the circus, who not
only had gotten out of debt, thanks to Buzzard, but had more money than the whole
show had been worth. And Buzzard was still buying the drinks.
from saloon to saloon with his entourage of citizens and show people, Buzzard
decided to get into show business himself. The first step, of course, would be
a parade. The circus people hitched up their wagons and saddled Buzzard’s elephant.
At first, Buzzard wanted to open the show by getting in the lion cage.
“The circus people,” the newspaper writer related, “discovering that he was an
apparently inexhaustible mine of gold, whiskey and fun, were not disposed to feed
him to the lions yet...and they persuaded him that the post of honor and danger
was on the back of the royal elephant.”
Wearing a turban and brandishing
a sword, Buzzard mounted the elephant. Then he helped his wife and children on
board. With the band playing “Dixie,” the parade wound through Pueblo. When the
procession neared the Arkansas River, the elephant charged toward the stream.
The Buzzards had managed to stay astride the animal, but he had other ideas. Sucking
up a trunk full of water, he sprayed the Texas family. Then he rolled over, spilling
the Texans in the river.
Buzzard managed to get his family ashore, somehow
even saving his sword.
“Seated on the bank,” the newspaper continued,
“they presented a picture to excite pity, but the spectators laughed until everybody
The crowd drifted off, but the Buzzards remained on the river
bank. Whether the alcohol was beginning to wear off, or whether it was the immersion
in the river that had a sobering effect, Buzzard’s good mood evaporated a lot
faster than the muddy water soaking his clothes.
“The old man suddenly
developed a belligerent spirit that caused people to do their laughing at a distance,”
the newspaper went on. “Every time any one approached them he would flourish his
sword and swear like a pirate.”
What Buzzard did with his share of the
circus was not reported. And who Buzzard was remains a mystery. One thing for
sure – he was a Texas cowboy who knew how to have a good time.