Another year, at age 14, Cody joined the Pony Express, fitting the bill for the advertised position: “skeletal, skilled riders willing to risk death daily.” Cody afterwards served in the American Civil War, as well as in 1867 he started buffalo hunting (to feed buildings teams constructing railways), which will give him the nickname that will define him eternally. His own evaluation sets the amount of buffalo he killed at 4,280, in just over a year and a half.
In 1868, Cody returned to his work for the Army as chief of scouts (and his continuing work together with the military garnered him the Congressional Medal of Honor in 1872, that was later stripped and after that reinstated), all of the while being a national folk hero thanks to the dime novel exploits of his alter ego, “Buffalo Bill.” In late 1872, Cody went to Chicago to make his stage debut in The Scouts of the Prairie, among Ned Buntline’s first Wild West shows (Buntline was likewise the writer of the Buffalo Bill novels). Another year, “Wild Bill” Hickok joined the show, as well as the troupe toured for ten years.
In 1883, Cody founded his own show, “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West,” a circus-like extravaganza that toured extensively for three decades in America and after in Europe. A winner of women’s rights as well as a lifelong soldier, Buffalo Bill Cody was more than a Wild West showman and buffalo hunter. But his larger than life character, at times actual and at others fictitious, is what lives on in the hearts and minds of devotees of the frontier West.