It’s not every day you get to visit a small town that gave birth to a legend. But Oakley, in western Kansas, was where the legend of Buffalo Bill began. The legend was to grow from that of a skilled scout and hunter to that of the world’s first great showmen, owner and star of Wild West Show which toured in America and Europe more than a century.
Most legends have humble beginnings, as does Buffalo Bill. William F Cody was working as a hunter in 1868, killing buffalo to feed men constructing the Kansas Pacific Railroad. Even then he was recognized as a skilled hunter and was challenged by another to see who kill more bison. This contest lasted 8 hours and was held very near the town of Oakley. Cody managed to kill 69 buffalo compared to his challenger’s 46. The rest as they say is history.
On a small hill outside the visitor center in Oakley you find a rather nicely done statue of Buffalo Bill, riding his favorite horse, Brigham, armed with a 50 caliber rifle known as “Lucretia”. Bill liked to harvest the buffalo leading a herd’s charge, and you can see him carefully lining up the animal for the killing shot while galloping at great speed.
The Buffalo Bill monument is made of bronze, stands 16 feet tall, and weighs 9000 pounds. It was crafted over many years by Kansas artists, Charlie and Pat Norton, and was first displayed in 2004. The statue was entirely funded by private donations. The photos of the signage included below was taken near the statue and provides interesting reading for those interested in learning more about Buffalo Bill.
Oakley also has a very nice Visitor Center adjoining the monument site that has some interesting buffalo related artifacts, including a full-size taxidermy bison, art, a small but interesting gift stop, and a helpful staff that will happily answer your questions about your visit to the region.
A recommended stop for all interested in learning more about the legends of the Wild West. It is very close to interstate 70 and easily accessible.
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