Hat Creek has guests
by Ed Cook, Contributing Writer
James Butler Hickok (Wild Bill) and a large party of “Black Hillers” arrived here today. Traveling with him were Calamity Jane, Charley Utter (Colorado Charley) and his brother Steve along with Joseph F. (White-Eye Jack) Anderson and his brother Charlie. They were traveling with a four-horse team and a wagon load of supplies. They had joined about 30 other wagons headed for the “Hills” at Fort Laramie. Among the travelers on the other wagons were several “sporting ladies”—Big Dollie, Dirty Emma, and Sizzling Kate and some with even more colorful names.
Hickok has been living in Cheyenne the past couple of years and is well acquainted with the stage line owners and John Hunton at Bordeaux. He married Agnes Lake an accomplished equestrienne, a few months ago. Wild Bill and Major Talbot who was also a noted marksman have gained much notoriety with their shooting matches in Cheyenne.
A few nights ago (June 30) Hickok and his party had camped near John Hunton’s ranch. Wild Bill had accidentally left his favorite cane stuck in the ground by the head of his bed roll. He sent word back to Hunton to send it to him by way of a mutual friend because he did not want to take any chance of losing it.
Calamity Jane had been scouting for the 7th Cavalry and carrying messages from General Custer a few weeks ago. After swimming her horse across the Platte River near Fort Fetterman, she contracted pneumonia and was in the fort hospital a few days. Then she headed for the Black Hills, on her way she joined Hickok’s party at Fort Laramie.
When they arrived at Hat Creek, Wild Bill and Calamity Jane were pleasantly surprised to find their old friend “Buffalo Bill” Cody camped nearby serving as chief scout for the 5th Cavalry. These three have all earned fame in their own right as scouts, Indian fighters and tamer of the wild west. They are each expert marksmen but so different in their personalities. Cody liked to have and audience and never failed to make the most of his daring deeds. Those who rode or fought along-side him called “See me Bill”.
Hickok was quiet and would seldom talk of his feats unless asked to. He was also quite a gambler and famous for taming Hayes City and Abilene, Kansas as a U.S. Marshall.
Calamity Jane was good at bull-whacking, drinking whiskey, scouting, riding, and fighting Indians. She said her wild antics, loud profanity and red hair all helped keep the Indians thinking she was possessed by the devil and they were afraid of her and afraid to kill her.
While these three were “swapping yarns” at Hat Creek, a courier from Fort Laramie arrived with the news that Custer and the 7th Cavalry had been massacred on the Little Big Horn on June 25. This news left them aghast, for each of them barely missed being with Custer and could well have shared his fate. Buffalo Bill and the 5th Cavalry were headed to that area to help in the campaign there; “Clam” would have been there except for the pneumonia; and Wild Bill had turned down the opportunity to guide for the 7th Cavalry just a few weeks ago.
(Information sources: John Hunton’s Diary 1876-1877.The Lusk Herald, May 28, 1936. The Cheyenne and Black Hills Stage and Express Routes by Agnes Wright Spring. They called him Wild Bill, by Joseph G. Ross. Calamity was the Name for Jane, By Glenn Clairmonte.)