Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney (1875 – 1942). Buffalo Bill – The Scout, 1924. Bronze. Buffalo Bill Center of the West, Cody, Wyoming, USA. Gift of the artist. 3.58
Sometime around 1959, Cody, Wyoming’s, iconic statue sustained a mishap due to vandals. Evidently, some nefarious ne’er-do-wells nabbed the spurs off Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney’s (1875 – 1942) monumental sculpture of William F. Cody (the town’s namesake), Buffalo Bill – The Scout.
Since 1924, the Scout has stood at the west end of Cody’s main street—and today, just adjacent to the Center of the West. Not long after the spur-cutting deed, a local repairman welded the spurs back where they belonged on the heels of Buffalo Bill’s boots.
Unfortunately, they were upside down. Little did I realize that Bill rode spur-impaired for some twenty years. Apparently, not many of the Center’s visitors did either.
“Museum officials knew about the inverted spurs, but anticipating further vandalism, the decision to correct the error was delayed,” Carol Hill, editor of the Center’s quarterly newsletter wrote in 1979. “Most visitors did not notice, but one who did was Dick Spencer, publisher of the Western Horseman. His letter to Gene Ball, the Center’s public relations director, produced some immediate action.”
Ball enlisted Gene Calhoun and Mike Schaner of Calhoun’s then newly-opened Caleco Bronze Foundry in Cody who agreed to do the “spur inversion project” as a favor to the museum.
“Cody Gas Company loaned a portable power unit, and Calhoun and Schaner completed the work in about four hours,” Hill continued. “As a final step, they added a patina to the spurs to restore their appearance to match the coloration of the rest of the statue.”
So, spurred on by one who knew a thing or two about spurs, the Scout has had his spurs in the upright position ever since—check it out for yourself!