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The Many Loves of Buffalo Bill: The True Story of Life on the Wild West Show

by Chriss Enss, TwoDot (an imprint of Globe Pequot Press), Guilford, Conn., 2010, $21.50.

In a current magazine that touches on the Western frontier (no, not Wild West), author Chriss Enss offers this quote: “Tiger Woods and Buffalo Bill Cody are men who thought monogamy was a type of wood. They were legendary talents who were eager to entertain the numerous women who threw themselves at the men, regardless of the fact that they were married.” Fine quote, but Tiger remains a legendary talent in golf. As for Buffalo Bill, his name was big when he was a frontier entertainer even before the frontier “closed,” and he is better known today than Wild Bill Hickok or Billy the Kid. Most anyone who has read about the showman par excellence knows he had a good wife named Louisa, whom William ignored too frequently, and a cute sharpshooter named Annie Oakley, whom William treated well (and platonically). But, with the aid of Enss’ 150-page book, we learn that numerous other ladies found a place in Buffalo Bill’s show and/or heart.

“For the bulk of their marriage, Louisa fretted over the women who flung themselves at William, the expense of his various love affairs, the potential scandal and the alienation of affection that followed,” the author writes in her introduction. Yes, a “roving eye” is something Tiger and Buffalo Bill had in common. Of course, Cody lived in another time, and he didn’t have to go into therapy after declaring, “Yeah, I like my cigars and whiskey, and I sure do love those women.” Yes, Enss names some names, such as attractive widow Mollie Moses (“With love and a kiss to my little girl from her big boy,” Bill wrote to her in one letter) and actress Katherine Clemmons (William offered to finance her career). Although Tiger Woods is not mentioned in the book itself, he might take note, for better or worse, of Enss’ last sentence about William and Louisa: “Their turbulent marriage lasted more than 50 years.”


Originally published in the August 2010 issue of Wild West. To subscribe, click here.