Pawnee Bill Museum
Lots of people have heard of Buffalo Bill, and a lot less have heard of his partner, Pawnee Bill. The two Bills perfected the traveling Wild West Show, with its thrilling stadium demonstrations of trick shooting, bronco busting, and wild Indians threatening white cowboys in choreographed dramas (The cowboys always won.).
Pawnee became one of Oklahoma's favorite sons; his real name was Gordon William Lillie and he hailed from Bloomington, Illinois, where his dad owned a flour mill.
Pawnee, no relation of Buffalo B., was the more level-headed of the two. Although he and his child bride May would often perform in the shows -- May was a crack shot billed as "Princess of the Prairie" -- Pawnee also navigated careers as an oil refiner, publisher, filmmaker, and real estate baron. He served on bank boards and school boards. He was known as "The Little Giant of Oklahoma."
He even worked to prevent the extinction of the buffalo long after his business partner Bill had done his best to kill them off.
This is all good history, but it doesn't necessarily make for the most mesmerizing of tourist attractions -- but the Pawnee Bill Museum, located on Pawnee Bill's ranch, makes the best of what it has. It's a well kept collection, with colorful displays behind glass of the fancy outfits, boots, guns, saddles, and swords used by Pawnee Bill's performers; as well as the costumes, drums, and spears used by the Indians.
Is a feather headdress more interesting because it belonged to Blue Hawk, or a six-shooter because it was fired by the "Champion Girl Shot of the West?"
Keeping alive the Pawnee Bill Story, the Ranch -- still stocked with demonstration bison and longhorns -- has participated in historically accurate stagings of Pawnee Bill's Wild West Show, with trick shooting and lots of high energy cowboy and Indian antics. It's too bad these don't run year 'round, but there's just not enough demand nationwide for Pawnee Bill vacations. In Oklahoma, however, Pawnee Bill will always have his die-hard fans.
Note: The folks at the Pawnee Bill Museum were knowledgeable and helpful with info about the area's attractions. They provided reprints from their archives about the Chief Baconrind statue.