By Gerald Hausman
Santa Fe, NM, USA
My ninety-five year old friend, Karl asked me if I knew what a Buffalo Nickel looked like.
"Of course I do," I told him, "and the buttons on my black dress shirt testify to this, all nickel-bright buffaloes and Indians."
Karl smiled. "Well, all right, so you know ... but did you know that I met the man on the coin on 57th Street in New York City when I was just a little boy?"
I asked him, "Did you know that my dad met Buffalo Bill Cody on 42nd Street in New York City when he was a little boy?"
"Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show?" Karl questioned.
"Well," Karl said after a moment or two, "The buffalo, I mean, the bison, as the school teachers would have us say today, is on one side of that classic coin and on the flip side is Two Guns White Calf who signed his name pictographically: two guns and calf.
A month to the day later I was on Useppa Island off the Gulf side of Florida at a little museum. And right there on the wall was a life-size portrait of Two Guns standing there in full regalia, as we used to put it, and next to Two Guns was his friend, Mary Roberts Rinehart, the great author of American mystery novels.
I could not get close enough to Two Guns. I kept getting closer and closer though until our noses nearly touched. "I meet you at last," I said, and then, "Karl sends his regards."
Well, truth is tricky and truth be known, it turns out that Two Guns' face might not be on that celebrated coin originally designed in 1913 by James Earl Fraser. History seems to falter, or fall away into myth on this silver-sided issue. Karl would not be pleased to know that Fraser himself said the model might be Two Moon, a Cheyenne man. Or, maybe, just maybe Two Guns, or possibly another Indian altogether.
Rodeo cowboy Jimmy Rogers, who as a boy grew up in Colonel Eskew's Wild West Show, said the distinguished face on the coin belonged to Iron Tail, a Lakota Sioux.
How did he know? "Well," he said, "I knew Iron Tail."
I wonder why I am wondering about all these disparate things. Here I am in a trailer in Questa, New Mexico, mid-spring in a mild snowstorm of high mountain flakes. I pull the covers up to my chin, and dream. And wake to the boom of a high caliber gun. And then another of the same. I jump out of bed and shout, "Two Guns? Forgive me, my friend. I never doubted it was you!"
(Gerald Hausman photo credit: Mariah Fox)
Gerald Hausman at Stay Thirsty Publishing
Gerald Hausman is the author of Not Since Mark Twain and
a regular contributor to Stay Thirsty Magazine.