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Odd Jobs

Before he was a showman, Texas Jack was a scout. Before he was a scout, Texas Jack was a cowboy. But in between the professions that would make him famous, Texas Jack did what most of us do—he found work where he could get it. After the Civil War, Jack set out for Texas but found himself shipwrecked on the gulf coast of Florida, where he found work as a hunter and school teacher. That's right, America's first cowboy star was also a classroom teacher somewhere around the Florida panhandle. Then, as now, parents in Florida didn't take kindly to upstart teachers sharing lessons that disagreed with their worldview. Texas Jack later recalled that:

The first day I told the little boys and girls the world was round, and the sun stood still to warm it. The children were amazed. In the evening in came the father of a promising young family, the majority of which flourished amongst my pupils.
“What do you mean by tellin’ a lot of damned lies to my youngsters?” says he.
“What do you mean?” cried I.
“Why, you idiot, don’t you be a tellin’ of ‘em that the sun sticks stock still, and this ‘ere earth goes round him? That’s a lie, and you know it. Don’t I see the sun a-gettin’ up every blessed morning in one place, and a-going to bed in t’other, and you idiot you, you keep on a tellin’ them ‘ere youngsters it sits there all day long, contrary to evidence. You go home, young man. You are dangerous and’ll be a-tellin’ of ‘em I ain’t their own father next, you will. Go home, young man.”
With this, the irate paterfamilias bounced out of the room, sweeping his offspring before him like ducklings in a whirlwind.

When Jack got to North Platte for the first time, he once again worked as a school teacher, though this time when the parents asked him if he would teach that the world was flat or round, Jack replied, “I can teach it either way you want it taught...I need the job.”

Jack also found work at the North Platte saloon and billiard hall of Lewis Henry Baker, who Jack likely met when he came into Lincoln County driving a couple of thousand head of longhorn cattle from Texas, some of which were bound for Baker's O'Fallon's Bluff Ranch, the first cattle ranch in Lincoln County. In addition to knowing as much as any man about cattle, Jack was well versed in the relative merits of spirits and tobacco, and Mr. Baker promised the finest selection of both west of Chicago.

It was likely at Baker's saloon that Texas Jack and his friend Buffalo Bill first got to know Ned Buntline, the dime novelist that would turn the stories of their real lives on the prairie into action-filled tales for readers across the country. The 1870 census shows a 23-year-old John Omohundro from Virginia keeping a saloon with a personal estate valued at $350.

1870 census page, showing John Omohundro from Virginia, 23 years old, male & white, working as a Saloon Keeper.

He is living in what was probably a rented room on Baker's property, as his dwelling number is 9 below Baker's, on the same census page. Several other men are listed as bartenders on the page, but the only two listed as "Saloon Keepers" are Lew Baker and Jack Omohundro.

Lew and Fanny Baker. Lew employed Texas Jack both as a cowboy and as a saloon keeper.

Also listed living with Baker is his 1-year-old son, Lewis Baker Junior, who would later become known as Johnny Baker when he toured with Buffalo Bill's Wild West. Texas Jack and Buffalo Bill made quite an impression on the young boy during his early childhood, and after the death of Buffalo Bill's own son Kit Carson Cody, Johnny Baker became like an unofficially adopted child to Cody. It was Johnn Baker who founded Pahaska Tepee, the museum that still stands at Buffalo Bill's grave on Lookout Mountain.

Poster of Johnny Baker, "The Boy Crackshot."

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