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Texas Jack & The Grand Duke

In the New York Herald coverage of the Grand Duke's buffalo hunt, we read plenty about Alexis, General Sheridan, Lt. Col. Custer, Buffalo Bill, and even Spotted Tail. Attentive readers might note that the New York Herald never mentioned Texas Jack. So how do we know that Omohundro was out on the hunt, rather than back at Fort McPherson with troopers stationed there?

The primary way we know about Jack's involvement is through the words of Buffalo Bill himself. Cody wrote (or dictated or approved) several autobiographies over the course of his career. In An Autobiography of Buffalo Bill, Cody writes "I was presented to the Grand Duke as Buffalo Bill, the man who would have charge of the hunt...When the whole party was mounted they started south, Texas Jack acting as guide until such time as I could overtake them." According to Cody, the Grand Duke and General Sheridan wanted to try out the horses Buffalo Bill had selected for them and Texas Jack was in charge of getting the larger party headed towards their camp on Red Willow Creek while those three men went for a ride.

Another good source is the book My Life on the Frontier by Miguel Antonio Otero II. Miguel would go on to become the 16th Governor of New Mexico. Otero's father was the managing partner of Otero, Sellar, & Co., a successful shipping and freighting company that supplied the horses, ambulances, and supplies for the Duke's hunt. Otero recalled that "Texas Jack (Omohundro) was a scout, of the same type as Buffalo Bill, and in the employ of the United States Government. He was constantly associated with Buffalo Bill and they were always together...He did not wear the regulation long hair, but in a tight hole he always managed to acquit himself with bravery and sound judgment." Otero joined his father on the hunt as a young man, and recalled meeting the Grand Duke. "At this juncture, General Custer rode up, accompanied by Buffalo Bill and Texas Jack, to take the Grand Duke on the hunt. The Grand Duke killed a fine bull and two cows. General Custer immediately sent Texas Jack back to the camp for some hunters, who quickly removed the heads and skins of the three buffalo the Grand Duke had killed and took them to camp. These were later sent to Russia as trophies."

Otero's account matches an account from Texas Jack himself in a letter to Ned Buntline published later that year in Street & Smith's New York Weekly. The Grand Duke personally supervised the skinning out of the head of the first buffalo he had killed, but it was somehow misplaced before the party returned to camp. “The head of the buffalo which the Duke Alexis killed . . . was lost by his party,” Jack wrote to Buntline. Returning to the hunting ground alone, Jack found the misplaced trophy and sent it to Professor Ward of Rochester, New York. The professor shipped the skull to Russia, where it would soon adorn the lavishly gilded walls of the Alexander Palace in St. Petersburg.

If the words of Buffalo Bill, Texas Jack, and Governor Otero aren't enough, there is a future intersection of Omohundro and the Grand Duke to consider. In the years following the Grand Duke's Nebraska hunt, Texas Jack became a stage star, but he also rose to prominence as one of the most well-known and well regarded guides in the wilds of Wyoming. His 1874 hunt in the new Yellowstone Park with the Earl of Dunraven was highly publicized, and the book Dunraven wrote about his experiences in the park with Jack encouraged other European royalty and aristocracy to flock to the land of geysers to see the sights for themselves. Alexis himself read Dunraven's account and wrote Texas Jack to see if he would serve as guide for another trek through Yellowstone.

Jack spent the winter of 1876 hunting with Sir John R. Reid in the Wind River Range of Wyoming, and then returned to New York to await the Grand Duke's arrival. Unfortunately, rising tensions in Europe lead to an escalation between Russia and the Ottoman Empire. Alexis was appointed commander of the Russian Naval Forces on the Danube River, and never made the planned trip to meet Omohundro in New York, where newspapers humorously noted that:

"Texas Jack stands in no awe of Alexis, and that he speaks of him as a hail fellow well met, and not as a royal personage...Texas Jack is discovered standing on Broadway, his handsome face clouded as though an unpleasant thought were in his mind: "I wonder," said he at last, turning a quid of tobacco around his tongue and looking contemplatively up and down the street, "I wonder what in hell is the matter with 'Lexis! I writ him, but hain't got no answer.""

While Jack was likely frustrated when the planned hunt was indefinitely postponed, he quickly came up with a new plan; The Texas Jack Combination. A few months later Jack would launch his own dramatic company, for the first time appearing on stage without his friend and partner Buffalo Bill. Without the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878, perhaps the cowboy wouldn't have starred in his own show, and perhaps his former career would never have risen to the position of veneration it enjoys today.

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