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Thanksgiving 1875

On Thursday, November 25th 1875—Thanksgiving Day—families in Galveston, Texas, could go to the Tremont Opera House and enjoy a 2 o'clock matinee performance by Buffalo Bill Cody, Texas Jack Omohundro, and "The Peerless" Morlacchi in their show The Scouts of the Plains. The tour had kicked off in Philadelphia back on August the 18th, 1875, and would hit over 100 cities before it finally ended on the 3rd of June in Wilmington, Delaware. The packed crowd watching the afternoon show in Galveston was unaware, as were the stars of the show, that this would be their last tour together.

By that final show, Texas Jack and Buffalo Bill had been on stage together for four years, and put on as many as a thousand performances. But their shows in Galveston, San Antonio, and Houston in November of 1875 would be their only performances in the state of Texas. For Texas Jack, who bore the name of the state proudly, it was a kind of homecoming. Jack introduced Morlacchi, his wife, to many of his Texas friends, including some of the cowboys he had shared dusty trails and cattle stampedes with. Shows in all three cities were packed with people who knew Jack "back when," and were eager to prove they knew the famous scout to their young children.

Jack had arrived in Texas shortly after the Civil War, though he was forced by the shipwreck of his boat from New Orleans to work as a teacher on the Florida panhandle for a short period before he could hit the open range. His first job was as a cook for the older cowboys at Sam Allen's ranch, near Houston, but he quickly traded his cast iron for a big iron and the chuck wagon for a fine horse. He became one of Allen's best and most trusted cowboys, and may have helped drive cattle from Houston to Galveston, where they were loaded on boats bound for Cuba. Between his work at the Allen ranch and the vast herds of his next employer John Taylor's big Bexar county ranch, The Chisholm Trail and others like the Goodnight-Loving Trail, Shawnee Trail, and the Western Trail became as familiar to Jack as the Virginia countryside of his youth by the time he turned in his spurs for the life of a government scout in Nebraska, his friendship with Buffalo Bill, being made famous in the dime novels of Ned Buntline, and the life of a stage star he now so thoroughly enjoyed.

So as you watch Macy's parade or a handful of NFL games this Thanksgiving, remember that once upon a time you could have gone down to your local theater on Thanksgiving Day and seen Texas Jack and Buffalo Bill! I bet that was a Thanksgiving those lucky few never forgot.

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