The streets of Chadron, Nebraska, were filled with people on a bright June morning. Spectators climbed atop roofs; they hung out of second-floor windows. Jester’s Freak Band, a cornet group, provided lively music. The prize was $1500 and a fancy saddle; the challenge, a 1,000-mile race from Chadron, Nebraska, to Chicago Illinois, and Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show near the site of the 1893 World’s Fair. Ten riders took the challenge.
The rules were fairly simple. Each rider was allowed to begin the race with two horses; he was required to stop at various checkpoints along the way; and he must finish the race riding one of the original horses.
The competitors were a questionable lot – various drifters and ne’er-do-wells, such as “Rattlesnake Jim” Stephens and “Doc” Middleton, a “reformed” horse thief. Rules were broken; animals were injured. A newspaper from along the route reported that “ladies are pulling hairs from the manes and tails of the horses as mementos, and if they have a hair left when they reach Chicago it will be surprising.”
Only six of the original ten riders finished the race. The first-place finisher was a railroader named Berry who, riding a horse named Poison, rode triumphantly into Buffalo Bill’s Wild West arena on the morning of June 27 where he was greeted by a crowd of 10,000 people including Buffalo Bill himself. In a lavish ceremony, Berry was awarded the saddle.
But the winner never received his cash prize. Race promoters discovered that shortly after the beginning of the race, he and his horses had secretly traveled the first 100 miles of the race aboard an eastbound train.
Horse sense is the thing a horse has which keeps it from betting on people. — W C Fields