By TERESA BLACK BRADWAY
Oklahoma Historical Society Board of Directors
PAWNEE, Okla. — A new star debuted at Pawnee Bill’s Original Wild West Show, but he is not a trick rider or gunslinger.
“Pawnee” is a baby bison born at the Pawnee Bill Ranch on May 1. He has appeared there and at other events, to the delight of visitors.
Pawnee was rescued the day he was born by today’s “Pawnee Bill,” Kevin Webb, who heads maintenance of the ranch with its bison herd, longhorns and Clydesdale horses. The ranch is operated by the Oklahoma Historical Society one mile west of the town of Pawnee on Highway 64.
Webb plays the sensational American showman Pawnee Bill when the Wild West Show comes to life each June.
Pawnee was one of 12 calves born so far this year to the herd of about 40 head of bison, Webb said.
Pawnee’s first day of life, however, could have been his last.
“Pawnee’s mom actually just rejected him and she was trying to claim another cow’s calf,” Webb explained. “She didn’t want anything to do with him. So, we tried picking Pawnee up and taking him back to mom and getting him to latch on.”
Pawnee tried to nurse, but his mother would have none of it.
“She would kick him off, and butt him and tried to knock him down and basically walk off and leave him,” Webb said.
Pawnee even tried to nurse one of the bulls, but received another rejection. The bull “tried to grind him into the dirt,” Webb said. “The bull was going to kill him.” Webb said bison will kill an odd member of the herd so the herd can move on.
The calf was separated from the bull and Webb took Pawnee home. Four times a day, Webb and his wife, Alyce, bottle-feed Pawnee four quarts of milk-replacer for calves.
Pawnee is nibbling on grass, but still needs calf formula at a cost of $40 each week. Kevin and Alyce pay that expense.
Webb has taken Pawnee to Hunter’s Home in Park Hill, Okla., to the Oilton Founders Day Parade and to the Pawnee High School All-Star Football Game.
On June 8, Pawnee entered the arena of Pawnee Bill’s Original Wild West Show in the opening Grand Review. Wearing a halter and rope, he trotted in with Alyce Webb and was introduced to the cheering audience along with other performers
On afternoons during the show, Pawnee appeared for a few hours to greet visitors at the Pawnee Bill Ranch. Pawnee followed Alyce around like a large dog and enjoyed having his nose rubbed. The calf drew visitors like a magnet, posing for photos with toddlers and senior citizens. He occasionally tried to eat fringe on performers’ outfits, perhaps thinking it was grass.
Does Pawnee have a future in the Wild West Show?
Bison are not social animals, Webb said, and are more aggressive than cattle. If Pawnee grows up aggressive, he will be back in the herd at the ranch.
For now, he is a bottle calf at the Webb’s rural home, with occasional public appearances.
The Pawnee Bill Ranch and Museum is a division of the Oklahoma Historical Society. The mission of the Oklahoma Historical Society is to collect, preserve and share the history and culture of the state of Oklahoma. Founded in 1893 by members of the Territorial Press Association, the OHS maintains museums, historic sites and affiliates across the state.
Through its research archives, exhibits, educational programs and publications the OHS chronicles the rich history of Oklahoma. For more information about the OHS, please visit www.okhistory.org.