On his trip West with Wild Bill he had carried his books, and often in camp he had whiled away the time in studying, until he was asked if he was reading for a lawyer or a preacher.
But when well away from civilization his books were cast aside for his rifle, and he was constantly in the saddle supplying the train with game.
Without any particular adventures the train arrived in due season at Atchison, and there so much was said about Pony Riding on the Overland that Buffalo Billy decided to volunteer as a rider.
Resigning his position with the train, Mr. Russell gave him a warm letter to Alf Slade, a noted personage on the frontier, and to him Billy went.
Slade was then stage agent for the Julesberg and Rocky Ridge Division, with his head-quarters at Horseshoe, nearly forty miles west of Fort Laramie, and there Billy found him and presented his letter.
Slade read the letter, looked Billy carefully over, and said:
“I would like to oblige you, my boy, but you are too young, the work kills strong men in a short time.”
“Give me a trial, sir, please, for I think I can pull through,” said Billy.
“But are you used to hard riding and a life of danger?”
“Yes, sir, I’ve seen hard work, young as I am.”
“I see now that Russell says you are Buffalo Billy,” and Slade glanced again at the letter.
“Yes, sir, that’s what my pards call me.”
“I have heard of you, and you can become a pony rider; if you break down you can give it up.”
The very next day Billy was set to work on the trail from Red Buttes on the North Platte, to Three Crossings on the Sweet Water, a distance of seventy-six miles.
It was a very long piece of road, but Billy did not weaken, and ere long became known as the Boss Pony Rider.
One day he arrived at the end of his road to find that the rider who should have gone out on the trip with his mail, had been killed in a fight, so he at once volunteered for the run to Rocky Ridge, a distance of eighty-five miles, and arrived at the station even ahead of time.
Without rest he turned back and reached Red Buttes on time, making the extraordinary run of three hundred and twenty-two miles without rest, and at an average speed of fifteen miles an hour.
This remarkable feat won for him a presentation of a purse of gold from the company, and a fame for pluck and endurance that placed him as the chief of the Pony Riders.
A ride for life.
One day, after Buffalo Billy had been a few months Pony Riding, a party of Indians ambushed him near Horse Creek.
He however, as did his horse, miraculously escaped their foes, dashed through them and went on like the wind.
But the red-skins gave hot chase, firing as they ran, yet still without effect.