Buffalo Bill Cody was a Pony Expressman, cavalry scout and, in the late 1800s and early 1900s, star of his own famed Wild West Show, with its buckaroos and braves, trick shots and riders. At 69, plain old Bill Cody, his grandson, is a show all by himself. As proprietor (with his 42-year-old fifth wife, Barbara) of the 16-unit Bill Cody Ranch Inn Resort outside Cody, Wyo., he is up at 5 a.m. each day in high season to greet guests, tote bags and tend the 37-horse stable. Evenings he parks in the bar, bourbon and Coke in hand, to spin yarns that dwell less on his ancestry than on his own hard-lived life.
Born to Buffalo Bill’s daughter Irma and her cattle-rancher husband Frederick Garlow, he saw his granddad die of uremic poisoning at 70 in 1917. The next year, when he was 5, his parents died in a flu epidemic. Living with Grandma Cody, he sometimes saw “Indians all over the yard. Most had been in the Wild West Show and just came to visit.” After graduating from the University of Nebraska and attending Harvard Law School, he served in World War II as an infantry major, was captured and spent 3½ months in a German POW camp. Much later, after four marriages and assorted jobs in three states, he settled in Cody to run a river-rafting business with one of his four sons. He changed his name from Garlow to Cody in 1968, when he began a six-year career promoting the Buffalo Bill Daisy air rifle. He was in Houston doing just that the next year when he met Barbara Sass, an ad agency staffer. They married, and in 1970 bought and began refurbishing their then rundown lodge.
Though still hardy—he started skiing at 67—Cody wants to cut back a bit and sell the lodge. His price: “$700,000 with $250,000 down, and not a dime less.” But he also wants to stay on as chief storyteller at the inn, where he’s “the happiest I’ve ever been.”