For nearly two decades, Bruce Richman has put on a beaded leather coat, leather gauntlets, knee-high boots and a gray plainsman hat and become the persona of Buffalo Bill Cody in North Platte.
He is in character year-round, whether he’s leading public tours at the Buffalo Bill Ranch State Historical Park or appearing at an event during Nebraskaland Days or just being the entertainment for a local elementary school.
Richman, who sports hair length and facial hair in the style of Buffalo Bill, received a thank you for his commitment Monday afternoon as he was awarded the Heritage Hero Award, presented to volunteers of cultural organizations across Nebraska.
The award was a surprise for Richman. He thought he would be leading another tour group at the state ranch grounds. Instead, as he walked out the doors of the mansion, he was greeted by friends and family members.
Richman, a local history buff who can recite numerous stories or facts about Buffalo Bill at will, was at a loss for what to say after he was presented the award by Kim Elder, a History Nebraska Board of Trustees member.
“I’m a little without words right now,” he told the crowd as he stood on the mansion’s porch. “I can tell you some stories about Buffalo Bill, but this is too hard to grasp.”
Richman received the first of 44 Heritage Hero awards that will be presented by History Nebraska to individuals and organizations this year which are dedicated to preserving and sharing the history of their region.
Richman took over the Buffalo Bill role in 2000 after Charlie Evans, his predecessor, died
“I thought (at the time) in the next year or so, someone would come forward and do that. Well, it was four years and no one had done that,” Richman said. “I thought, ‘I could probably do it.’”
One of his friends wrote a letter to the editor of The North Platte Telegraph in support of Richman’s taking on the role.
While Richman was still thinking about taking on the Buffalo Bill job, he said, seeing that letter in print was “the icing on the cake. I didn’t want anyone to think that, well, no, I’m a coward.”
That started his run as Cody, and it doesn’t appear it will end any time soon.
“That’s basically it,” Richman said. “I don’t intend to just retire and say, ‘Nope. I’m not going to do it anymore.’ It’s (a question) of when I can’t do it anymore. It’s just amazing that I’ve been allowed to do it.”