PAWNEE, Okla. (KFOR) — The mahogany table is set for a small gathering.
The monogrammed china and the silver settings with the fancy ‘L’ engraved in them are placed just so.
Pawnee Bill Ranch Manager Ronnie Brown has already had a volunteer set this table but he can’t help himself a few tweaks.
After all, there was nothing Gordon Lillie, better known as Pawnee Bill, liked better than birthdays.
“They were entertainers and they loved to entertain,” Brown says. “But of all the engagements we’ve been told about, the birthday parties were, by far, the largest, and the biggest deal.”
He got his name as an interpreter for the Pawnee Tribe.
Bill got his fame from a series of Wild West shows that barnstormed across the country from the 1880’s until 1909/
Lillie and his wife, May, retired to a mansion they built outside town in 1910, but the showman still enjoyed a good gathering.
Brown continues, “They would invite friends and family and just go all out.”
Guest lists were small and exclusive.
Oilman Frank Phillips used to come out with his wife. Another oil baron and former Oklahoma Governor E.W. Marland would too.
Old show performers like trick rider Mexico Joe were regulars, as was a young Will Rogers.
“To make the drive out from Tulsa was no small thing,” remarks a visitor to the mansion.
“No. No,” agrees Brown. “Not back then. That was a pretty good trip.”
No one knows for sure what kind of cake Bill liked best, but one of the kids on hand did mention, years later, that creamed carrots always seemed to be on the menu.
Ronnie laughs, “That’s really the only thing I know, that Pawnee Bill liked creamed carrots but his son and friends did not.”
A nice dinner, a satisfactory toast, Bill and his buddies would retire to his den.
May and her friends had a separate room to sit and visit.
“A lot of stories to be told,” says Brown. “Bill would sit at the west end of the table with the bay windows in the background.”
For his 160th birthday, Ronnie and his staff are planning another party with a not so exclusive guest list.
In fact, everyone is invited.
Staff even plan on lowering some of the velvet ropes for the first time ever.
Pawnee Bill would have liked it if his party-goers felt more at home.
The birthday celebration at the Pawnee Bill Ranch and Museum will take place Saturday, February 15 at the mansion and museum.
‘Is This a Great State or What?’ is sponsored by WEOKIE.