The life and times of American hero, Boner “Bronco” Billy

Trading Post Sierra Nevada 1849

Although the birth of Boner Billy was unexpected, hence the name “Boner”, a Vaudeville term for a “silly mistake.” As you will soon learn, Boner “Bronco” Billy, a true American hero was anything but a silly mistake.
 
Documenting the life and times of American hero Boner Billy is a bit of a challenge due to the fact that Boner Billy’s son, grandson, and great grandson have the same name without a name suffix, Junior, Senior, or Roman numerals, etc. Due to this lack of a suffix in their name, t can be a little tricky documenting the rich history of this American hero.
 
Here is how the story goes; in the early summer of 1845 a young Boner Billy, along with John Frémont, Kit Carson and 54 other men left St. Louis on an expedition. The stated goal was to “map the source of the Arkansas River on the east side of the Rocky Mountains.” Upon reaching the Arkansas, expedition leader, John Frémont suddenly made a hasty trail straight to California, without explanation arriving in the Sacramento Valley in early winter of 1846. 
Records suggest shortly after arriving in the Sacramento Valley, Boner Billy owned and operated a popular trading post on a road leading from San Francisco to Sacramento. It is now believed America’s first hot dog, then called a tube steak was created and sold at Boner Billy’s trading post.  This popular food consisted of a specially spiced and seasoned tube steak on a fresh bread roll, and was called the “Big Boner” due to its size, and named after Boner himself.
 
In January of 1847, Boner Billy, his wife, Frannie and young daughter, Bella were traveling to San Francisco on business when they had to make an emergency stop at Sutter’s mill in Coloma, California to give birth to the Billy’s first son, known as, “little Boner.”  Folklore has it that a local man, James Marshall, and Boner Billy stepped outside to smoke a cigar to celebrate the birth of the child. James Marshall then spotted a sparkly object in the American River, which ended up being a small gold nugget that launched the great California Gold Rush.  That nugget of gold was named after Boner Billy’s new born son and was thereon known as, “little Boner.”

Trading Post and Fine Dining San Francisco, CA 1883

Boner “Bronco” Billy on tour in Europe 1884

In 1848 with business booming due to tens of thousands of gold-seekers known as “forty-niners” purchasing supplies at Boner Billy’s trading post on there their way to the gold fields. Combined with the sales of Boner Billy’s food products, Boner Billy became a very wealthy man. At this point in time, land records indicate that Boner Billy purchased a large parcel of land north-east of Truckee, California in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Boner Billy’s new ranch was named, “Ponderosa” after the type of native trees that covered the mountains. It is believed the ranch also had a gold producing mine on the land and over a thousand head of cattle. It has been said that Boner Billy’s Ponderosa Ranch inspiration the name of the homestead in the popular 1960’s western television series called Bonanza.
 
Folklore has it that in the spring of 1858, Boner Billy and ranch hands, Bill “Dirty” Smith and James Finney, nicknamed “Old Virginy” were rounding up stray cattle in the foothills just NE of what is now known as Carson City, Nevada. At this point, ranch hand Finney located and later was credited with discovering the Comstock Lode, one of the largest silver ore deposits in the world.  Over the next several years Boner Billy successful partnered in investments in the mining boomtown, Virginia City, Nevada. He also opened, a series of eating establishments serving tube steaks letter known as hot dogs in Nevada and throughout California.
In 1863 Boner Billy befriended a young writer named, Samuel Clemens and helped land him a job at the Territorial Enterprise newspaper in Virginia City, Nevada.  Folklore has it that Samuel Clemens was later known as Mark Twain, and Boner Billy spent many nights drinking and smoking cigars at the Bucket of Blood Saloon in Virginia City.  Boner Billy, a wonderful story teller delighted the crowd with stories of his father and his father’s childhood friend, Finnegan McCracken, and their adventures as kids on the Mississippi river. Boner Billy’s father in later years was a celebrated Riverboat Captain on the mudding Mississippi. Some have said it was these stories that had inspired Mark Twain’s books about the Mississippi River.
 
 

America’s first Hot Dog cart, – Sacramento, CA 1855

Offering more than just a Big Boner this delivery truck makes its rounds in San Francisco. CA

Over the next few years, the stories of Boner Billy seem to stop, as there are no newspaper articles, mining or land deed records making any reference to the name Boner Billy. In 1883 Boner Billy’s long time friend, William Frederick Cody “Buffalo Bill” invited Boner Billy and Boner’s famous horse, “Chubby” to perform alone with Texas Jack Omohundro in The Scouts of the Prairie, one of the original Wild West shows in Chicago. Boner’s son, “little Boner” now an accomplished rodeo star also performed along side his father in an act called, “The Two Boner’s.” Boner Billy’s grandson “Baby Boner” also traveled with them joining the act performing on a small pony.
Around this time the story of Boner Billy gets a bit confusing due to the fact there were three Boner Billy’s, (father, son, and grandson) who traveled with the Wild West Show when it toured Europe. Records indicate a 4th Boner Billy was born in Europe around this time to a French woman, with the child called, “La Boner.” There are no records to indicate if the father of La Boner was Big Boner or the son Little Boner. Although there are records of a Boner Billy traveling by ship back to America it is not known if it was Big Boner, his son, little Boner or the grandson Baby Boner or the newborn child, La Boner. 
 

To this day it is not known, which Boner Billy traveled alone back to America. Some have said in was La Boner and that Big Boner, his son, and grandson still in Europe then attempted to circle the globe on horseback. There have been stories throughout Asia of a great man, and a horse named Chubby that saved Buddha from a landslide. Other stories from South American about a team of riders and a flying horse called, “el chubby” that crossed the Andes, the world’s longest continental mountain range in search of a flying star.

Size Does Matter – marketing campaign 1933-36

Billboard in Flagstaff Arizona mid – 1950’s

In 1898 the name Boner Billy comes up as part of Theodore Roosevelt, Rough Riders and is said to be pictured with Roosevelt and the Rough Riders atop San Juan Hill.  On August 14, Roosevelt and the Rough Riders returned to the United States at Montauk Point in Long Island, New York. There are no records of a Boner Billy returning with Roosevelt. Some have said that Boner Billy, a long time friend of Roosevelt was in Cuba fighting alone side Roosevelt as a favor to him, just having a good old adventure as Roosevelt would say. To this day it is not known if it was Big Boner Billy or Little Boner Billy who charged up San Juan Hill with Theodore Roosevelt and his Rough Riders.

Again at this point in time the stories of Boner Billy seem to end. Although Boner Billy was a true American hero, friend to presidents, Kings and Queens, he was an extremely private person and it seems his son and grandson who were named Boner Billy as well were happily outside the spotlight and lived very private lives. There was the Boner Billy’s Polo Club in Santa Monica, California, which was frequented by people like William Randolph Hearst, Hollywood movie stars, studio owners, and movie moguls. The BB Polo Club as it was known was so private that to this day very little is known about the club and members. There was also a few staged events, under the name Boner Billy’s hosted at the famous nightclub, Cocoanut Grove at the Los Angeles, Ambassador Hotel in the mid 1920’s.

Popular stop along the Ventura Highway, Thousand Oaks, Ca 1964

The Big Boner airplane with full bar and glass bottom dance floor was a hit with the Hollywood elite 1950-64

Around 1928 a Boner Billy cousin, Betty Bonnie Billy owned a string of Boner Billy’s Hot Dogs stands throughout California. Sadly without the secret recipe that made Boner Billy’s tube steak such a hit the food was run of the mill. A short lived television show, the Boner Billy Play House did drive up sales for a bit but in 1962 the last Boner Billy’s Hot Dog stand closed.

With Boner Billy’s family ranch, “Ponderosa” in the high Sierra destroyed in a 1904 forest fire. The families mansion on Nob Hill destroyed in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake little was left to document the rich legacy of Boner Billy. The family yacht, “My Sweet Boner” sunk off the coast of Monterey, California in a storm. Rancho El Boner in the Santa Monica Mountains, in Southern California’s Malibu area was lost to fire in 1956.  Boner Billy’s family still has compounds in Quadra Island British Columbia, Palm Springs, California, New York City as well as a small inland in the Caribbean. To avoid the public eye most of the family assets are in different names.

Desert heat, wind and time brought down this landmark
billboard along HWY 15 on the road to Las Vegas

In the mid-1950’s and early 1960’s Hollywood gossip magazines would feature articles from time to time about Boner Billy dating stars like Marilyn Monroe, Jane Russell and other Hollywood starlets of the time. Boner Billy’s famous Douglas DC-3 plane, “Big Boner” with its glass bottom dance floor and a full bar was a favorite with the Hollywood stars and was featured in Hollywood glamour magazines. It is also said that good friend Elvis Presley loved Boner Billy’s, “Big Boner” hot dog with bacon and peanut butter.

Recently only with the release of top secret documents by the US Government under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) do we find the name Boner Billy. It seems the story of Boner Billy continues, but the question remains, which Boner Billy is it? Top Secret records indicate that Howard Hughes had a secret contract to develop a fighter plane for the US government just proper to America’s involvement in World War II. Working from a secret base in the California desert, released records now indicate a brilliant designer/engineer/test pilot, Lieutenant Colonel, Boner Billy with the code name “Bronco” was a lead person in the development and test pilot of a top secret aircraft.

The cool kids all had this lunch box set in 1961-65

Boner Billy’s Breakfast Hot Dog was a big hit late 1940’s 

In 1996 a sealed mine in the high Sierra Nevada Mountains was discovered, which is believed to be part of the Boner Billy homestead Ponderosa. When the mine was opened, metal boxes were found filled with gold coins, a sword gifted to Boner Billy from Nicholas II of Russia, the last Emperor of Russia. Other gifts from a friend, Theodore Roosevelt,  Letter’s from Leland Stanford and Collis P. Huntington seeking Boner Billy’s advice in regards to building a train track across the Sierra Mountains. There was also letters and gifts from England’s, Queen Victoria who it seems took a fancy to Boner Billy.

Out of all the treasures found in what is believed items saved from the forest fire that destroyed the family homestead was a big mysterious wooden box. Inside the box was a journal with detailed drawings dating back to the late 1800’s of a crashed spaceship in the Andes Mountains of South America. It now seems that Boner Billy, his son, and grandson along with 20 or so riders did circle the globe on horseback. The drawing clearly shows a crashed spaceship and what appears to be 3 small space aliens that where killed in the crash. Inside the case was also small pieces of metal, very thin with symbols not of this world. There was also a mummified body of what is believed to be one of the space travelers.  This treasure, perhaps the most important discovery of all times was turned over to NASA so we may never know any more about this incredible find.

With a full bar, upper party deck and Big Boners, this mobile party bus was more than a hit when on tour 

As hard as it might be to believe, the group that found the hidden mine and personal, and priceless belongings turned all the items over to the Boner Billy Family Trust. Along with the treasures was the long-lost recipe to Boner Billy’s famous tube steak known today as the hot dog. The Boner Billy Family Trust rewarded the people who found and returned the lost treasure with the famous hot dog recipe and licensing agreement to use the name, Boner Billy. The only stipulation was that a small amount of money from each sale be donated to an environmental group to aid in replanting forest destroyed by forest fires and other manmade events that affect the environment.

Today Boner Billy’s name and famous hot dogs are back in the spotlight. Not only can people enjoy what most call the greatest hot dogs in the world but each year thousands of trees are planted in the name of this great American hero, Boner “Bronco” Billy.
 
In 2012 Boner Billy’s Famous Hot Dogs will open a restaurant on Las Vegas famous, Vegas strip. At this point in time, it is not known which casino will house Boner Billy’s as there is interest from all the major casino hotels along the Las Vegas strip. 

Billboard just outside Salinas, California 1967

Great Grandson Broner “JR” Billy 

It has recently been announced that Boner “JR” Billy the great, great, great grandson of Boner “Bronco” Billy has stepped forward with support and involvement in the launch of Boner Billy’s new Viva Las Vegas restaurant. In a recent interview, JR stated; “My great grandpapa who from a little trading post on the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains served-up America’s first hot dog to hungry forty-niners heading to the goldfields. I cannot tell you how proud I am to now help bring the Boner Billy name and the greatest hot dogs in the world to Las Vegas”  – Boner “JR” Billy