Tuesday, April 12, 2016

CC (part 9) - Buffalo Bill's Wild West

Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show/wikipedia.com

The Wild West has been romanticized. 

One man did much to promote this -  William F. "Buffalo Bill" Cody. And it was no coincidence he came of age and lived through many iconic moments during this period of American history.

In his youth, Cody had worked as a driver on a wagon train, tried his luck at prospecting in the Pikes Peak Gold Rush, joined the Pony Express, and served during the American Civil War. And after the war, he worked as a buffalo hunter to feed the Kansas Pacific Railroad workers. (It was where he got his nickname, "Buffalo Bill". ) Later Cody rejoined the Army as a scout for the Third Calvary during the Plains Wars. (Also reference: A Brief History...)

But Ned Buntline's "Buffalo Bill" dime novels extolled Cody's deeds (undoubtedly exaggerated) as a buffalo hunter and Indian scout, which made him a national folk hero. And to solidify this living legend, in 1872, Buffalo Bill made his stage debut in Chicago in The Scouts of the Prairie, one of Ned Buntline's original Wild West shows.

A year later, the Wild West show would include James Butler "Wild Bill" Hickok. A double "Bill-ing"? ;) So began Cody's new career and mission to preserve the Wild West legend. And as we learn...

There's No Business Like Show Business

After a 10 year run, Buffalo Bill created his own Wild West show, called, you guessed it, Buffalo Bill's Wild West. It was more like a circus-like show that went on tour, showing off the horse-culture including the military, the cowboys, American Indians, and other performers from around the world.

Cody's show and many like it were very popular in the latter part of the 19th and early 20th century. Noted performers in various Wild West shows were cowboys, Will Rogers, Tom Mix, and Pawnee Bill. Noted American Indians were Sitting Bull, Chief Joseph, and Geronimo. (reference: Native Americans...) Among the women were such legends as Calamity Jane and Annie Oakley.

And the legend continues to this day....

Below is a clip from the musical based on Annie Oakley's career as a sharpshooter - Annie Get Your Gun (1950). Here she is being recruited by Frank Butler (and future husband) and Buffalo Bill Cody and Charlie Davenport, the show manager. They entice her with this song, There's No Business Like Show Business, composed by Irving Berlin (who wrote such hits as God Bless America and White Christmas).

In the series, The Commander and the Chief, another fictional chief was in the Wild West shows. He was Nova's great grandfather, Chief Elijah Rainmaker.  Here is an excerpt of that discussion when Nova and her British guides, Colonel Jack Sheffield and Commander Reginald Barrett, seek shelter in a cave:

Nova put a hand on her holstered gun as they walked further in. “My great grandfather, Chief Elijah Rainmaker, he was the snake handler in Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show. Some think I inherited the propensity for handling snakes from him.”

After Jack cleared the area, Reggie settled down, resting his back against the cool rock wall. Both Nova and Jack removed their pistols and set them out, aiming their barrels in a safe direction. Both kept their guns loaded, within easy reach.

“Your gun, Reggie?” Nova asked.

“I don’t carry one.” Reggie glanced at her.

“Right…so it’s a good thing we do.” She returned a sarcastic smile. “To protect you from all the bad things out there.”

“As a doctor, I’ve seen what guns can do to people, madam.” Reggie stiffened up. “Especially in war and in the street.”

“But they don’t shoot themselves, do they?” Nova sat between Reggie and Jack, crossing her legs.

“But they’re deadly…like snakes.” Reggie twisted his mouth. “Furthermore, I didn’t think snake handling was a genetic trait, darling.”

“Why not?” Nova asked. “I’m a natural at it. When I was growing up on the ranch, my big brother Nick once found a den of rattlesnakes in the rocks. I used to catch those suckers and pry open their jaws while Nick spit tobacco juice into their mouths.”

From Book 1: His Tribe of One, Part 5, Chapter 4, The Snake Handler
[for more info on the book:  smithsk.com/cc.htm ]

To find out more about The Wild West heritage, please feel free to read the book.

His Tribe of One, now available:

* Paperback:  CreateSpace

* eBook:   Kindle

Your readership is much appreciated. Sequel is coming soon....

S. K. Smith



Photo:  Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show/wikipedia.com

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