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#87 The Cowboy Becomes a Symbol for America - Boaz Power TV

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Published on Apr 16, 2010

____ http://boazpower.com ____(July 21, 2003)

Do you know who was most responsible for the cowboy becoming a symbol for America? Do the names Roy Rogers or John Wayne come to mind? The real person came riding down the trail long before those modern-day cowboys.

His first name was William. He was born in Scott County, Iowa, in 1846, and grew up on the prairie. His mother moved to Kansas in 1857 when his father died. There he worked for a wagon-freight company as a mounted messenger and wrangler. After trying his luck in the gold rush at Pikes Peak, he joined the Pony Express at the age of 14. They had advertised for skinny, expert riders willing to risk death daily. He seemed to fit the bill.

That title was Buffalo Bill and that was the day that the legend of Buffalo Bill Cody was born. In a seventeen month period, Buffalo Bill killed 4,280 head of buffalo.

From 1868 until 1872, Cody was again scouting for the Army, serving valiantly in numerous battles with several Indian tribes. For his skill and bravery, he was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

It was writer E.Z.C. Judson, writing dime novels under the name of Ned Buntline, who helped create the national folk hero status of Buffalo Bill. In his books, beginning in 1869, Buntline wrote about him in a style combining fact and fiction that rivaled stories about Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone.

In 1872 Buntline persuaded Cody to go into show business, depicting himself in a stage production called The Scouts of the Plains. Although Cody had never had formal training as an actor, he proved to have a natural flair for the theatre. Audiences, for the next eleven seasons, flocked to see Buffalo Bill on stage. He even published some of his own Buffalo Bill dime novels. His winter seasons were spent on the stage while his summers were spent as a scout with the Fifth Cavalry in the West.

It was in 1883, in Omaha, Nebraska, that his abilities as a showman really began to shine. Thats when Cody launched the Wild West Show with real cowboys and real Indians portraying the real West. The show ran for thirty years, twenty of those in Europe. Thanks to Buffalo Bill, the cowboy was becoming a symbol for America.

He created an outdoor extravaganza that dramatized frontier life: a buffalo hunt with real buffalos, an Indian attack on a stage coach with real Indians, a Pony Express ride and a re-enactment of Custers Last Stand. Some of the Indians who had actually fought in that battle were recruited to participate. Codys productions were a combination of a circus and a history lesson. One of his show discoveries was the famous sharpshooter Annie Oakley.

In 1887 Buffalo Bill was a feature attraction at Queen Victorias Golden Jubilee. There was quite a sensation when, in honor of Cody, Queen Victoria unexpectedly saluted the America flag during his performance. By the turn of the century, Buffalo Bill was probably the most famous and most recognizable man in the world. He carried the West and the American Indians into the Twentieth Century.

Now here comes the heart of this story. Eventhough he had fought Indians in the past, Cody now became their champion. He made certain that they were treated with respect in his shows. In addition to the rights of Indians, he used his fame and public attention as a forum for western causes, for the rights of women and for conservation.

As early as 1879 he cautioned the US government to never make a single promise to the Indians that is not fulfilled. He and the other frontier scouts respected the Indian. Cody felt that every Indian conflict resulted from broken promises and broken treaties by the government. He felt that America was the Indians heritage and that the Indian had only fought for what was his.

Buffalo Bill Cody was a major contributor in the creation of the myth of the American West, as seen in Hollywood movies and on television. However, in his eventual treatment of the American Indian, he also created a very special definition for the word respect.

A Daily Affirmation of Respect

Realizing that we are all in this together, I am respectful of the right of others.

-Boaz@BoazPower.com

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