Returning back to a more western setting...I've always loved cowboys, horses, and the "wild west." I've also always loved the idea of the state fairs, and I featured a snippet of both in my story for the Blue Ribbon Brides collection, Front Paige Love, only that one featured Doc Carver and his traveling stunt show with diving horses, which had its height during the late 1920's and Depression-era in the US.
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From Real Life to Vaudeville Performance!
The year is 1883, and the month is May. Just 125 years ago. The inspiration began a few years earlier, though. William F. Cody was a real-life buffalo hunter, U.S. Army scout, and guide. In 1869, author Ned Buntline wrote a "dime novel" about Cody called Buffalo Bill, the King of Border Men, after the two met on a train from California to Nebraska. In December 1872, Buntline’s novel turned into a theatrical production and launched Cody's career in live performances.
|Poster showing Buffalo Bill's Wild West and Congress|
of Rough Riders of the World, c. 1898.
Features such as the Pony Express, the wagon train, or the attack on the stagecoach recreated specific and well-known events. Spectacles such as “cowboy fun” or the showcasing of American Indian life usually served as a prelude to a dramatic event, such as a battle scene. Skill acts such as sharp shooting (with pistol and rifle), wing shooting (with shotgun), roping, and riding not only showcased star performers, the show’s narration linked those skills to survival in the frontier West.
|Sitting Bull and Buffalo Bill (1885)|
Some famous names came out of performing in Buffalo Bill's shows, or other similar ones at the time. Names like Will Rogers, Bill Picket, Buck Taylor, Annie Oakley, Calamity Jane, Texas Rose, Chief Sitting Bull, Red Cloud, and Geronimo.
Circus great James A. Bailey, of Barnum & Bailey, joined Cody and Salsbury in 1895 and revolutionized their travel arrangements. The show was loaded onto two trains totaling fifty or more cars. Strings of flat cars could be linked together with ramps for loading wagons from the back forward. Besides performers and staff, the trains transported hundreds of show and draft horses and as many as thirty buffalo. The show carried grandstand seating for twenty thousand spectators along with the acres of canvas necessary to cover them. The arena itself remained open to the elements. Advance staff traveled ahead of the show to procure licenses and arrange for the ten to fifteen acres required for the show lot, preferably close to the railroad; to buy the tons of flour, meat, coffee, and other necessities; and to publicize and advertise.
In 1899, Buffalo Bill’s Wild West covered over 11,000 miles in 200 days giving 341 performances in 132 cities and towns across the United States. Most places featured a parade and two 2-hour performances. Then the whole show would be struck, loaded, and moved overnight to the next town. I remember being impressed by traveling carnivals as a little girl, admiring how quickly they would arrive in town, set up, entertain, then tear down and be gone! Buffalo Bill's show even makes these carnivals pale in comparison.
By far, the most lasting legacy of the Wild West shows is the depiction of romance and conquest, based on real people and events created and disseminated across boundaries of race, class, and geography. Western shows generated interest for Western entertainment. This is still evidenced in western films, modern rodeos, and circuses, still employing the same events and skills as cowboys did in Wild West shows. I don't know about you, but give me a good book or movie set in the "wild west," and I'm entertained for hours!
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NOW IT'S YOUR TURN:
* Have you ever been to a rodeo? Ever participated in one?
* If you lived during the time Buffalo Bill's shows were touring, what part would you want to see the most? Why?
* If you were to be *part* of a wild west show, what role would you love to fulfill?
* What did you like most about today's post?
Tiffany Amber Stockton has been crafting and embellishing stories since childhood, when she was accused of having a very active imagination and cited with talking entirely too much. Today, she has honed those childhood skills to become an author and speaker who works in the health & wellness and personal development industry, helping others become their best from the inside out. She is also an educational consultant with Usborne Books.
She lives with her husband and fellow author, Stuart Vaughn Stockton, along with their two children and Nova, their Shiba Inu mix, in Colorado. She has sold twenty (21) books so far and is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of the Steve Laube Agency. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, GoodReads, and LinkedIn.