Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Firebrand of the West

When I was working in the Production Department for a major publisher of Large Print books a few years back, it was my pleasure to set the type for a new edition of Buffalo Bill's personal memoirs. I took my time with it. To find another book as colorful as his would be difficult. To hear him tell it, Buffalo Bill's life had been an endless parade of incident and cliffhangers. It was a great yarn.

And almost none of it actually happened. 

There's no doubt that William F. Cody did his time out West, knew his subject and was genuinely skilled as a tracker, hunter, guide and liason. But the truth behind all of that just wouldn't have made for a very exciting book, nor could it have been spun into an outlandish Circus Spectacle -- and William F. Cody was nothing else if not Entranced by Show Biz and the Limeligjht.

His traveling Wild West Show became one of the most popular attractions in the world, and rivaled Barnum & Bailey and the Ringling Brothers as one of the top circuses of its time. He recruited the likes of Sitting Bull and Annie Oakley to work on his show, and six days a week staged gaudy outdoor Indian Raids complete with multiple wagons, dozens of horses and a bevy of genuine Native Americans to wow the crowds.

But his show became passe after a while. Buffalo Bill fell on hard times and spent his declining years spinning off on his reputation. 

He burned very brightly indeed in his day, and is the perfect man for my King of the fiery Wands.

Barring only the two remaining Pages, This card completes my Circus "Royal Family" of Court Cards.

-- Freder