Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A Man Not For Our Time

Buffalo Bill's ranch in North Platte
May 21

North Platte is a railway town.  The Golden Spike tower looms eight stories over Bailey Yard, the largest rail yard in the world.  In the wild 1860s passage for the line seemed impossible.  Giant herds of buffalo stretched for miles and angry Indians blocked the way, unwilling to give up their ancestral hunting grounds.  One man gained fame helping to remove these impediments to progress. 
The way we view history evolves over the decades and centuries as society's morals and belief systems change.  Buffalo Bill is a prime example, a hero in his time.  Cody was a marksmen, scout, Indian tracker, a master showman and is said to have put on the first rodeo, held in North Platte in 1882.  His prowess as a tracker helped the Federal Army find and capture the last of the intransigent tribesmen in the region.  His ability as a marksmen allowed him to help eliminate the once innumerable buffalo from the plains, nearly exterminating the Native American's greatest resource and gaining him the moniker "Buffalo Bill." 
Cody's fame was solidified by his "Buffalo Bill Cody Wild West Show" which introduced the east coast to the excitement of the frontier.  The proceeds from the Wild West Show allowed him to build a ranch called Scout's Rest in North Platte. 
We view Cody and his ilk differently in the light of modernity.  The buffalo hunts were hugely wasteful and came close to wiping out the species.  Only the pelt was taken from a beast the Native Americans used in numerous ways, the rest was left to rot. 
The cowboy is no longer necessarily viewed as the bringer of justice to the savage frontier.  The Sioux and others are seen as innocent victims of manifest destiny run roughshod.  Some scholars even describe the Indian Wars of the 1870s as genocide.  Without doubt moving them to reservations brought the death of the old ways.  Cody's biography is inextricably linked with these crimes.
Sometimes I feel like a pioneer myself, walking the old trails, sleeping outside, eating really crappy beef jerky that could easily be confused with cow manure.  Not tonight, since I spent a few hours dawdling in the A to Z bookstore, making friends with Sharon and her cat Dickens.  By the closing hour a wicked black cloud loomed and the news suggested more hail was on the way.  I chickened out and found El Cheapo Motel and booked a room.

15 miles/2185 total miles  

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