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Buffaloes and Bills

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3676.  Sat Dec 27, 2003 10:57 am Reply with quote

Q: How many buffalo did Buffalo Bill Cody kill in his lifetime?

A: None. He killed a lot of bison, but these are members of a distinct genus whose most recent common ancestor with the buffalo genii Bubalos and Synceros lived 5 to 6 million years ago. The US bison has two sub-species, the "plains" variety Bison bison bison and the "woods" variety Bison bison athabascae. During the C17th there were an estimated 60 million of them in North America - today, thanks to the activities of "Buffalo" Bill and his cronies there are about 50,000, which represents something of a recovery from the low point.

Mind you, we shouldn't be too complacent over here: the European bison, the wisent, now has a population of 1000 after reaching a low point of 66 individuals in 1922.

In America bison/cattle crosses are now bred for meat, called "cattalo" or "beefalo". These have cattle fathers and bison mothers, because the offspring of a male bison and an ordinary cow are usually too broad-shouldered for the cow to deliver safely.

s: "This Is Not A Weasel", Philip B Mortenson)

Last edited by Flash on Sat Dec 27, 2003 11:44 am; edited 1 time in total

3677.  Sat Dec 27, 2003 10:59 am Reply with quote

Q: What's the difference between a buffalo and a bison?

A: You can't wash your 'ands in a buffalo.

3678.  Sat Dec 27, 2003 11:24 am Reply with quote

William Frederick "Buffalo Bill" Cody, hunter, Indian fighter and showman, joined the Pony Express at the age of 14 in response to an ad which ran:

WANTED young skinny wiry fellows not over eighteen. Must be expert riders willing to risk death daily. Orphans preferred. Wages $25 a week.

The Pony Express lasted 19 months in total, until superseded by the railroad.

He ran his Wild West show (assisted by his former adversary Sitting Bull) from 1883-1916. The show was hugely popular; its European tour was attended by Queen Victoria. Bill's death in 1917 elicited tributes from the King of England, the Kaiser, and President Wilson - men who were not at the time accustomed to agreeing with each other on very much at all.

Because the ground was frozen solid he was embalmed pending his burial, which eventually took place in front of an audience of 25,000. The burial was highly controversial. Although he had specified in his will that he should be buried near the town of Cody, Wyoming (which he had founded), his wife stated that he had converted to Catholicism on his deathbed and asked to be buried on Lookout Mountain, near Denver. His grave became a big tourist attraction, and it was rumoured that his wife had in fact been paid by a Denver businessman to move the site. To guard against any attempt to steal the body, the bronze casket was weighed down with several thousand tons of concrete reinforced with iron. The dispute was still running hot in 1948, when the Cody branch of the American Legion offered a $10,000 reward for the "return" of the body, so the Denver branch mounted a guard over the grave until a deeper grave shaft could be blasted into the rock of the mountain and the casket could be reburied under even more concrete.

Hatchets weren't buried until 1968, when there was an exchange of smoke signals between Lookout Mountain (Denver) and Cedar Mountain (Cody), while the spirit of Buffalo Bill was transported symbolically from one mountain to the other on a riderless white horse.

s for the burial stuff: After the Funeral - the Posthumous Adventures of Famous Corpses, Edwin Murphy, Citadel Press, 1995

Last edited by Flash on Sat Dec 27, 2003 11:46 am; edited 1 time in total

3679.  Sat Dec 27, 2003 11:43 am Reply with quote

One member of the Wild West show was Ollie L "Brushy Bill" Roberts, who died in 1950 claiming that he was in reality none other than Billy the Kid, who had escaped with his life after the famous encounter with Pat Garrett. The claim has generated quite a lot of interest, but is not taken seriously. However, it does link us to the Kid, so:

Billy the Kid's real name was not, as is normally asserted, William H Bonney - this was just one of several aliases he operated under (others being William Antrim and Kid Antrim). He was born Henry McCarty, in New York in 1859.

In 1879 Billy the Kid made a deal with the Governor of New Mexico, the former Union General Lew Wallace, to give evidence against his former colleagues in return for amnesty. The Kid delivered on his side of the bargain but Wallace reneged on his, and the Kid had to bust out of jail to escape hanging. The following year, Wallace published a novel: Ben Hur.

(BTW: In 1907, Kalem & Co. released a one reel, 15-minute version of Ben-Hur. It advertised: " Scenery and Supers by Pain's Fireworks Co., Costumes from Metropolitan Opera House. Chariot Race by 3d Battery, Brooklyn. Positively the Most Superb Moving Picture Spectacle Ever Produced in America. . . ." Produced without the permission of the publishers of the book, the producers of the play or the Wallace Family, Kalem & Co. was sued, and the case reached the U.S. Supreme Court. The court decreed that the current copyright laws applied to moving pictures. [Kalem Co. v. Harper Bros., 222 U.S. 55 (1911)])

The Kid's official death warrant is in Wallace's handwriting. Wallace was also an inventor who held a number of patents for railway coupling devices and the like.

Although the mythic version of his death became established very quickly there seems to have been some official doubt about the Kid's fate at the time. In 1903 the then Governor of New Mexico had his case re-opened to establish whether he had really died and whether he deserved to be pardoned. The investigation was never concluded.

Billy the Kid is said to be the real-life character who has been most depicted in films; he's a character in at least 46.

s: numerous websites and the book Gods, Mongrels and Demons, by Angus Calder, Bloomsbury, 2003.

Last edited by Flash on Sat Dec 27, 2003 1:01 pm; edited 1 time in total

3680.  Sat Dec 27, 2003 11:57 am Reply with quote

Back to the bison. In the 1870s the Blackfoot Indians of Montana were still hunting bison by luring them over a cliff, the same method as is depicted in European cave paintings dated 30,000-10,000 BC. According to George Bird Grinnell's eyewitness accounts the medicine man would put on a bison headdress and approach the herd. Once he had attracted their attention he would walk towards a "chute", a funnel of rocks. The herd followed, and once they were in the chute the other Indians would jump up from behind the rocks and shout, causing the bison to stampede towards the cliff.

It was said that the best medicine men could do this without disguising themselves.

Grinnell, Blackfoot Lodge Tales, pp 229-230, quoted in Primitive Mythology by Joseph Campbell, Viking Press, 1959.

911625.  Fri May 25, 2012 9:38 am Reply with quote

Not a quibble - just a fact about how easy it was for buffalo bill and others to practically wipe out the whole species.

When the bison were grazing, one gunman could wipe out a whole herd in one go without moving his position.

It was known as a "buffalo stand".

One or two men with high powered rifles could simply keep shooting one bison after another.
The shot bison would fall dead and the others would completely ignore it and just carry on grazing.

They would not stampede or run around and even when there was only one left and all the others were lying dead, that lone bison would just continue grazing in the midst of all the dead bison without a worry about what had just killed the rest of his herd.

911709.  Fri May 25, 2012 4:49 pm Reply with quote

Buffalo Bill Cody hunted bison for food (in his case for railroad workers), same as the Amerindians did. What drove the bison to near-extinction was the European demand for buffalo hide, some years after Buffalo Bill had already quit the Great Plains for the stage.

In fact, Buffalo Bill fought to have the US government protect the bison herds.

911741.  Fri May 25, 2012 8:52 pm Reply with quote

Thankfully, today Elk Island National Park in Alberta has a massive and thriving herd of bison.


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