Popular humorist Bill Nye (1850 – 1896), who also founded the Daily Boomerang in Laramie, Wyoming, worried about Buffalo Bill’s sway over youth. Writing in the New York World October 30, 1887, Nye suggested that “Buffalo William,” as he christened him, was a bad influence on the youth of the day. Nye called it “the cowboy scourge,” and it was Buffalo Bill’s fault:
It is perhaps unnecessary to state that Buffalo William, the peaceful and courteous hirsute [hairy] wonder from Nebraska, is largely responsible for this. Wherever he has gone…he has sown the seeds of discontent in the grammar schools and bred open rebellion in the primary department.
And what is to be the result of all this? I do not ask it in a light or flippant manner, but in a tone of deepest solicitude.
Nye claims that typical childhood pranks pale in comparison to the action of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show. Climbing trees isn’t as “daring a feat as it used to be.” Custard pies cooling in windows held no attraction, and pitching watermelons isn’t the least bit fun anymore. Bill Nye writes, “No one wants to steal wealth unless it has gore and hair on it. Dollars or watermelons that can be taken without walking over a corduroy road of dead bodies seem hardly worth taking…” He even suggests that the Wild West might affect diplomacy!
Gentle reader, we stand before the crumbling brink of a great cowboy eruption from England, Ireland, Scotland, the Continent, and the great Orient itself. I do not think that Buffalo Bill had any idea when he started in to rehearse his great society drama and horse play that it would so soon disturb international relations…If he had, he would have hesitated about it.
Finally, Nye says that what the West really needed was civic-minded people. As he put it:
…the great West does not so sorely need pretty men with buckskin clothes as it does good citizens who are willing to work…It may not be funny, but it is the never-dying truth that industry, integrity, and perseverance are mighty good substitutes for symmetry, genius, and hair.
Is it true that the more things change, the more they stay the same? Like Bill Nye, are we worried about kids today?
What do YOU think??