Adventures of Buffalo Bill from Boyhood to Manhood. Deeds of Daring, Scenes of Thrilling, Peril, and Romantic Incidents In the Early Life of W. F. Cody, the Monarch of Bordermen. by Colonel Prentiss Ingraham. Full Text Available...
When the last crusader returned from the East, hung up his helmet and stood his lance in the corner, men who craved opportunity and adventure knew the time had come to turn their eyes and ambitions elsewhere. There was a New World to be found and conquered, a mythical Atlantis, perhaps, out beyond the watery horizon or perhaps a dreamed-of island like the one called Utopia. But whatever and wherever this fabled new world, there was one certainty: it lay to the West.
For almost five centuries, the spell of the West was magic, its lure and riches something that dominated men's imaginations. What they found there and what they did there is a story as spectacular as any that has come out of the great ages of history.
The idea that Europeans "discovered" America in 1492 has been a basic assumption of American history, but it would be more accurate to say that Columbus's voyages led to the "first permanent arrival of Europeans in the Western Hemisphere." Millions of people and dozens of cultures thrived in this half of the globe long before Europeans came. All discoveries of America were accidental.
In the West, everything seems somehow larger, grander, than life, and we now can see why so many different peoples have come to consider their own most innermost lives inextricably linked with it. Over the centuries, the West has been the repository of the dreams of an astonishing variety of people - and it has been on the long, dusty roads of the West that these dreams have crisscrossed and collided, transforming all who travelled along them, rewarding some while disappointing others.
The story of the West was once told as an unbroken series of triumphs - the victory of "civilization" over "barbarism," a relentlessly inspirational epic in which greed and cruelty were often glossed over as enterprise and courage. Later, that epic would be turned upside down by some, so that the story of the West became another - equally misleading - morality tale, one in which the crimes of conquest and dispossession were allowed to overshadow everything else that ever happened beyond the Mississippi. The truth about the West is far more complicated, and much more compelling.
America without the West is unthinkable now. Yet there was nothing inevitable about our taking it. Others had prior claim to its vastness, after all, and we could quite easily have remained forever huddled east of the Mississippi. In resolving to move west and become a continental nation we would exact a fearful price from those already living on the land. But we also became a different people, and it is no accident that that turbulent history - and the myths that have grown up around it - have made the West the most potent symbol of the nation as a whole, overseas as well as in our own hearts.
The story of the American West is at once the story of a unique part of the country and a metaphor for the country as a whole. With all its heroism and inequity, exploitation and adventure, sober realities and bright myths, it is the story of all of us, no matter where on the continent we happen to live, no matter how recently our ancestors arrived on its shores.