Pecos Bill

Pecos Bill

Pecos Bill is a legendary American Cowboy, apocryphally immortalized in numerous tall tales of the Old West during American westward expansion into the Southwest of Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. Their stories were probably invented by Edward O'Reilly in 1923 and are considered to be an example of fakelore. Pecos Bill was a late addition to the "big man" idea of characters like Paul Bunyan or Iron John.


The stories were first published in 1916 by Edward O'Reilly for "The Century Magazine", and collected and reprinted in 1923 in the book "Saga of Pecos Bill" (1923). O'Reilly said they were part of an oral tradition told by cowboys during the westward expansion and settlement of the southwest including Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. However American folklorist Richard M. Dorson found that O'Reilly invented the stories as "fakelore"cite book | last = Dorson | first = Richard M. | title = American Folklore | publisher = University of Chicago Press | date = 1977 | location = Chicago | pages = 4 | id = ISBN 0-226-15859-4 ] , and later writers either borrowed tales from O'Reilly or added further adventures of their own invention to the cycle. [ [ Pecos Bill] ] One of the most well known versions of the Pecos Bill stories is by James Cloyd Bowman in "" (1937) which won the Newbery Honor in 1938, and republished in 2007.

Edward "Tex" O'Reilly co-authored a cartoon strip with cartoonist Jack A Warren also known as Alonzo Vincent Warren, between 1929 and 1938. When O' Reilly died in 1938, Warren began a strip titled "Pecos Pete." This was a story about "Pecos Bill'" who had received a "lump on the naggan" which caused him amnesia. The cartoons originally were published in 'The Sun' and were later syndicated.

Pecos Bill made the leap to film in the 1948 Disney animated feature "Melody Time". It begins with Roy Rogers and his friends singing "Blue Shadows on the Trail". Soon after the song, a coyote howls at the moon. Young Disney actors Bobby Driscoll and Luana Patten ask why the coyotes howl at the moon. Roy Rogers explains it's all because of Pecos Bill and is shocked when the children don't know the tall tale of the great American legend. The Disney adaptation omits Bill shooting Sue, who lands on the moon, rather than hitting her head on it. Devastated by the loss of Sue, Bill returns to live among the coyotes, and begins howling at the moon in grief over his loss. The other coyotes follow suit out of sympathy and continue the practice to this day.

"Pecos Bill" was also the nickname of Civil War general William R. Shafter [ [] ] , although this was before O'Reilly created the legend. Shafter was considered a hero in Texas and even had some legendary poetry written about how tough he was. [ [] ]


Like many tall tales, Pecos Bill stories involve combinations of superhuman feats of courage and prowess (such as riding a tornado like a bronco and using a rattlesnake/python skin for a whip) and explaining natural phenomena (such as why coyotes howl at the moon, digging the Rio Grande, and how the Painted Desert became so colorful.)

According to the legend, Pecos Bill was traveling in a covered wagon as an infant when he fell out unnoticed by the rest of his family near the Pecos River. He was taken in by a female coyote and raised with her other pups, thus explaining his exceptional skills.

He grew up to become a cowboy and has a horse, Widow Maker, and a love interest, Slue-Foot Sue, both are equally as idealized as Pecos Bill. It is also said Pecos rode a mountain lion instead of a horse.

After a courtship with Slue-Foot Sue where, among other things, Pecos Bill shoots all the stars from the sky, except for one which becomes the Lone Star, he proposes to Sue who insisted on riding Widow Maker sometime before, during or after the wedding depending on variations in the story.

Widow Maker, jealous of no longer having Bill's undivided attention, bounces Sue off, who lands on her bustle which begins bouncing her higher and higher, eventually hitting her head on the moon following a failed attempt to lasso her. After Slue-Foot Sue had been bouncing for days, Pecos Bill realized that she would starve to death, so he put her out of her misery by shooting her as an act of mercy. Though it is said that Bill was married many times, he never did recover from the loss of Sue. Bowman's version of the story are more congenial, with Sue eventually recovering from the bounces, but so traumatized by the experience she swears off cowboys and Bill.

ee also

Other "Big Men"
*Big Joe Mufferaw a.k.a. Jos. Montferrand of the Ottawa Valley
*Paul Bunyan
*Iron John of Michigan
*John Henry
*Johnny Kaw
*Mike Fink
*Jack Magyar
*Joe Magarac
*Fionn mac Cumhaill
*Venture Smith, the black Paul Bunyan
*Bill Brasky
*Harsh Patel
*Dusty 'Doc' Ballard



*James Cloyd Bowman. "Pecos Bill: The Greatest Cowboy of All Time". orig. 1937, republished by "The New York Review", 2007. ISBN 978-1-59017-224-7
*S. E. Schlosser. [ Pecos Bill] . A few stories online.

External links


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