“Buffalo Bill, the King
of Border Men”
Although Ned Buntline may not have specifically come out west to find a new hero—a successor to Davy Crockett and Kit Carson in the Ameri/ can pantheon, or to James Fenimore Cooper's Natty Bumppo in American literature—he serendipitously found one in William F. Cody. Buntline and Cody might have been meant for each other: both larger than life, both the best of their kind and at the top of their games, both gifted tellers of tall tales.
On December 23, 1869, the first installment of Ned Buntline's serial story Buffalo Bill, the King of Border Men appeared in the New York Weekly. It was advertised as “the wildest and truest story he ever wrote.” At least the first part of that claim had some validity. This is how Buntline began his “truest story”:
An oasis of green wood on Kansas prairie—a bright stream shining like liquid silver in the moonlight—a log house built under the limbs of great trees—within this humble home a happy group. This is my first picture.
A noble-looking, white-haired man sits by a rough table, reading the Bible aloud. On stools by his feet sit two beautiful little girls—his twin daughters—not more than ten years of age, while a noble boy, twelve or thirteen, stands by the back of the chair where sits the handsome, yet matronly-looking mother.
It is the hour for family prayer before retiring for the night, and Mr. Cody, the Christian as well as patriot, always remembers it in the heart of his dear home.
He closes the holy book, and is about to kneel and ask heaven to bless and protect him and his dear ones.