I’ve always been a bit fascinated by the postmodern aspect of the Wild West Show, despite its problematic legacy regarding race and Native Americans as well as the myths it produced. This week marks the 122 anniversary of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show opening in London. The English gathered to see a circus of dime novel heroes, beasts near extinction, Little Sure Shot, Sitting Bull, Calamity Jane. What did they think of the Sioux Ghost Dance? Or the “Deadwood Concord Stagecoach”? Judging by current British stereotypes about Americans, these shows had a lasting impression.
But hot damn, don’t you wish you could’ve seen it? I’m skeptical about the Steampunk craze for clockwork gee-gaws and Victorian anachronism, but if there is any part of this fad that really gets my heart beating, it’s the whole Wild West Apocalypse Extravaganza (ah, Firefly…) Give me grit and horse sweat over gears and goggles any day.
Before all this Steampunk, there was the 80s “prairie” look, a look that as a pre-teen I was strangely devoted. I had weighty conch belt, one of my prized possessions. I wore it with (dear Lord!) and Oxford shirt and skinny jeans. So it was the little 13 year old in me who delighted in putting this treasury together, the same one who did a grade school book report on Annie Oakley, dreaming of sharp-shooting.