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Texas | Columns | All Things Historical

BRING 'EM BACK ALIVE:
FRANK BUCK

by Archie P. McDonald
Archie McDonald Ph.D.
Before the late Steve Ervin wrestled his first crocodile, before Jane Goodall learned to communicate with chimps, before swimming champion Johnny Weissmuller personified Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan and Jungle Jim in movies and serials, and before John Wayne performed in a film titled "Hatari!" about a professional trapper of animals for zoos, Frank Buck captured American and international audiences with tales of his adventures doing just those kinds of things everywhere on the planet.

Buck was born in Gainesville, Texas, on March 17, 1884, to Howard and Ada Buck. The elder Buck operated a wagon yard in Gainesville, and in the fashion of the day, that was where young Frank joined the world. Later the family moved to Dallas were Buck sold Studebaker wagons and Frank Buck attended local schools until his eighteenth year. Buck left school to escort cattle to Chicago by rail, and thereafter his life's work was associated with animals-although likely his expert showmanship really is why he is remembered. Buck began collecting animals from around the world for exposition in zoos, circuses, and other entertainment venues, hence his nickname, "Bring 'Em Back Alive," as distinguished from most game hunters who sought trophies they could hang on the wall. Buck's earliest trips took him to South America but eventually he worked in Africa and Asia, or anywhere "exotic"-meaning non-United States and therefore "different" for American audiences-could be obtained.

Soon Buck became the story instead of the animals. He wrote, with the assistance of professional writers, of his experiences in a series of books titled "Bring 'Em Back Alive," "Wild Cargo," and "Fang and Claw", and also produced movies with the same titles. Buck's adventures were also celebrated in a daily feature in newspapers. Frank Buck passed away in Houston on March 25,1950.


Archie P. McDonald
All Things Historical
February 12, 2007 column
A syndicated column in 70 East Texas newspapers
This column is provided as a public service by the East Texas Historical Association. Archie P. McDonald is director of the Association and author of more than 20 books on Texas
Books by Archie P. McDonald :
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