stories planted by Cody, described Buck as "the brave orphan boy
from Texas," pure at heart and always fighting for good. He was
strong but shy. He was tough as nails yet "amiable as a child" and
always kind to women.
Then in 1890 western writer Prentiss Ingraham was searching for
the subject of his next story. Prentiss wrote dime novels - a wildly
popular genre of hastily-written fiction, issued in cheap paperback
form for mass market consumption. Buck Taylor, the handsome western
cavalier, was the perfect choice.
Ingraham produced a series of dime novels featuring "Buck Taylor,
King of the Cowboys." Titles included "The Prince of the Lasso,"
The Saddle King" and "Red Riders of the Rio Grande." Ingraham's
fictional cowboy was no longer a villain but a medieval hero, slaying
bad guys and rescuing damsels in distress.
The image caught on and began to spread. Just as the Buck Taylor
dime novels hit the street, romanticized images of the cowboy, painted
by Frederick Remington and Charlie Russell, grabbed the attention
of the public. In 1902 Owen Wister published The Virginian,
a novel that established the classic western format used in books
and western movies throughout the 20th century. Zane Grey's western
novels, with the cowboy as the hero, sold 40 million copies and
inspired 112 movies.
Just as the era of the real cowboy came to an end, the era of the
romantic cowboy began. By the turn of the 20th century the cowboy
had been transformed from a no good outlaw into a knight on horseback
- the purest symbol of courage, honor, chivalry and individualism.
By 1950 the transformation was complete. The cowboy had become the
symbol of everything good about America and the central figure in
the American myth.
It all began with Buck Taylor, the original cowboy hero.
© Michael Barr
2 , 2017 Column
"Cowboy is most popular folk hero," Wichita Falls Times, April 20,
"Borderline," Burkburnett Informer Star, June 25, 1992.
"Sheepherders should get recognition," Brownfield (Texas) News,
April 30, 1986.
"King of the Cowboys," The (London, England) Evening News, August
True West Magazine, "Buck Taylor, King of the Cowboys," May 22,