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Buffalo Bill printre români / Buffalo Bill among romanians

Limba de redactare română
Excerpt During his 1906 European tour, Colonel William Frederick Cody, the worldwide famous Buffalo Bill (1846-1917), reached the eastern parts of the Austro-Hungarian Empire which were inhabited mainly by Romanians. His performance was hailed as the greatest event of that summer. Indeed, the public had never attended such an interesting show as Buffalo Bill's Wild West. As its founder and owner always stressed, this performance was't only a circus, but also an exhibition meant to educate and entertain. It was a re-enactment of the American West and its history as Buffalo Bill knew it. Actually, Colonel Cody staged only those aspects of western life and those events he himself witnessed or in which he claimed to have taken part such as: the Pony Express, a buffalo hunt, an Indian attack on Deadwood stagecoach, the burning of a pioneer settlement, the battle of Summit Springs, Custer's Last Stand at Little Big Horn and Cody's hand-to-hand fight with Yellow Hand (also known as Yellow Hair), a Cheyenne Indian chieftain. These main dramatic acts were intersperesed with entertainment such as: horsemanship, target shooting, roping steers and bucking mustangs. The Congress of Rough Riders of the World was another attraction. Buffalo Bill's Wild West stopped a day or two in most important cities of Transylvania and Bukovina: Timişoara (Temesvâr in Hungarian, July 9), Arad (July 10-11), Alba Iulia (Gyulafehérvâr in Hungarian, July 12), Sibiu (Hermannstadt in German, Nagyszeben in Hungarian, July 13), Braşov (Kronstadt in German, Brâsso in Hungarian July 14-15), Sighişoara (Schàssburg or Segesvâr, July 16), Târgu Mureş (Maros Vâsârhely, July 17), Cluj (Clausenburg or Kolozsvâr, July 18-19), Oradea (Grosswardein or Nagyvârad, July 20), Satu Mare (Szatmârnéméti, July 21) Sighetul Marmaţiei (Maramér Szigét, July 22) and Cernăuţi (Czemowitz, July 24-25). All the local newspapers advertised this event giving full details about the acts and the stars, about the huge tent and the animals. Major John M. Burke, the company press agent, preceeded the show by a few days in order to take care of the preliminary arrangements, the advertising and posters, the travel and show schedules, the plans for feeding people and animals. He also chose, with the help of the local officials, the place where the large tent and show's camp would be set. The journalists were eager to interview Major Burke. Their press releases were always full of interesting details about the show, its acts and its stars. But sometimes the press coverage was erroneous, due to inaccurate translation. Lacking any knowledge of American history, the editors mistook General Custer's name with one of a fortress. Consequently, they translated "Custer's Last Stand" with "the last siege of Custer", Custer being for them something similar to Plevna or Cars. The advertisments were always illustrated with Colonel Cody's portrait and sometimes with a revealing composition of Indians attacking the stagecoach, cowboys breaking broncs. Arabs or Cossacks on horseback. Transylvanians were most interested by the hugeness of the team. The three trains in which the show travelled and their arrivals on schedule were also matters of amazement. The cars were painted yellow and the company's name was inscribed on each of them: Buffalo Bill Wild West. Of the fifty cars thirteen were sleeping cars equipped with all the conveniences for stars and extras as well. All the cars belonged to the company and were specially equipped to mach the European railways. For eight hundred people and five hundred animals great quantities of food were necessary. Breakfast alone, served almost immediately after the team's arrival, required three hundred eggs. This meal was ample and in accordance with every taste. Besides eggs there were additional dishes such as soup, steak with potatoes, bread and butter, milk, tea, coffee and hot chocolate. Six hundred and sixty two pounds of meat per day were just enough to feed the showmen. For elk, buffalo, deer, cattle and horses there were provided six carloads of hay and an appropriate quantity of oats. The huge tent was set up rapidly. Everybody knew his job and worked hard to complete his task. Nobody wasted time, a matter of amazement to the locals. In each location two performance were held daily, one in the afternoon and another in the evening. Although the performances were the same, the evening one was considered far more interesting because the arena was lighted from the company's own electric generator and the tricks were not so obvious as in daylight. In spite of the high cost of tickets for the show enthusiastic audiences crowded the grounds. The grand stand could accommodate twelve hundred people. Peasants from the vicinity of the towns where the performances were held came in carts or on foot with their whole families, eager to see "the living hero" or "the immortal", as the newspapers labelled Buffalo Bill. Ticket prices varied between two to eight Austrian crowns. The profits, as estimated by a journalist, were around 30,000 crowns for the four performances held in Braşov. The show was composed of twenty-two acts and lasted for exactly one and one-half hours. All the journalists who reviewed the performances agreed that the Indians horsemanship was worthy of appreciation and most applauded. Next came the Cossacks, then the Japanese with their strange weapons. It must be stressed that these fierce Far East warriors were quite recently included in the Congress of Rough Riders of the World, after their country's victory in the Russian-Japanese war of 1905. The imposing Buffalo Bill shooting at glass balls while riding at full speed on a white horse was another attraction of the show. The famous scout was cheered when he entered the arena. Buffalo Bill was not unknown to Transylvanians. The biography written by his sister, Helen Cody Wetmore, had been translated into German and edited by a Stuttgart publishing house and was available at a bookshop in Sibiu. Another book, possibly a Romanian translation of a dime-novel entitled "Buffalo Bill in the Century-old forest. A Story from Indian Life", was printed by the Ciurcu Publishing House in Braşov. These help explain the huge attendance and the success of the show among Romanian, German and Hungarian dwellers of Transylvania. Cody's foster son, Johnny Baker, was also hailed for his marksmanship and praised as a celebrated crack shot. The company's encampment was also visited with great interest: the Indian tepees and the soldiers' tent camp attracted the public. The corrals and the wild animals were also worth seeing. Not all the reviewers were completely enthusiastic about the show. Some were critical of various aspects. For instance, one thought the performance was too noisy due to useless shouts and yells. Those who were seeking art in such a show were, of course, disappointed. The vulgarity of some extras was also contemptously described such as the Cossack using his finger for cleaning his nose then eating his snot; or the ragged and filthy Indian warrior covering his face with new paint without washing off the old crust. For some journalists the non-European races they were seeing were uncivilized people, "savages" to be deplored for their simplicity. Such reviewers made the great mistake of analyzing the show through the magnifying glass of the three-hundred-year-old Transylvanian culture and civilization. Those who were not expecting to find pure art but ethnographic information and entertainment in this show were duly rewarded. For it was neither a circus nor acting in a theatrical way but an exhibition of wild animals and of mighty men, used to fighting and taming the wilderness. Those who knew what to look for in such a new performance were taught a lesson of modern American life, of efficiency and economy, of team work and shared success, in a word, of democracy and its benefits. Buffalo Bill's tour was quite an event, long remembered and much talked about. It was a pictorial representation of a way of life in the Wild West during its conquest, a real performance if living history.
Paginaţia 151-196
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Titlul volumului de apariție
  • Muzeul Naţional; XII; anul 2000