Pecos Bill

Pecos Bill In American folklore, a tough Western hero who was the subject of many adventures. Edward O’Reilly created the figure of Pecos Bill for the Century magazine in 1923. After the hero had killed “all the Indians and bad men,” as one tale says, he headed West. First, he encountered a 12-foot snake, which he killed, and then a big mountain lion, which he used as his riding mount to replace his wounded horse. When he arrived at a cowboy campsite, he grabbed a handful of beans and crammed them into his mouth, then he grabbed the coffeepot to wash them down.

He said, “Who in the hell is boss around here, anyway?” “I was,” said a big fellow about seven feet tall, “but you are now, stranger.”

Other legends tell how he first invented roping. He had a rope that reached from the Rio Grande to the Big Bow, and he would amuse himself by throwing a loop up in the sky and catching buzzards and eagles. He could also rope bears, wolves, and panthers. The first time he saw a train he thought it was some varmint, and he threw his rope around it and brought it to a halt. There are at least two accounts of his death. One tale says he died laughing when he saw a Boston man dressed up in “a mail-order cowboy outfit,” and another tale says he “died of solemncholy” when he heard a country lawyer talk about keeping “inviolate the sacred traditions of the old west.”

Pecos Bill was depicted on a box of Kellogg’s Cocoa Krispies cereal, and Walt Disney featured him in the 1948 film Melody Times.


Encyclopedia of World Mythology and Legend, Third Edition – Written by Anthony S. Mercatante & James R. Dow – Copyright © 2009 by Anthony S. Mercatante