The Tall Tales Of Pecos Bill

By | November 22, 2019

test article image
Pecos Bill riding a tornado/image from YouTube

While heroes of folklore such as John Henry and Paul Bunyan are believed to have been inspired by real people, Pecos Bill has no such historical archetype. While there is some conflict regarding his true origin, Pecos Bill’s role as the personification of the frontier spirit seems to have been born out of the imaginations of the cowboys themselves.

According to the legends, Pecos Bill was born in Texas during the 1830s and was the youngest of eighteen children. Even as a baby, he was not normal, using a bowie knife as a teething ring. As a toddler, he was known to play with wild animals. He was still very young when he fell out of his parents’ wagon as they were crossing the Pecos River. Despite their best efforts, the family was unable to find him as he had been swept downstream by the strong currents. He survived, however, having been rescued and raised by coyotes.

test article image
Young Pecos Bill. Source: (

Eventually, one of Bill’s brothers found him and brought him back to civilization but had to convince him that he wasn’t a coyote himself. Bill quickly adapted to the ways of the human world and became the ultimate cowboy, inventing both the branding iron and the lasso. However, in some tales, he also worked on the railroad, on an oilfield, and hunted buffalo. But it was his superhuman feats, such as riding a tornado, for which he was most famous. Sometimes he rode a mountain lion, but he could most often be seen atop his favorite horse, the dynamite-eating Widow-Maker, who earned his name due to the fact that no man alive could ride him. No man except Pecos Bill, that is.