William Frederick Cody — ‘Buffalo Bill’ — was still alive when my grandmother was born. Theoretically, at some point they breathed the same air molecules. Previously he had breathed the same molecules as Walt Whitman. Why do molecules always seem to make me think of Whitman? Molecules are so nothing, and he was so something, though when his spirit expanded he filtered out into the transcendental world that is in the area of molecules.
Buffalo Bill killed molecules in the form of buffaloes, apparently a lot of them (buffaloes). I’ve killed a lot of mosquitoes. How different is that? Well, you can’t ride on a mosquito. Come to think of it, I’ve never heard of anyone’s riding a buffalo, either. Wait, I just remembered seeing a Native American riding a buffalo in the distance.
Buffalo Bill is said to have defeated the Cheyenne chief Yellow Hand in a skirmish or duel. Did he kill him? In any case, he defeated Yellow Hand’s molecules, as well as his spirit. If only Buffalo Bill had read Whitman’s poetry, he might not have fought with Yellow Hand. If Yellow Hand had read Whitman, he would have been one of the greatest geniuses of all time, but Whitman’s words might have had no effect on him, for he was somewhat other. I assume. History is so much more complicated than I usually think it is: all those people running around on the earth doing things for all those centuries!
Like me—though I’m not running around, I’m sitting down, writing this, alone with my molecules and my spirit that feels sad for Buffalo Bill and Yellow Hand, but not for Whitman and not for myself. But if I take a step back, I do feel sorry for myself, the old white man who never will be able to save the world but who has tried not to kill it. Except for the mosquitoes.