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Annie Oakley (Legends of the Wild West) by Rachel A. Koestler-Grack

By Rachel A. Koestler-Grack

In Annie Oakley, examine this outstanding lady whose sharpshooting abilities and fast wit received her many fanatics and admirers.

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Sitting Bull watched her knock corks off of bottles and slice through a cigar Butler held in his teeth. He was amazed by the stunts this tiny woman could perform. Later that week, Sitting Bull sent Oakley $65 along with a letter asking to buy an autographed photo of her. Amused, Oakley offered him a signed picture, but returned the money with it. The next day, she called on Sitting Bull. He was so delighted that he insisted on adopting her as a tribal daughter. indd 29 1/12/10 4:11:27 PM 30 Annie Oakley Annie Oakley’s marksmanship so impressed Sitting Bull, political and spiritual chief of the Lakota Sioux, that he offered $65 for a photograph of her.

Oakley’s candle trick could also be done by cheaters. Instead of placing the candle out in the open, the shooter could set it in front of a block of wood. If the bullet passed anywhere near the candle, the wind movement—caught by the wood block—would snuff the flame out. Oakley made her stunts look so easy she was often accused of cheating. On one occasion, a man in the crowd was convinced that her feats were trickery. He offered her his watch and told her to throw it up and shoot it. “He has never been able to tell the time by that watch since,” Oakley later joked in Annie Oakley by Shirl Kasper.

Even with all of the competitions and exhibitions, Butler and Oakley struggled to make ends meet. They decided to pick up extra cash doing acts at the variety theaters. Oakley joined the show of singer-songwriter Tony Pastor. She performed at the Criterion in Brooklyn, New York; the Howard Atheneum in Boston, Massachusetts; and Jacob and Proctor’s in Hartford, Connecticut. In the spring of 1888, Butler learned that another American Wild West show was struggling. Pawnee Bill’s Historical Wild West Exhibition and Indian Encampment was nearly broke and needed a big act to save it.

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