In Fond Memory of Annie Oakley

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Annie (R) instructing Alice

Annie (R) instructing Alice

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In Fond Memory of Annie Oakley

There are only two women of note in western history, Calamity Jane and Anne Oakley. And it is Anne Oakley’s name that has always been held in high esteem by the general public even to this day. She was born into a poor Quaker family in 1860 on August 13th in Darke County, Ohio near Greenville. Her real name was Phoebe Ann Mosey. She never attended any formal school nor had any real education. Annie started shooting wild game at age nine to put food on the family table and to help support her siblings and her widowed mother by shooting and selling additional wild game to the locals and restaurants. In that early time period of her life it’s reported she could shoot a running quail in the head thereby not damaging the meat. Her skill eventually paid off the mortgage on her mother’s farm when Annie was 15, quite an accomplishment for a teenager. She rapidly proved to be a deadly shot and at age sixteen, after some continual  prodding  by friends, she went to Cincinnati to enter a shooting contest with Frank E. Butler (1850-1926), an accomplished marksman who performed in vaudeville. Annie won the match by one point and she won Frank Butler’s heart as well.

Annie and Frank married sometime later and because of Annie’s superior shooting ability he let her do all the trick shooting demonstrations, while he became her assistant and manager. In 1885 they joined Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, run by the legendary frontiersman and showman Buffalo Bill Cody. For seventeen years Annie Oakley was the Wild West Show’s star attraction with her marvelous shooting feats. At 90 feet Annie could shoot a dime tossed in midair. In one day with a .22 rifle she shot 4,472 of 5,000 glass balls tossed in midair. With the thin edge of a playing card facing her at 90 feet, Annie could hit the card cutting it in half and puncture it with five or six more shots as it settled to the ground. It was from this that free tickets with holes punched in them came to be called “Annie Oakley’s.” Shooting the ashes off a cigarette held in Frank’s mouth was part of the Butler and Oakley act. In a celebrated event while touring in Europe, Wilhelm, Crown Prince of Germany, invited Annie to shoot a cigarette held in his own lips. Annie had Wilhelm hold the cigarette in his hand and not his mouth; she accomplished this challenge, as always effortlessly. In this period Annie Oakley was easily recognizable by the numerous shooting medals that adorned her chest.

When Annie wasn’t touring with the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show, she and Frank would retire to Pinehurst, NC to relax, and where she also taught shooting at the Pinehurst Golf and Gun Club. Over the years she taught somewhere between 10,000 to 15,000 men, women and children. From 1916 to 1925 she was also the manager of the gun club.

In a train wreck in 1901, which was not that uncommon back then, Annie suffered a spinal injury that required five operations and even left her partially paralyzed for a while. Although she recovered very well, Annie toured less frequently during the latter part of her career. Nonetheless, her shooting expertise did not wane and she continued to set records. In a shooting contest in Pinehurst, N.C. in 1922, sixty-two-year-old Annie hit 100 clay targets straight from the 16 yard mark.

Annie Oakley died on Nov. 3, 1926, in Greenville, Ohio, at the age of sixty-six. A legend in her own time, the remarkable life of Annie Oakley would be celebrated in the 1946 Herbert and Dorothy Fields musical Annie Get Your Gun.  In her life, Annie overcame poverty, mistreatment and physical injury with her determination and strength of character. She played a role in breaking barriers for women with her talent and accomplishments in her sport. She showed great compassion and generosity to orphans, widows and other young women. She traveled the world and met and dined with royalty of many countries. Not bad for a woman with no formal education.

When the Pinehurst Gun Club was dismantled in 1993 the town was a little upset that it was destroyed to make room for another golf course. The town has 29 courses within its confines and  46 within an eleven mile radius. It is the golf Mecca of the western world and is where the 1914 U S Open will be held. Still, the town holds onto its rich shooting history and the memory of Annie Oakley.

This past October its annual event was held on the 6th. The town holds an Annie Oakley Boom Days Festival to celebrate its rich shooting history and Annie’s many accomplishments. It’s actually a two day festival, but its only open to the general public on the second day. One the first day, it’s basically a sporting clay shoot held at one of the five local sporting clays facilities to determine which of the twelve to sixteen teams will be one of the five teams to compete in the 50 bird flurry shoot-off and determine the best team. The public can watch the sporting clays event which would be about forty-five to sixty minutes from town. The shoot-off and the rest of the festival takes place in town at the local horse race track. It’s rather amazing that in this day and age of firearms, a town allows live ammunition to be shot within the confines of the town itself in celebration of the shooting sports. A big hurray for Pinehurst.

The race track area is more like a large village green, with plenty of space where all the action takes place and the many vendors can set up their tents and wares for sale along with food vendors and other attractions for the crowd to enjoy. The N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources has an air rifle shooting range set up for the kids and the adult kids to shoot and challenge each other to shooting competitions or just for fun. It seem to be one of the more popular tents with a line always in wait. There are kid specific activities like a marshmallow shoot-out and stick horse racing.. There live demonstrations all day of blacksmithing, glass bead making, saddle making, pottery throwing and a silversmith.

A raptor bird exhibition and demonstration, with many different species, was one or the more popular areas, especially with the children, but they also had a demonstration and exhibit of pointing dog breeds. A three day event of dressage and show jumping concluded on the course the day of the festival on the green. They also had a rolling review and exhibition of antique horse carriages. An Annie Oakley re-enactor along with her husband Frank recounted the many wonderful experiences of her life to the audience. There was also a sharp shooter demonstration and a cowboy western mounted shooting competition. The highlight was when the five teams entered for the shoot-off in the 50 bird flurry competition.

Each team had to shoot two sets of 50 targets for a total of 100 birds. The first two teams shot well, but not a perfect score of 50. Ours was the third team and one of our shooters was shooting reloads rather than factory ammo and he had a dud with a wad stuck in the barrel. He had to quickly change to someone else’s gun and that cost us some targets. One of the teams following us had a shooter with an semi-auto that ended up having a loaded shell jammed in the loading area, but not in the chamber. That cost them many birds. When it was all over, the Ducks Unlimited team won with a 99 in the event and we ended up third. It was a lot of fun and we all had a great time.

Throughout the day there were many exhibitors, including gun displays, gun engraving demonstrations, western and wildlife art, western apparel, antiques, shooting, western & outdoors associations, sporting facilities and Annie Oakley Memorabilia. The exposition featured a historic photo perspective and memorabilia from Annie Oakley and the original Pinehurst Gun Club: all elements are courtesy of private collectors, historical society and the Tufts archives and more. There are many things to see and do there during the daylong event. You might even want to consider putting a team together for the sporting clays competition and the 100 bird flurry event.

There is a local group of people in Pinehurst, NC that are working to reestablish a new Pinehurst Gun Club and shooting grounds with an Annie Oakley Museum. If you are interested in assisting in any manor or with Annie Oakley artifacts you should call 443.624.8719.

For further information contact the following people for ticket information, registering shooting teams or for booth information:  Tim St. Germain, 910-687-0377 or events@insidepinehurst.com or visit: insidepinehurst.com, annieoaklyboomdays.com

1499 word count

Author: Jerry Sinkovec

This past October its annual event was held on the 6th. The town holds an Annie Oakley Boom Days Festival to celebrate its rich shooting history and Annie’s many accomplishments. It’s actually a two day festival, but its only open to the general public on the second day. One the first day, it’s basically a sporting clay shoot held at one of the five local sporting clays facilities to determine which of the twelve to sixteen teams will be one of the five teams to compete in the 50 bird flurry shoot-off and determine the best team. The public can watch the sporting clays event which would be about forty-five to sixty minutes from town. The shoot-off and the rest of the festival takes place in town at the local horse race track. It’s rather amazing that in this day and age of firearms, a town allows live ammunition to be shot within the confines of the town itself in celebration of the shooting sports. A big hurray for Pinehurst.

The race track area is more like a large village green, with plenty of space where all the action takes place and the many vendors can set up their tents and wares for sale along with food vendors and other attractions for the crowd to enjoy. The N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources has an air rifle shooting range set up for the kids and the adult kids to shoot and challenge each other to shooting competitions or just for fun. It seem to be one of the more popular tents with a line always in wait. There are kid specific activities like a marshmallow shoot-out and stick horse racing.. There live demonstrations all day of blacksmithing, glass bead making, saddle making, pottery throwing and a silversmith.

A raptor bird exhibition and demonstration, with many different species, was one or the more popular areas, especially with the children, but they also had a demonstration and exhibit of pointing dog breeds. A three day event of dressage and show jumping concluded on the course the day of the festival on the green. They also had a rolling review and exhibition of antique horse carriages. An Annie Oakley re-enactor along with her husband Frank recounted the many wonderful experiences of her life to the audience. There was also a sharp shooter demonstration and a cowboy western mounted shooting competition. The highlight was when the five teams entered for the shoot-off in the 50 bird flurry competition.

Each team had to shoot two sets of 50 targets for a total of 100 birds. The first two teams shot well, but not a perfect score of 50. Ours was the third team and one of our shooters was shooting reloads rather than factory ammo and he had a dud with a wad stuck in the barrel. He had to quickly change to someone else’s gun and that cost us some targets. One of the teams following us had a shooter with an semi-auto that ended up having a loaded shell jammed in the loading area, but not in the chamber. That cost them many birds. When it was all over, the Ducks Unlimited team won with a 99 in the event and we ended up third. It was a lot of fun and we all had a great time.

Throughout the day there were many exhibitors, including gun displays, gun engraving demonstrations, western and wildlife art, western apparel, antiques, shooting, western & outdoors associations, sporting facilities and Annie Oakley Memorabilia. The exposition featured a historic photo perspective and memorabilia from Annie Oakley and the original Pinehurst Gun Club: all elements are courtesy of private collectors, historical society and the Tufts archives and more. There are many things to see and do there during the daylong event. You might even want to consider putting a team together for the sporting clays competition and the 100 bird flurry event.

There is a local group of people in Pinehurst, NC that are working to reestablish a new Pinehurst Gun Club and shooting grounds with an Annie Oakley Museum. If you are interested in assisting in any manor or with Annie Oakley artifacts you should call 443.624.8719.

For further information contact the following people for ticket information, registering shooting teams or for booth information:  Tim St. Germain, 910-687-0377 or events@insidepinehurst.com or visit: insidepinehurst.com, annieoaklyboomdays.com

Author: Jerry Sinkovec

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