A Very Clever Woman

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Three dozen, fresh-faced young men jockeyed for position behind a row of windows on a train leaving Poughkeepsie, New York, bound for Camp Mills on Long Island. The new Army recruits waved goodbye to those on the railroad platform; they wore happy expressions and cheered as the car lurched forward. The men were excited and blissfully naïve about the journey ahead of them. Family and friends on the platform offered last minute farewells as the train slowly began to move ahead. Some people cried as the vehicle left the station and blew kisses to the courageous souls who had answered the call to serve their country when America announced it would join Britain, France, and Russia to fight in World War I.

The United States entered the war on April 6, 1917, and by the end of that same month thousands of men had eagerly flooded recruiting stations, enlisted in the Army and Navy and promised to defend the nation in time of peril.

On July 6, 1917, newspapers and unofficial dispatches from Canadian army headquarters in Europe documented when America went into battle for the first time during the World War. A young Texan who had traveled to Ontario to enlist had the honor of being the first to carry the American flag in the European war. He was carrying the Stars and Stripes on his bayonet when he was wounded and subsequently transported to a medical unit.

According to the July 20, 1917, edition of the Democrat and Chronicle News the Texan’s brave action prompted even more patriotic men to join a branch of the service. Men did not have a moratorium on devotion to country. Women also wanted to do their part. Annie Oakley was among them. From the time the Spanish American War began in 1898, Annie had desired to recruit and train women to be expert shots and fight for the United States. She offered her unique services to President William McKinley.

“Dear Sir,” her letter dated April 5, 1898, began, “I for one feel confident that your good judgment will carry America safely through without war. But in case of such an event I am ready to place a company of fifty lady sharp shooters at your disposal. Every one of them will be an American and as they will furnish their own arms and ammunition will be little if any expense to the government. Very Truly, Annie Oakley.”

President McKinley politely declined her office, but Annie never abandoned the idea. More than nineteen years after the initial proposal, Annie again offered to raise a regiment of women volunteers to fight. She received more than 1,000 letters from women throughout the United States anxious to join the regiment. Three thousand women had participated in Annie’s shooting school in Pinehurst, North Carolina, during the 1916-1917. If necessary she could call on the best students from her classes to take part in the program. Many of the women were willing to serve as well.

 

 

Annie Oakley

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The Trials of Annie Oakley.

 

The Troubles & Triumphs Of A True American Hero

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The Trials of Annie Oakley.

“There was a time when one’s impressions of performing sharpshooter Annie Oakley were based on the 1950s musical film Annie Get Your Gun – nothing could be further from the truth. Chris Enss uses her sleuthing savvy to uncover myth-busting details of Oakley’s life, revealing a multifaceted woman who was at once a larger-than-life character, a legend, a role model, and, most of all, a strong and selfless human being.”

Henry B. Crawford, Founder, History By Choice

“This is a story about a woman before her time. As a strong, independent female figure in American history, Annie Oakley paved the way for other young women to follow their dreams. This book beautifully tells an amazing story from our country’s history, with the grit and womanly ruggedness that Annie Oakley exuded.”

Carly Twisselman, TV Show Host/Personality for NRATV, GUNTV, and RIDETV,

and 2nd Amendment Advocate

Annie Oakley

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The Trials of Annie Oakley.

 

America’s Shooting Star

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Long before the name Annie Oakley was on the lips of every man, woman, child, and newspaper editor in America, the sight of the demure woman, whether in a courtroom or on stage, seldom failed to inspire enthusiastic approval.

From the beginning of her career with Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West show in 1885, audiences were captivated by the petite sure shot. Her entrance into the arena of the western show was always graceful. She never walked. She tripped in, bowing, waving, and wafting kisses. The first few shots she delivered with her twelve gauge shotgun brought forth a few screams of fright from spectators, but they were soon lost in cheers and applause. Annie set audiences at ease and prepared them for the continuous cracks of firearms which followed.

Annie posed with her guns for a variety of advertisements from festivals and circuses to weapons and ammunition. The armed woman had been a fixture of American life for several years prior to Annie Oakley’s image being used in posters promoting firearms for females. The firearms industry directed its first major ad campaign to women in the 1880s and Annie was a living, breathing promotion for shotguns and revolvers. By making shooting appear like something even a lady could comfortably do, Annie helped make the sport of shooting popular with women everywhere.

By 1904, women were being featured in ads with weapons less and less as regulations against guns were being drafted. The 1911 Sullivan Law, a band to prohibit the act of carrying and concealing firearms prompted antigun activists to request further ordinances to be placed upon weapons. Soon, licenses were required to possess firearms. Possession of certain weapons without a license was a misdemeanor and carrying them was a felony. Those opposed to such regulations, Annie Oakley being one of them, maintained that disarming good citizens put them at the mercy of thugs and crooks. Suffragists such as Alice Paul were outraged by what was perceived to be an impediment that would keep women from being able to protect themselves. “Not only did women not have the right to vote, but if they weren’t free to defend themselves they weren’t free at all,” Paul announced.

Annie Oakley weighed in on the subject in an interview with a Cincinnati newspaper in November 1904. “It’s reasonable that women should prepare to defend themselves when they are out alone at night,” she told an Ohio reporter. “Miss Oakley’s scheme is to have every lady provided with a .32-caliber revolver,” the reporter noted in his article, “which she is to wear in a pocket so large as to enable her to keep a proper grip on the weapon all the time. She advises that unless the person attacked is able to shoot first and hit the mark, the best thing is not to shoot at all.”

Annie Oakley

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More From Annie Oakley

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Aim for the high mark and you will hit it. No, not the first time, not the second time and maybe not the third. But keep on aiming and keep on shooting for only practice will make you perfect. Finally you’ll hit the bull’s-eye of success.

Even in the best and most peacefully civilized countries many occasions arise when a woman versed in the knowledge and use of firearms may find that information and skill of great importance.

God intended women to be outside as well as men, and they do not know what they are missing when they stay cooped up in the house.

After traveling through fourteen foreign countries and appearing before all the royalty and nobility I have only one wish today. That is that when my eyes are closed in death that they will bury me back in that quiet little farm land where I was born.

[On Sitting Bull:] “The contents of his pockets were often emptied into the hands of small, ragged little boys, nor could he understand how so much wealth should go brushing by, unmindful of the poor.

 

To learn more about the famous sure shot read

The Trials of Annie Oakley.

 

Queen of the Rifle

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It was three o’clock in the morning when Southern Railway Engine 75 collided with western legend and showman Buffalo Bill Cody’s train outside Lexington, North Carolina, on October 29, 1901. The rumble of the trains hurrying toward one another sounded like the gathering of a cyclone. Whistles blew and brakes scrapped hard against the rails in a desperate attempt to prevent the crash, but the impact was unavoidable.

The force of the engines smacking into one another caused the derailment of the cars in tow, and all at once the air was filled with flying missiles of iron and wood. Smoke poured in great black streaks from the steam funnels, and the popping of steam rose high in the air. A veritable hell of fire erupted. Members of the cast and crew of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show fought madly in their attempt to crawl out the doors and windows of the overturned cars. Horses trapped in the twisted, mangled debris whinnied and brayed frantically.

People rushed to the scene from nearby farmhouses and stood helplessly around the wreckage holding their hands to their ears in order to shut out the frightful screams of the injured passengers and animals. Gathering their composure, they fought to rescue the hurt from the coaches scattered about the landscape. Slowly the suffering were lifted from the destruction and carried to a grassy field. Many cried and groaned in pain, their heads and hands cut and blood streaming from their wounds.

Annie Oakley, world famous exhibition sharpshooter was one of the unfortunate victims of the train wreck. She was lying unconscious somewhere among the rubble. The car where Annie and her husband Frank had been sleeping was turned upside down. When the engines slammed into one another and their car tumbled over, the petite entertainer was thrown from her berth onto a trunk. Before hitting the trunk with her back, she tried to break the fall by putting her hand out. Both her hand and back were injured. Frank suffered only minor cuts and bruises. He carried his wife out of the wreckage to the spot where the other hurt passengers had been taken. Annie’s eyes fluttered open long enough to see the severely damaged vehicle. What once had been a speeding marvel was now a broken scrap heap.

 

 

Annie Oakley

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The Trials of Annie Oakley.

 

Annie Oakley Giveaway

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Say the name Annie Oakley and the image of a young woman who could shoot targets out of the sky without a miss and rode across the frontier with Wild West showman Buffalo Bill Cody comes to mind. Annie Oakley was a champion rifle shot and did perform alongside well-known riders, ropers, and Indian chiefs in Colonel Cody’s vaudevillian tour, but there was more to Annie Oakley’s fame than her skill with a gun. The diminutive weapons wonder was a strong proponent of the right to bear arms, a noted philanthropist, and warrior against libel who fought the most powerful man in publishing and won.

The native Ohioan astonished the world with her almost unbelievable feats of rifle marksmanship. She could pepper a playing card sailing through the air, puncture dimes tossed into the sky, and break flying balls with her rifle held high above her head. She once shot steadily for nine hours, using three sixteen-gauge hammer shotguns which she loaded herself, breaking 4,772 out of 5,000 balls.

Annie Oakley fell in love with and married the first man she defeated in a rifle match. Frank E. Butler was one of the most noted marksmen in the West and he and Annie were married for more than fifty years. The couple never had any children of their own. The reasons they were childless are varied and speculative at best. What is not without question is how Annie helped fund the care and education of orphaned children from coast to coast.

Annie Oakley was a combination of dainty, feminine charm and lead bullets, adorned in fringed handmade fineries and topped with a halo of powder blue smoke. She had a reputation for being humble, true, and law abiding and was careful with her character at all times. When powerful, newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst challenged her honor and questioned her respectability in his publication in 1903, Annie filed a lawsuit against him that’s still discussed at universities today.

Annie Oakley

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The Trouble With Roy Rogers and Dale Evans

 

More than fifteen years ago I was asked by the Roy Rogers family to pen two books about the famous cowboy duo. I eagerly traveled to Victorville where the Rogers’ home and museum was located to begin doing the needed research. It was a privilege to have access to all the material and I fell in love with the pair and was proud to have a chance to write their story.

From the beginning the ultimate goal was to develop the books into a screenplay. Coauthor Howard Kazanjian and I had numerous conversations with Dusty Rogers about that being the main objective. So, Howard and I went to work. The first entertainers we met with after the books were released were Clint Black and Lisa Hartman Black. Both were excited about being a part of the project. Clint had worked with Roy in 1991. The pair released an record together. Howard and I wrote the script based on the book and shared the material with Dusty, Clint, and Lisa, and adjustments were made to the material based on their input. Finally, we had two books and a script.

Clint and I worked with Williams Morris Endeavor to find a company to produce the piece. Somewhere in our quest the idea of making the books and script into a musical came into being. Dale Evans had always wanted to be on Broadway and the thought seemed logical. Clint, and I, and Susan Weaving at WME came up with a number of people we could approach to fund the musical. I reached out to those people and almost immediately received a favorable response.

We needed to pull more talent together and so we contacted Thomas Meehan. Mr. Meehan, who wrote Broadway’s Annie, agreed to write the book and direct. Musical genius Charles Strouse agreed to write the music and lyrics. We now had the leads cast, a director, music, and funding. I phoned Dusty Rogers five days before I was to fly to Texas to pick up the check for the project. I often called him to give him updates on our progress. It was during that conversation he informed me that he had sold the rights to the Broadway musical to Marshal Brickman who created Jersey Boys. I was heartbroken by the news. We had all worked so hard and Dusty, who was in on the news every step of the way, never had the courtesy to even tell us he was dealing with another entity.

Marshall Brickman is represented by William Morris Endeavor and Susan Weaving never shared the news with us either. We were allowed to run everywhere doing what needed to be done and no one had the courtesy of letting us know what was happening. That’s what hurt most of all. I understand business. I understand commerce. I don’t understand being less than honest. Dusty Rogers had a numerous chances to let the team know he was working with others, but he chose not to do that.

With the exception of the numerous emails sent back and forth to Dusty about the project and his signature agreeing to let us pursue the project with Clint Black, there was no contract. Roy Rogers always did business by handshake and that’s what we did. We foolishly thought Dusty was a man of his word like his father.

I expressed my displeasure to Dusty and his response was “Chris, you knew all along I wanted to see something done with my parent’s story.” Sure I did, but he missed the point. He didn’t tell me he had signed it all over to Marshal Brickman. We wouldn’t have gone to the extent we did if we’d known the property was no longer available.

The heartache of this endeavor is fresh on my mind today as the release of the new edition of The Cowboy and the Senorita: A Biography of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans arrived in book stores. I phoned Dusty yesterday to ask again about pursuing the film project based on the book and before he addressed my question he happily shared with me how well the Broadway musical was going. I guess it will premiere sometime next year. Regarding my pursuit of the film I was told I could not move forward. So, once again I say goodbye to a dream I’d been chasing for more than a decade.

As they say, “that’s show biz.” It’s not how Roy Rogers or Dale Evans would have worked, but I guess that’s the lesson. Few people were as honest, kind and forthcoming as Roy and Dale.

The Cowboy and the Senorita: A Biography of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans is available everywhere.

 

The Expert Shot

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The Trials of Annie Oakley.

“When a man hit’s a target they call him a marksman.

When I hit a target they call it a trick. Never did like that much.”

Annie Oakley

 

 

Annie Oakley

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To learn about the famous sure shot read

The Trials of Annie Oakley.

 

America’s Shooting Star

Enter now for a chance to win a copy of

The Trials of Annie Oakley.

 

 

Long before the name Annie Oakley was on the lips of every man, woman, child, and newspaper editor in America, the sight of the demure woman, whether in a courtroom or on stage, seldom failed to inspire enthusiastic approval.

From the beginning of her career with Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West show in 1885, audiences were captivated by the petite sure shot. Her entrance into the arena of the western show was always graceful. She never walked. She tripped in, bowing, waving, and wafting kisses. The first few shots she delivered with her twelve gauge shotgun brought forth a few screams of fright from spectators, but they were soon lost in cheers and applause. Annie set audiences at ease and prepared them for the continuous cracks of firearms which followed.

Annie posed with her guns for a variety of advertisements from festivals and circuses to weapons and ammunition. The armed woman had been a fixture of American life for several years prior to Annie Oakley’s image being used in posters promoting firearms for females. The firearms industry directed its first major ad campaign to women in the 1880s and Annie was a living, breathing promotion for shotguns and revolvers. By making shooting appear like something even a lady could comfortably do, Annie helped make the sport of shooting popular with women everywhere.

By 1904, women were being featured in ads with weapons less and less as regulations against guns were being drafted. The 1911 Sullivan Law, a band to prohibit the act of carrying and concealing firearms prompted antigun activists to request further ordinances to be placed upon weapons. Soon, licenses were required to possess firearms. Possession of certain weapons without a license was a misdemeanor and carrying them was a felony. Those opposed to such regulations, Annie Oakley being one of them, maintained that disarming good citizens put them at the mercy of thugs and crooks. Suffragists such as Alice Paul were outraged by what was perceived to be an impediment that would keep women from being able to protect themselves. “Not only did women not have the right to vote, but if they weren’t free to defend themselves they weren’t free at all,” Paul announced.

 

Annie Oakley

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To learn more about the famous sure shot read

The Trials of Annie Oakley.

 

Annie Oakley said…

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Today, a few quotes from Annie Oakley.

 

“God intended women to be outside as well as men, and they do not know what they are missing when they stay cooped up in the house.”

“I am, indeed, very grateful for your many kind words in my obituary. How such a report started I do not know. I am thankful to say I am in the best of health.”

 

“After traveling through fourteen foreign countries and appearing before all the royalty and nobility I have only one wish today. That is that when my eyes are closed in death that they will bury me back in that quiet little farm land where I was born.”

 

“Aim at a high mark and you will hit it. No, not the first time, not the second time and maybe not the third. But keep on aiming and keep on shooting for only practice will make you perfect.

Finally you’ll hit the bull’s-eye of success.”

“My mother and sisters thought my prowess with the gun was just a little tomboyish”

“I would like to see every woman know how to handle [firearms] as naturally as they know how to handle babies.”

“My mother…was perfectly horrified when I began shooting and tried to keep me in school, but I would run away and go quail shooting in the woods or trim my dresses with wreaths of wildflowers.”

 

Annie Oakley

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The Trials of Annie Oakley