YOUNG WORLD

From the Wild West

G.V. JOSHI

From the Wild West

Annie Oakley, a sharp-eyed girl from Ohio, U.S. was born around 1800. She was one of the eight children in a farming family. Her father died while she was still a child.

When she was 11 years old she could handle a gun and shot wild game that she sold to hotels. With the money she earned, she paid off the loan that her father had taken.

Frank Butler, a jaunty Irish emigrant, who performed trick shooting, was considered the best marksman of that time. He had a standing offer of $100 to anyone, who could perform better than him.

Annie took up the challenge and won the prize money. A year later Frank and Annie were married.

In one of her shooting feats, Frank would stand about 15 metres from her holding a playing card; usually the five of hearts and Annie would shoot through each of the five hearts. In another feat, she would stand 15 metres away from anyone smoking a cigarette and she would shoot off the lit tip.

In 1901, Frank and Annie were victims of a railway accident. Her left side was paralysed, but she recovered. Some of her best records were made after the recovery. When America joined the World War in 1917, Annie was sent on a tour of training camps to give shooting demonstrations. In 1992, she met with another accident. She recovered but did not shoot again.

Remembering her own harsh childhood, she had special sympathy for poor children. Annie Oakley Day was a regular feature of the Wild West circus show in which she and Frank performed. While the manager contributed free tickets for orphans, she treated them with ice cream.

Today in the U.S. complimentary tickets are known as "Annie Oakleys" — a strange kind of immortality for, a girl who had eyes that could see quicker than the speed of a rifle bullet.

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