127 Years Ago Today, Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show Hired Annie Oakley
5:45 pm, April 24th | by Laura Donovan
Can you recall the defining moment in your career? Maybe it was when you got your first post-college job (in a time of economic struggle and underemployment, landing full-time work is quite an accomplishment) or the day you got a raise. For iconic sharpshooter Annie Oakley, it was probably joining Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show.
As noted by Human Events staff writer Jarrett Stepman, Oakley started her adventure with the show 127 years ago today, April 24, 1885. She was just 25 at the time, not much older than many recent university grads, but as noted by Stepman, she could “perform a wide range of tricks with a rifle, such as shooting cigarettes out of people’s mouths.” This brings to mind the unforgettable scene in “Hunger Games” when main character Katniss sends a bow and arrow flying right above the heads of potential sponsors because they’re rudely chatting with each other rather than giving her their time as promised.
Like Katniss, Annie was a no-nonsense young woman. She had to be, as her father left her orphaned at a young age. Annie had to take care of herself and the other younguns in her family, and she hunted to do so. Soon enough, she became the first female to be hired as a trick shooter, all the while weighing around 100 pounds and standing at just five feet tall. I may be lanky and spiderific at 5 foot 9, but she could have taken me out in a second.
She did not, however, have the chance to fight in combat as she liked. Though she wrote to President McKinley to volunteer in the Spanish-American war, her requests were denied. Annie tried again with World War I without any luck, but her persistence remains impressive to this day.
Sadly, all thriving careers come to an end at some point. As ballerinas are sometimes forced to walk away from the dance floor when their bodies give out, Annie had to leave behind Buffalo Bill’s when she was injured in a train accident. When she abandoned crazy show life, she got back into acting and played the lead in a play called “The Western Girl.” She reportedly declined offers to rejoin Buffalo Bill’s. There comes a point where everyone must give new things a shot and find alternative ways to grow, and that is what Annie appeared to have done during the latter half of her life. Either way, she left her mark as a trick shooter, and whether or not you agree with what she did, you have to admit it would be pretty neat to be remembered more than a hundred years after your glory days. Talk about Wild West show.