Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Romance of a life time...

Writing historical fiction about cowboys and the cowgirls who love them is one of my greatest pastime pursuits. We know that life on the frontier was hard and often unforgiving. With that said, when you read about a remarkable love affair that over comes so many pitfalls it stays with you. I am a sucker for true love conquers all.

For me, one of the greatest love stories of the American West revolves around the figure of Phoebe Anne Moses. Born in 1860, Phoebe arose from poverty to become one of the greatest folk heroes that America ever produced. You may not know her as Phoebe Anne, but I'm sure you recognize the name "Annie Oakley".

Photo courtesy of Library of Congress

At fifteen, Annie had already endured the poor farm and some unsavory guardians. She ran away from a couple she had been sent to as a farm hand and returned home to help her mother by hunting and selling the game she'd shot. Hearing of a sharp shooting competition, Annie signed up all to the surprise of Frank Butler, who at that time was considered the best shot in the world. Poor Frank, he should have taken her seriously, before long, Annie was not only keeping up with him shot for shot but besting him at the end. Imagine the shock on his face to be ousted by a beautiful fifteen year old innocent. Swallowing his pride, Frank began courting little Annie and a year later, in 1876, the two were married.

At that time, Frank was the star of the show. But when his partner fell ill, Frank brought on Annie who adopted the name 'Oakley' from a town near where she grew up. Before long, Annie's sharpshooting tricks out classed Frank,who took great pride in managing his wife. Their courtship and life has been depicted in film, Broadway, and on T.V. But it's their devotion to each other that outshines this Hollywood love story.

Late in 1901, both Frank and Annie were involved in a terrible train accident. She retired from Buffalo Bill's Wild West show and toured in a melodrama written just for her called the Western Girl. During World War I, she helped the Red Cross to raise money and pressed the president in the hopes of recruiting a group of women sharp shooters. The idea was much to broad for it's time.

In 1913, Annie and Frank retired from touring and split their time between homes in Maryland and North Carolina. They spent their time teaching women how to shoot for protection and hunting. Late in October of 1926, Annie took ill and on November 3, 1926, she died. Upon hearing the news, Frank was inconsolable. He refused to eat and eighteen days later, he died.

Annie was cremated and her ashes buried with her husband in the Greenville, Ohio - oddly on Thanksgiving Day, 50 years to the day of that fateful sharp shooting competition where they first met.

 Photo courtesy of The Annie Oakley Garst Museum: Annie, Frank, and their dog Dave.

Until next time,
Nan O'Berry


To read another great group of love stories, why not check out the Indigo Springs series and find out how the Malone brothers get their brides.

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1 comment:

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