Title: An Interview with Miss Annie Oakley

Periodical: Rod and Gun

Date: September 24, 1892

Author: Tozer, Basil, 1868-1949

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AN INTERVIEW WITH MISS ANNIE OAKLEY.

A DAY or two ago I called at the Horticultural Exhibition on Miss Annie Oakley, who is leaving in a short time for America. At the moment she was engaged, and, while waiting in the comfortably-furnished tent, I found occupation in admiring the artistic arrangement of everything there, from the guns in the corner to the portraits and knick-knacks on the table. Soon my attention was caught be a cheery voice without; and a moment later Miss Oakley was greeting me after the hearty manner of our Transatlantic cousins.

"So you have come at last?" said my hostess, with a charming smile and a frank look. "Pray sit down and make yourself at home. You have been into the Show? Yes? I hope you enjoyed it. Now we will have a cup of tea and a quiet talk, and you can ask me your questions. Interviewers are always full of questions!"

At first we talked of general subjects: of guns, shooting, riding, and sport; and some time passed before we came to business.

Was she glad to return to America?

"Well, not exactly; both glad and sorry," she told me with a smile. For three years she had not seen her mother, and now she was looking forward to meeting her again. On the other hand, the folks in England were always so kind to her that she felt sorry to leave them. She hoped, however, to return to England before long. Indeed, it would make her very unhappy to think that she should not come back.

"Do you never feel tired after the performances?" I asked presently.

"I won't say 'never'; but—well—hardly ever. shooting, you see, has become to me a second nature in a way. Sometimes—very seldom—my eyes ache a little. While shooting, I scarce realise that I have a gun in my hands. I look straight at the object to be fired at, and the moment the butt of the gun touches my shoulder I fire. A moment's hesitation invariably means a miss. I use guns and cartridges by many makers, and both black power and nitro-compounds. One thing I am bound to admit: for a first-class gun I should always come to England. Our guns are will built, well finished, and shoot very hard; but their balance is not perfect. The handling of an American-made gun is undoubtedly different from the handling of a gun built over here."

"Now, would you think me rude if I were to ask your honest opinion of the shooting of English ladies?"

"Ah! an indiscreet question," she laughed back as   she refilled my cup. "But as you wish my opinion you shall have it. Candidly, I do not believe that English ladies will shoot well, or shoot with comfort, until they dress differently. It is impossible to shoot brilliantly in a tight-fitting bodice—absolutely impossible. Again, how can ladies expect to walk in comfort through fields of wet roots if they wear skirts down to the ground? Their dresses are soaked, then clogged with mud; and pleasure gives way to misery. No! What they ought to wear (that is, if they wish to shoot at ease) is a loose bodice of some soft material—tweed for choice—and a skirt about halfway up to the knee. Such a dress would look becoming; and surely, if ladies contemplate riding astride—to my mind a horrid idea—they cannot well object to dress for shooting in the way I have ventured to suggest."

I have heard ladies call Miss Oakley masculine. No one could be less so; and she is as fond of children as they are devoted to her. During my visit several little ones came into the tent, and their affection for its occupant—I mean its fair occupant—was proof of the kindliness of her nature.

"Do people ever insinuate," I asked, "that there is some trickery about your shooting?"

"Insinuate!" she cried. "On one occasion the audience became so persuaded that the targets contained some explosive which broke them as I fired that they appointed a committee to investigate the matter. That was not in London," she added.

"But," I interrupted, "did you not consider the insinuation a deliberate insult? Did you not ask the committee to apologise?"

"Oh, no," she replied good-humoredly: "you remember the Italian proverb: Sospetto licenzia fede ("Suspicion gives licence to faith')? It is only natural that people should try to find fault. Perhaps, had I been among the audience, I might have done so myself."

Like many adepts, Miss Oakley is very modest. She refuses to claim the title of Champion, to which she has every right; and, although she has won more prizes for shooting than anyone else ever did, she never mentions having won anything. Indeed, she seldom speaks about her hobby unless the subject be broached by someone else.

"Who named you "Little Sure-Shot'?" I inquired, while she was showing me her guns and extolling their merits.

"Poor Sitting Bull—(you remember him?)—the great Sioux chief. He was a true friend to me. 'Watanya Cicilla' was the name he gave me, which means 'Little Sure-Shot.'" I believe the recollection pained her, for she quickly changed the subject. "Look at this little rifle," she said, handing me a miniature weapon by Stephens & Co., of Chicopee Falls, Mass. "That was presented to me by the makes; they call it the 'Sure-Shot' rifle. You shall try it presently. It is wonderfully accurate. I lend it to two little girls whom I am teaching to shoot."

 

"Are you as fond of shooting game as you are of shooting pigeons and targets?"

"I love it. I should like to go into the country now, for a month's partridge-shooting. People often invite me to their houses to shoot, which I think very kind of them; but then I can't very well leave the Show."

"Have you any idea who circulated the report of your death a year or so ago? I suppose it was an effort to supply 'copy'?"

"Indeed, on that occasion it was not. A lady named Oakley, whose initial, like mine, was A., died somewhere in America, and it was on that fact that the false report was based. It first appeared in an Italian paper, and caused me great inconvenience at the time. Why, I have about a hundred newspaper cuttings containing accounts of my death. However, ' 'Tis an ill wind,' you know; and certainly the report had this advantage, that it let me know what the public really think, or thought, of me. Do you consider me very conceited for saying that?" she said.

I assured her that I did not, and asked if it were her intention to remain with the Show permanently.

She thought not. She was getting tired of moving about, and wanted to settle down. Of course she would be at the World's Fair next year. Should I be over there. If so, she hoped I would call upon her. Then she told me that, except in wind or in a fog, she did not find shooting by electric light puzzling. She said she was rather poorly to-day, and hoped that I did not find her very dull.

"Did your indisposition affect your shooting?"

"Not greatly."

"How many targets did you miss during the performance that is just over?"

"Two"

"Out of how many?"

"Out of fifty."

"Have you often shot before the English Royal Family?"

"Five times. I considered it a great honour to be allowed to do so; and I thought it an honour, also, to be allowed to compete in the sweepstakes at Hurlingham." She understood that professionals were not allowed to do so, and that an exception had been made in her case.

"Before I take you to try the little rifle," she said, as she prepared to go out, "I want particularly to show you these sketches in black and white. They are done by two sisters—Misses Hardy— who often draw for the Sporting and Dramatic News. The younger is fifteen only."

The sketches were certainly beautifully executed. One represented Miss Oakley, galloping along on a thoroughbred, leaning over on the off-side, and picking up a handkerchief from the ground—one of her many wonderful feats. When we had tried the rifle, she wished to show me over the stables. It was getting late, however; so, with a hearty hand-shake, she bade me farewell, laughingly enjoining me not to flatter her in Rod & Gun.

Title: An Interview with Miss Annie Oakley

Periodical: Rod and Gun

Source: McCracken Research Library, Buffalo Bill Center of the West, William F. "Buffalo Bill" Cody Collection, MS6, MS6.3778.129.02 (1892 London)

Date: September 24, 1892

Author: Tozer, Basil, 1868-1949

Keywords: Exhibitions Firearms Horsemen and horsewomen Hunting Lakota Indians Partridge shooting Scrapbooks Sharpshooters Shooting contests Targets (Shooting) Traveling exhibitions Trick riding Women--Great Britain Women--United States Women's clothing World's Columbian Exposition (1893 : Chicago, Ill.)

People: Oakley, Annie, 1860-1926 Sitting Bull, 1831-1890 Tozer, Basil, 1868-1949

Places: Earl's Court (London, England) Hurlingham Club (London, England) London (England)

Sponsor: This project is supported in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Geraldine W. & Robert J. Dellenback Foundation.

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