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Annie Oakley and Frank Butler: A Legendary True Love Story

 Annie Oakley and Frank Butler:  A Legendary True Love Story   

World famous markswoman Annie Oakley was born Phoebe Ann Moses on August 13, 1860 in a frontier Ohio log cabin. Her family was large and extremely poor, and Phoebe's father died from frostbite when she just five years old. By the time Phoebe reached the age of 10, she had honed her shooting skills with her father's rifle. Her remarkable natural talent as a shooter allowed her to hunt for food and also provide much-needed income from selling some of the extra game in the nearby town. Hardship prevailed, forcing Phoebe's mother place her and most of the other seven children in foster homes or orphanages. Phoebe's experience with her foster family was one of cruelty and lack of care. Later, when a teenaged Phoebe returned to her mother's home, she once again picked up her father's rifle. She soon proved that her childhood accuracy was no fluke, and at age sixteen, Phoebe went to Cincinnati to enter a shooting contest. Her competition was Frank Butler, an Irish immigrant who was a sharpshooter and vaudeville performer. Winning the match by one point, Phoebe also captured the heart of Frank Butler. They soon married and traveled together performing a sharpshooting act, with Phoebe in the role of Frank's assistant. However, Frank realized that Phoebe's was the greater shooting talent. He made her the star of the show and acted as her assistant and personal manager.  

In 1885 the Butlers joined Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, run by the legendary frontiersman and showman Buffalo Bill Cody. Phoebe Butler was reborn as Annie Oakley, and for the next seventeen years, she dazzled the world with her incredible talent and natural appeal. Although Annie Oakley was larger than life, she stood only five feet tall, and she was given the nick name of "Little Sure Shot". While traveling with the Wild West Show in 1901, Frank and Annie survived a horrendous train wreck. Annie suffered a spinal injury and endured numerous operations. She eventually recovered, and lost none of her shooting and performing skill. However, Annie blamed the trauma of the accident for turning her hair snow white. After the accident, Annie ended her association with the Wild West Show. She and Buffalo Bill Cody remained dear friends, and Annie eulogized him at his funeral.    

Annie continued to set shooting records well into her sixties. She campaigned for women's rights, taught over 2000 women how to shoot, and quietly provided philanthropic aide to orphans, widows, and others in need. Contrary to her legendary show business image, Annie was a gentle and modest lady. She was also a trailblazer in many areas of sports and entertainment.   

Frank and Annie remained married for over fifty years. After Annie's death at age sixty-six on November 3, 1926, Frank became despondent and simply stopped eating. Unable to bear the loss of his wife and life partner, Frank followed Annie to the grave only twenty days after her own death.   

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Virginia Campbell, born and raised in the beautiful mountains of the state of Virginia, considers herself to be a Prairie Woman at heart. She could easily imagine setting her birth date back 100 years and not losing her stride. Her deep and abiding love of the American Old West was forged in her childhood when she and her family often gathered together to watch great TV westerns such as Bonanza, Gunsmoke, and The Big Valley. Her grandfather was a lifelong fan of western fiction, and he especially enjoyed the work of Louis L'Amour and Zane Grey. When Virginia's mother was a young girl, she often played cowboys and rode stick horses with her siblings and cousins. Later her mother became a skilled horseback rider and a protector of animal life. Virginia's grandmother, "the greatest cook ever", provided the care and feeding of the whole western-loving bunch.