After earning $11,000 for charity, the “star of the occasion” was the ‘brisk and agile Annie Oakley, who cavorted around the ring, skipping and blowing kisses with the coyness she learned 40 years ago.”
Five months later, in November 1922, Annie would find herself pinned beneath an overturned Cadillac. She and her husband Frank Butler had been traveling with friends to spend the winter in Florida when the chauffeur swerved to avoid another car. Annie spent six weeks in the hospital with a fractured hip and a shattered right ankle. Her youngest half-sister, Emily Brumbaugh Patterson, traveled from Ohio to nurse her back to health.
The following year, with her leg encased in a steel brace, Annie was back performing, shooting pennies in the air during a Philadelphia Phillies spring training practice in Leesburg, Florida. “Little Miss Sure Shot” was clearly on her way to recovery by the time she reached the home of her niece (and Emily’s daughter) Bonnie Blakeley.
During her stay, Great Aunt Annie taught eight-year-old Don how to shoot. This past January, he died at age 94, in Greenville, Ohio. Brian Lebel auctioned off Don Blakeley’s collection at his Cody Old West Auction, held for the first time in Denver, Colorado, on June 27. (The auction was previously held in Cody, Wyoming.)
At 63, and 18 months after her accident, Annie shot down 98 out of 100 pigeons at the Mayview Manor resort in Blowing Rock, North Carolina, establishing a new record for the club. But in 1924, even Annie began to recognize her limitations. In December, she and Frank returned to Ohio to live near her family.
They attended trapshoots, and Annie even wrote her memoirs, reaching the year 1890. On November 3, 1926, the 66-year-old sharpshooter died in her sleep in Greenville; 18 days later, Frank died.
The family photos that were a part of Don’s collection are a testament to just how agile Annie was during her so-called retirement years. In 1917, The New York Tribune had made the mistake of calling her a silver-haired lady who knitted. Annie politely corrected them, writing she had never knitted, and that she presently taught women to shoot, as well as rode and hunted herself, on top of her shooting performances.
She left behind an admiring public, including humor columnist Will Rogers, who visited her the April before she died. “She is a greater character than she was a rifle shot,” he wrote “…and Annie Oakley’s name, her lovable traits, her thoughtful consideration of others will live as a mark for any woman to shoot for.”
The auction on June 27 hammered in at nearly $1.1 million.