Scott and Johnny Lancer made their way eagerly into the Coliseum in Cincinnati, Ohio. They had seen advertisements and posters that there was a famous marksman from Ireland performing there that night. Both young men were anxious to see if he was as good as the ads said he was, and the ads were pretty spectacular in and of themselves.
Quickly buying their tickets they fought their way through the crowd to find their seats and settled in. They hadn’t long to wait but what a surprise they had when the show started fifteen minutes later!
Scott Lancer sighed tiredly as he tried to make himself comfortable on the seat in the railroad car. He’d much rather be riding horseback as the space between seats in a railroad car was not meant for someone over five feet tall to be comfortable in. Scott was six-feet-one inch and every inch of his long legs was feeling cramped. It was getting to his back as well.
A butcher boy, as the young vendors on the railroad were called, made his way down the aisle of the car that Scott was in. When he approached Scott’s seat he was called over.
“Yes, sir, what would you like?” the youngster asked.
“I don’t know – what do you have today?” Scott asked.
“I’ve got ham and cheese sandwiches, chicken sandwiches, hard boiled eggs, tomatoes, roast beef sandwiches, pickles and I can get you coffee or tea or lemonade,” the freckle faced youngster with the light brown hair recited.
“I’ll take a couple of ham and cheese sandwiches, a pickle, an egg and some of that lemonade,” Scott told the boy.
“Yes, sir!” The boy was pleased to make such a big sale to one person and quickly handed Scott his order.
A few minutes later he was back with a glass and a jug of cold lemonade, which he poured. Telling Scott he’d return for the glass later he continued on his way through the train. As Scott was eating his lunch he noticed the conductor bring a slip of a girl, no more than twelve years old, to a seat near him.
“Now you just sit there, young lady,” the uniformed man said to her. “I’ll see to you later – as soon as I collect the tickets from the rest of the folks on the train.
“Yes, sir,” the girl said.
Scott took a ticket from his pocket as the conductor approached him. “What’s with the youngster?” he asked out of curiosity.
“A gentleman at the last station bought a ticket for the young lady to go home,” the man said. “He asked me to look out for her but I have my duties to attend to. I’ll see that she gets something to eat but I can’t watch over her the whole way.”
“You go on about your business, conductor,” Scott said with a smile at the nervous girl. “I’ll see to the young lady.”
“Thank you, sir,” the conductor said as he went on his way.
Moving from his seat Scott went across the aisle to sit next to the new passenger.
“My name’s Scott Lancer – what’s yours?”
“Well, Annie Moses, what are you doing traveling on the train all by yourself? You don’t look to be any more than nine or ten years old.”
“I’m twelve and I’m going home to my family,” Annie replied. “I’ve been away from them ever so long. ‘Aunt Nancy’ will send me there when I get back to the orphanage. She’s a friend of my mother’s and she’s been taking care of me while mother works.”
“Would you like something to eat?” Scott asked as he brushed crumbs off of his shirtfront. “I have an extra sandwich and half a pickle. I’d like for you to tell me all about it.”
As the miles went by Annie Moses, dressed in her well-worn skirt and top, told Scott how her family had struggled since the death of her father six years earlier. Her mother had sent her three youngest children to live with friends and neighbors when she was made District Nurse. The Eddingtons, friends of Annie’s mother, had taken Annie to live with them at the Darke County Home for orphans and elderly people. Annie had been happy enough there but then had come the people Annie would forever refer to as “the wolves”. Pretending to be very friendly and kind the husband had talked Annie into coming to work for him on the pretext that she would be earning money for her family and still have time to go to school and to hunt. Annie loved hunting and had been helping feed her family by setting out traps for quail and other small birds and game.
Unfortunately the farmer and his wife were anything but what they had seemed to be and Annie had suffered terribly at their hands – even to the point of being pushed out into a cold snowy night with no coat or shoes or anything else to protect her from the elements. Annie had had enough and ran away when the couple left her alone on their farm the next time they went to town. A nice elderly man had bought her a ticket and asked the conductor to look after her. Now she was on her way back to the County Home and, from there, to her mother’s farm.
Scott and Annie talked until it was time for Annie to get off the train. The young rancher took a twenty-dollar bill from his wallet and gave it to the brown-haired little girl.
“You take this and you give it to your mother,” the blond told her. “She’ll know what to do with it – where to use it where it will do the most good.”
Little Annie threw her arms around Scott’s neck and kissed him. “Thank you Scott! I’ll never forget you!”
“And I’ll never forget you, Annie Moses,” Scott said as he waved to her from his window.
When the show started the Lancer brothers had found their seats and made themselves comfortable. The sharpshooter, an Irishman by the name of Frank Butler came out on the stage. But he didn’t come out with a weapon in his hand. He came out to announce that due to his regular partner’s illness his wife would be taking part in the act. He announced her to the audience and they waited in anticipation of what they hoped would be a good show, though some in the audience had their doubts about a woman being any good. After one missed shot due to the fact that she was unaccustomed to the spotlights, she went on to give a good show. Hitting target after target after target she enthralled the audience – including the skeptical Johnny Lancer.
When the show ended Scott suggested that they try to meet the performers. They made their way to the dressing rooms where Frank Butler granted them an audience with his wife and himself.
“Annie, darling, we have visitors,” the Irishman said.
His wife, a small girl no more than five feet tall with long brown hair and sparkling gray eyes, came out from behind a dressing screen wearing a stylish dark green dress and brown high topped shoes.
“Hello,” she said. “I’m happy to meet you gentlemen. Did you enjoy the show?”
“Yes, ma’am, we sure did,” Johnny said enthusiastically. “I never saw anyone hit so many targets in all my life. Don’t see much sense in it but you sure did good.”
“I don’t see the sense in it myself, Mr….”
“Lancer. Johnny Lancer. This is my brother Scott.”
“Lancer?” Annie looked closer at Scott. Johnny had been doing the talking so all her attention had been focused on him. “I met a Scott Lancer a few years ago while traveling by train to go back home.”
“What’s your name?” Scott asked his curiosity piqued. It had been five years and Annie had changed a lot.
“Annie Butler. Annie Oakley is my stage name. I was Annie Moses up until a year ago.”
“Annie Moses? Little Annie Moses? The one who rode the train with me in Ohio? That Annie Moses?”
“Yes! The very same Annie Moses,” she said as she hugged him. “I was only twelve years old and I was running away from some people I had been working for. A nice old man at the train station had bought me my ticket and told the conductor to look out for me. You shared your lunch with me and gave me some money to take home to my mother. I never forgot you Scott Lancer.”
“Nor I, you, Annie Moses,” Scott said with a smile as she released him.
“Frank! This is Scott Lancer. I told you about him – how he took care of me on that train ride home.”
“Yes, you did, darling,” Frank smiled. “It’s a pleasure to meet you Mr. Lancer. Annie’s mother would be thrilled to make your acquaintance as well. Would you and your brother be able to join us when we go out to the farm for Sunday dinner? We’ll be leaving Cincinnati soon so it’s our last chance to visit for a while.”
“I’d love to but we have to leave town on the train back to California tomorrow,” Scott declined the invitation. Turning to Annie he said, “Annie, my little brother here is a pretty good shot with a pistol – how would you like to give him an experience he’ll never forget? Would you do a little target shooting with him before we leave the theater?”
Annie happily obliged and Johnny was stunned to find himself outgunned by this girl who was several years younger than himself. Scott turned down the opportunity to shoot against the young woman. He knew he was no match for her.
The foursome said good night shortly thereafter, and the Lancers were on their way home in the morning while the Butlers had one last Sunday dinner with Annie’s family before they, too, left Ohio.
One week later Scott Lancer received a letter in the mail from Annie. In it she told him that her mother had been disappointed not to have the opportunity to thank him in person for what he had done for her daughter several years ago, but wanted him to know that she and the family would remember him – and his family – in their prayers every night.
Scott smiled and folded the letter replacing it in its envelope. He put the note in his top dresser drawer for safekeeping. Nine years later, when Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show started making headlines due to the addition of the Peerless Lady Wingshot, Scott, and Johnny both, would remember the day they met Annie Oakley also known as “Watanya Cecila” or “Little Sure Shot”.
Annie Moses was born in Woodland, Ohio on August 13, 1860. She was the daughter of Quaker parents, Jacob and Susan Moses though the spelling varies with the source. When their inn burned to the ground, depriving them of their livelihood, Jacob and Susan moved to western Ohio. There two more children, John and Huldah were born to them.
Annie’s father died when she was six and her mother struggled to keep the family together.
At seven or so, Annie learned how to shoot her father’s old rifle. She mastered it quickly and soon began putting meat on the family’s table as she brought home turkey and quail and squirrels. Annie lived at that County Home for a short period before living with “the wolves”, as she would always refer to them, for about two years before running away.
At the age of sixteen Annie met her future husband while visiting an older sister. Their first meeting took place at a shooting match - which Annie won. They were married when she was either sixteen or twenty-one depending on whether you believe Annie’s writings or an 1881 marriage certificate. Annie’s husband, Frank Butler, was divorced with two sons when he met Annie. Nothing more is known of his family.
Annie and Frank started out on the stage but spent several years touring with Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show. Eventually, after a train wreck and a car wreck and several hospitalizations as a result, Annie retired from full time work. She did, however, lend her name and her shooting skills to such causes as the Red Cross before she and Frank, both, died in 1926. Annie was just sixty-six years old and had suffered from pernicious anemia.