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Annie Oakley and Calamity Jane
Annie and Calamity
When it comes to famous women of the Wild West, probably no two names shine brighter than Annie Oakley and Calamity Jane. Born Phoebe Ann Moses (often spelled Mozee) in Darke County, Ohio, in 1860, Annie Oakley was not really a Westerner. But she became a universal star when she joined the Buffalo Bill Wild West show in 1885. "Little Miss Sure Shot" toured Europe and became the darling of royalty everywhere. She was badly injured in a 1901 train wreck, but recovered and continued her career. She really could shoot well but was no hard-riding frontier character. When not on the road, Mrs. Butler (Annie married a fellow performer, Frank Butler, who later became her manager) led a quiet, religious life in her native Ohio. Annie Oakley died in 1926.
Old-timers always claimed Calamity Jane Cannary (sometimes spelled Canary) had a big heart when she was not drinking, but unfortunately that was not very often. Most Westerners also agreed she was generally liked but little respected, and she was hard to be around for long periods of time. She was a bullwhacker, a harlot, a scout, an occasional actress and an accomplished liar. Jane traveled (mostly bumming her way) throughout the West. There are numerous versions as to how she got her name. One story says that any cowboy who bought her services was in for a calamity, meaning they were going to be spending quality time with a doctor in the near future.
Calamity Jane's movements and blundering escapades were frequently reported in the local papers. The February 28, 1887, edition of the Laramie, Wyoming Territory, Boomerang noted that Calamity was visiting: "To say that the old girl has reformed is something of a chestnut. She was gloriously drunk this morning and if she didn't make Rome howl she did Laramie. Her resting place is now the soft side of an iron cell. Judge Pease will deliver the lecture and collect the fine in the morning."
By the late 1890s, Jane had abused herself so thoroughly that a contemporary described her as resembling "a busted bale of hay." The rough old gal's time ran out in Deadwood on August 1, 1903. She evidently expired from an old job-related injury--"inflammation of the bowels." Before she died, she requested to be buried beside her "true love," Wild Bill Hickok (the request was granted, but there is little evidence that Jane knew Hickok more than casually). At the undertaker's, souvenir seekers clipped off locks of Calamity's hair, forcing an old friend to put a wire screen over her head. Many who viewed her noted Calamity Jane looked better in death than she had in life. Of course, the same could be said of her legend.