Annie Came Back

At first, Buffalo Bill Cody didn’t want Annie Oakley in his Wild West show.

He already had a top-notch shooter named Captain Bogardus. Plus, fancy shooting acts were a dime a dozen.

Ms. Oakley was a relative unknown from Darke County, Ohio. Sure, she was an unknown who could shoot the flame off a candle, the heart out of a card, an apple off the head of her poodle, George.

But Buffalo Bill already had his sharpshooter. And in December 1884, the head of the Wild West said thanks, but no thanks to the unknown woman from Darke County.

There’d been plenty of no’s in Ms. Oakley’s life. She came from a family with no money. She was given no education. One ‘no’ from Buffalo Bill wasn’t a good enough deterrent.

So, when Captain Bogardus quit the Wild West in March 1885, Annie Oakley came back to Buffalo Bill.

She asked for another shot. She asked for a high salary. The head of the Wild West was hesitant: he didn’t like high salaries, didn’t know if she was strong enough to handle the show.

Ms. Oakley replied: Try me for three days free. Buffalo Bill agreed. Come to Kentucky in April, he said.

Ms. Oakley practiced. Once, she shot 4,772 glass balls in nine hours. Then, she practiced more.

On April 24, 1885, Ms. Oakley stood in a Louisville arena warming up for her three-day trial. And Nathan Salsbury, Buffalo Bill’s producer, saw her. He saw her shoot with her shotgun face up and face down. He saw her shoot with her right hand and left hand. And then he saw to it that she was hired.

Annie Oakley stayed with the Wild West for 17 years. She commanded the highest salary. And she never did do the three-day trial.

We won’t always get what we want the first time around. But it’s the second, the third, the fourth time that measures our worth.

Keep practicing. Keep coming back.

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