We made a big deal
about dividing the audience to make an open path from the
stage out to about sixty feet. We would announce K.T.
Oakley and she would have Screaming Weasel set up a tripod
bearing a small ax and set this up about fifteen feet from
the stage. K.T. Oakley would then take her 22 caliber
rifle and walk out beyond the tripod and ax and set her
self up so that she would rest the rifle on her shoulder,
looking at a hand mirror held with the other hand. So, she
was facing away from the stage with the gun pointing
towards the stage and the ax.
I held up Christmas
balls in each hand with my arms stretched. Prior to this I
would remove my hat and throw it down on stage and put on
some sun tanning goggles. I would also wear the wig we had
used in the hair growing sketch as added protection. The
look was very funny.
When K.T. Oakley shot
the rifle, Screaming Weasel, who had long since gone back
stage, pulled a rope and squeezed a lever. The rope was
attached to a device I designed, set in the upturned base
of a nail keg set on one side of the stage. It was a piece
of pipe with a spring loaded bolt. When a pin was pulled
the bolt would quickly shoot out about three inches and
then drop back. Mounted on the underside of the keg top,
it struck the bottom of a carefully placed tin cup, which
would fly up in the air as if it had been hit by one half
of the bullet.
The lever was the
handle of a garden sprayer which had the mister removed
and a length of plastic tubing attached. This ran up to
the front of the stage and was fitted into another prop
water keg. The tubing came up from underneath and was
carefully set into a small hole in the front of the water
keg. When the handle was depressed, water would flow in a
steady stream onto my hat (filling it up) as if the water
keg had been struck by the other half of the bullet. The
Indian allowed this to run for some time allowing it to
run out slower all the while and the stream would
As both of these shots
fell about two feet lower than where the target were being
held, this gave the routine some comedy (a straight line
drawn from cup to keg intersected my crotch!) but also
some shock value as everyone expected the Christmas balls
to be struck the first time.
After this first shot,
K.T. Oakley would go up to the ax and take out a nail file
to dress the edge. She then went back and fired again and
I would squeeze the Christmas balls making them shatter in
little pieces. Very effective, and even though the first
shot was also fake, for some reason everyone thought the
second shot was the real thing.
photograph (June 1993) by Claude Levet shows medicine show
performer K.T. Oakley (France Scully Osterman) in her
classic Anne Oakley-style trick shooting pose, 22 caliber
rifle over her shoulder facing the target, aiming with a
hand mirror. Mark Osterman writes:
"She was said
to be the daughter of Annie Oakley, even though the real
Annie (married to Frank Butler, also a trick shooter)
never had childern. We gave her a vintage type military
hat to wear because a western hat didn't seem appropriate
for a show on the east coast. Actually, I understand that
Buffalo Bill wintered his show just ten miles from where
we lived in Pennsylvania.
(still has) a really nice early 22 caliber rifle that had
the lines of a much more serious gun. She also used a very
small, brass bound 32 caliber cap and ball pistol with
real ivory grips which she could twirl. The little girls
really looked up to her character....as did the older men.
of me and my wife were made at a fair. Claude Levet, the
tintypist, was set up across from our stage and made them
without charge...it was a very hot and slow day. We had
gotten married just the week before."