“Shooting the Parrot. ” In the Netherlands the militia units often engaged in personal games of skill, one of which was called shooting the parrot. Either a live bird or a wooden one was set on top of a pole, and the men had to shoot it. This particular exercise came with the Dutch to New Netherland. In 1655 Fort Orange magistrates granted a tavern keeper permission to have the burgher guard shoot the parrot on the third day of Pentecost, “provided he keeps good order and takes care that no accidents occur or result therefrom.”
Contests. By the eighteenth century the English held contests in which men target shot for prizes. Caesar Rodeney of Delaware, father of the Caesar Rodney who signed the Declaration of Independence, helped organize several turkey shoots where people competed for various goods. These meets were advertised, and at a certain time and place marksmen gathered, Rodeney, who was somewhat better off than the average colonist, had time to practice and the money to buy ammunition. He was apparently a fair shot and competed for cloth, money, a hat, and a fiddle, which he also played.
Personal Skill. Men were proud of their abilities and sometimes took the time to shoot just for the joy of the sport and the chance to hone their skills. Anthony Klincken, who lived in Germantown outside of Philadelphia, always brought his gun when he came to the city. “He also used to speak with wonder of seeing hundreds of rats in the flats among the spatterdocks at Pool’s bridge, and that he was in the habit of killing them for amusement as fast as he could load.” William Byrd II shot targets with a bow and arrow, sometimes just for fun, but sometimes in a contest with others.
A CLOSE CALL
Racing with sleds on frozen lakes or rivers could be dangerous. Sleds could upset or run into each other while horses could stumble or slip on the ice. In 1659 the young administrator of the Rensselaerswyck patroonship was not about to let his life become all work and no play. The Hudson River had frozen, and he was out on the ice. He wrote to his brother in the Netherlands:
As to news, I have not much to write, except that it has been a severe winter, so that we could have all the racing with the sleigh that we wanted, but I have been again in trouble, for my sleigh turned over with me on the river, or was upset by another sleigh, so that I severely hurt my left hand, from which I suffered much pain, but now it is again nearly all right.
Source: Correspondence of Jeremias van Rensselaer: 1651–1674, translated and edited by A. J. F. van Laer (Albany: University of the State of New York, 1932).
“’Fare Weather and Good Helth’: The Journal of Caesar Rodeney, 1727–1729,” edited by Harold B. Hancock, Delaware History,10 (1962): 33–70;
Charles T. Gehring, ed. and trans., Fort Orange Court Minutes 1652–1660 (Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 1990);
Simon Schama, The Embarrassment of Riches: An Interpretation of Dutch Culture in the Golden Age (New York: Knopf, 1987);
John F. Watson, Annals of Philadelphia and Pennsylvania, in the Olden Time, volume 1 (Philadelphia: Carey & Hart, 1845).
"Marksmanship." American Eras. . Encyclopedia.com. (June 27, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/marksmanship
"Marksmanship." American Eras. . Retrieved June 27, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/marksmanship
- Buffalo Bill (1846–1917) famed sharpshooter in Wild West show. [Am. Hist.: Flexner, 67]
- Crotus son of Pan, companion to Muses; skilled in archery. [Gk. Myth.: Howe, 70]
- Deadeye Dick sobriquet of 1880s cowboy-sharpshooter, Nat Love. [Am. Hist.: Flexner, 41]
- Egli Norse god, famed archer, met the same challenge as William Tell. [Norse Myth.: Brewer Dictionary, 323]
- Hawkeye sharpshooting frontier folk hero. [Am. Lit.: The Last of the Mohicans ]
- Hickok, “Wild Bill” (1837–1876) sharpshooting stage driver and marshal of U.S. West. [Am. Hist.: Flexner, 387]
- Hood, Robin famed throughout land for skill as archer. [Br. Lit.: Robin Hood ]
- Oakley, Annie (1860–1926) renowned expert gunshooter of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show. [Am. Hist.: Brewer Dictionary, 771]
- Robin-A-Bobbin such a bad archer, killed crow while aiming for pigeon. [Nurs. Rhyme: Mother Goose, 33]
- Tell, William shot apple off son’s head with arrow. [Swiss Legend: Brewer Dictionary, 1066; Ital. Opera: Rossini, William Tell ]
"Marksmanship." Allusions--Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. . Encyclopedia.com. (June 27, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/marksmanship
"Marksmanship." Allusions--Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. . Retrieved June 27, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/marksmanship