It’s been more than two decades since I woke up bright-eyed and with bed-head, at age 6, bounding into the living room in a teddy-bear covered flannel night gown to discover that Santa Claus had left me exactly what I wanted under the tree.
Beneath the tree was a little Browning compound bow, that when I tested later in our yard, was so weak powered that getting the arrows to stick in a target bag was a challenge. I had begged for one after my mom took down a deer, and long before the media glam of Katniss Everdeen, she was the arrow-slinging heroine of all my lady-centric archery fantasies. The tradition of the whole thing was nice too. My mom’s ancestors, the Indians, had killed food with a bow and arrow for thousands of years, my parents told me, and we could still do it today.
For many years my parents would call this bow “the bow built by Abraham” because there was a tiny sticker that said “built by Abraham” on the inside of a limb. At the time, my parents told me that the bow had been built especially for me by an elf named Abraham. I was tickled pink by this thought for many years.
Today you can get bows like this for $75 to $150 on ebay. It seems like such a little investment in something that had a huge impact on my life. I spent hours with Abraham’s bow as a child. I was too weak to pull back a poundage high enough to hunt until I was a teen, but mom and dad drug my sister and I all over the state to 3-D competitions to practice. When at 16, I arrowed my first pig, it was a magical moment that I had been waiting for my entire memory.
It gave us something productive to do, and a skill to learn. But that same Christmas there was something else under the tree, a Play Station 2. In our house it didn’t get much use as more than a DVD player. We never owned more than three games for it. Mom and Dad were often outside, and so were we.
I know that statistics tell us this isn’t the norm in America.
Earlier this week, the World Health Organization introduced “gaming disorder” as a potential mental disease caused by too many video games. Report after report shows that more parents are buying kids video games and not getting them outside. There are 2.2 million less hunters today than in 2011.
It’s hard to say exactly why the bow stuck and the PS2 didn’t that day, but my guess is that it was the hard work of my parents.
Mom with her pig.
Dad would get home dead-tired from climbing light poles all day, only to assemble a ladder stand in our yard that I could practice shooting from. He taught me how to adjust my sights and take care of my rest. Mom, the best shot of us all, always had advice on how to adjust stance or aim a little better, though I’m sure she had other days to do after a long day working at the hospital. The rest of my Christmases have been full of wrenches, rests, quivers and string wax.
I’ve only gotten two more bows. Once you find the right one, it’s all you need.
The bow built by Abraham is still hanging my parents’ closet, waiting for the day that I have a little boy or girl who maybe wants to shoot.
When that time comes, I hope I’ll remember the most important part: archery isn’t a latch-key hobby for kids. Very few children are going to love to shoot on their own. Everyone has to learn, and being encouraged by people who care about you makes all the difference. I hope I’ll be as patient, loving and guiding in helping teach the future of the sport. We need more little shooters running around.