Archery In A Changing World by Eric Vance
As an archery merchant & pro-shop service provider, I have the unique opportunity to encounter all facets of interest in this sport. From this ongoing experience, I glean a picture of our world today in respect to a constantly morphing “front” of opinions that shape the mindset of the “average Joe(sephine)”. It’s often not a pretty picture! I can accept/digest/process these usual encounters with the often “leery customer” in respect to their hesitance in supplying “junior” with a projectile device. The tangents of this mindset are what is scary to me and makes me question the direction of our society and its leadership, which is constantly hounded by lobbyists on a quest for a “better tomorrow”. “What”, do you ask, “has this got to do with my reading of an outdoor/nature oriented magazine?” Let’s see if I can tie it all together, for it wears heavily on my mind!
I’ll start by addressing and quickly sidestepping the obvious & tedious matter of how gun control affects archery as a sport & industry. Suffice to say that anti-gunners are most likely “anti-archery” as well. If the anti’s succeed with efforts to obliterate guns in the hands of citizens, then you know they’ll be knocking at our door next! Oops – that’s already happening. Due to the staunch resistance (need more) by the law-abiding/Constitution supporting pro-gun faction, many proposals of idiotic gun legislature are being rightfully sifted out and flushed. The side effect is now a huge push by right-to-life organizations to stop all bowhunting. Period. Wow.
In my first article, I addressed the concept of archery as having a deep kinship with the history of mankind, both as a tool and a weapon of war. I believe that there will be bows & arrows as long as there are humans of balanced mind. Unfortunately, the “balanced mind” is pushed deeper into obscurity as “political correctness” tightens its ugly hold on the unenlightened. The small percentage of extremist/activists – who have nothing better to do than spend daddy’s money (or worse, grant funds that should be better spent) supporting or playing lobbyist/wannabe politicians – have tapped into an enormous power that shapes the opinions of our political representatives; guiding them on ill errands of misguided (and time wasting) crusades in effort to remove and bury all things dangerous from the hands of the average person, and their right to indulge in such. The few (thankfully) crusaders that I’ve encountered all suffer the same disease of looking you straight in the eye, hearing nothing you say, dismiss all you may represent, and continue on their merry way. Pretty gloomy, huh?!
Well, it ain’t all so bad – yet! All true-hearted sportsmen & women I have the pleasure to know are of sound mind & clear thought. There’s no question of what’s right or wrong in both daily affairs and the world at large. Their sense of responsibility with their weapons is in line. Their reaction to world events, both pleasant or tragic is in line with human decency. Yet we are beset by those who would shape our world for us and limit our options in life & leisure. These are the people we need to get outside and away from their cell phones and briefcases. Probably never happen, so all we can do is make the cry for fairness in the laws handed down to us. Unfortunately, I find most of my sporting friends to be a complacent lot who mostly want to enjoy our hobbies & interests and want to be otherwise left alone, unencumbered of these seedy undercurrents that besmirch our interests & passions.
I often receive calls from parents who have no clue about archery and want to get their children started in the sport. While most of them simply need the “full rap” on how it all works and what’s best for their needs, I get a surprising number of customers who have their minds made up that “junior” should start with a toy suction cup archery set to get acquainted with handling a bow & arrow. To a point (up to about ages 5 – 7) this is rightful thinking, and to all these parents I must remind them that although it’s “just a suction cup archery set”, it’s still a projectile device that requires adult supervision. At this point, the occasional disgruntled parent who only wants to pacify junior and not be a part of their experience, hang up. Fine. That’s no place for nurturing an appreciation of the outdoors and activities therein. More often, the parent understands our recommendations and will make sure junior is safely on his/her way. Better yet, they will often jump in as well, calling us back in a few weeks time, ordering equipment for themselves to partake and enjoy with their children. This is the best scenario that I personally find ultimately rewarding.
The scary side of this is when I try to enlighten a cautionary parent who is firmly decided on supplying their 12 – 15 year old with a suction cup archery set as the means to break into the sport! Sometimes they understand my advices. Sometimes I can’t dissuade them from their tack. Other times I find I must bite my lip and write it off to “poor kid, doesn’t have a chance”. This is sad when I think of parents so focused on themselves that they can’t afford the time to supervise and encourage their kids in whatever their interest may be. Kids are the future. They are OUR future, and when we are old, we may have to answer to them. I know there will be many an oldster wishing to set the “way-back machine” just to become more involved with their children.
Archery is and should be a family sport. It is simple, entertaining, unifying, and develops a skill that gives focus to the mind that is applied subliminally in all things – much like the more physical martial arts. We experienced a huge surge in business due to The Lord of the Rings. Great! Whatever it takes! While many customers were only looking for props, others were reminded of archery in their youth and developed a desire to try it again. Others, as mentioned, saw their children having so much fun, they wanted some. As a result, bonds are formed, families are brought closer together, and this ancient & noble sport is pushing back the covers to a new dawn.
But will the sun rise on an enlightened mankind? We recently donated a bunch of archery equipment to our soldiers in Iraq. I hesitated at first, being a small family business and not really having the means of expendable assets. But after some thought and poking around the shop, I found enough used gear that I could afford to send over. The response from them was absolutely overwhelming! I sent more goods! The feeling of reward from that was heartwarming and thoroughly worth it. I know there’s a bunch of guy’s out there who will never forget their time at the Camp Cuarvo Archery Club of the 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment in the desert heat of the Middle East. Amid the horrors of war, they found solace and emotional outlet in something as simple as a stick & string. I don’t mention this to show what a great guy I am, but rather to use it as a highlighted pinnacle in my experiences that shows how something shared can mean so much to others. There’s not enough of this mentality going around. I, being quite mental, have enough to radiate in my circles, but we all need to open doors, rather than shut them – as our extremist/activist friends would have.
Anarchy is an ugly word. I am a proud American, but I don’t always agree with most political direction and practice. That’s my right of freedom and what makes true democracy the cradle of enlightenment. We now see the sparks of internal conflict that could ignite the flames of turmoil and unrest. Our city streets during the Vietnam war were a reaction to a point in time. But what might happen when such strong reactions are to the “norm” rather than an incident? This brings us ’round the Bush to my point and concerns – and I promise not get any more political than that! (I hate politics!)
World events have affected our business in that restrictions on import/export and shipping of archery equipment – now categorized as a “weapon” – is difficult and often impossible to send to some areas of the world. While a bow & arrow is indeed a weapon, it is not the tool of terrorists, not a “convenient weapon of choice”, cannot be fired accidentally, cannot be concealed, and anyone using it in these manners will be the first to fall! A pencil is a quick and lethal concealed weapon in the right (wrong) hands, and in that capacity way more dangerous! But as the world becomes more “black & white”, the bow, in it’s comfy gray area, comes into the spotlight in an often negative perspective and thoroughly undeserving of that.
So, I head to the woods every Sunday morning to commune with my friends and nature deep in the woods of a different club each week. The sights & smells of nature in all of its seasons of beauty fill your senses. I look forward to this time as my own, as do my friends. It’s an outlet for stress, a time to keep up with current events from varied perspectives, a time to make light of heavy thoughts and joke at my buddies expense, a time to smell the freakin’ roses! Unfortunately, the world is driven from within its cities, not from the vast expanses of rural encounter. Herein lies the fatal glitch. All those who shape our times are simply out of touch with humanity as can only be experienced when one is at peace with oneself and reliant on inner strength and resourcefulness, unhindered by shelter and modern convenience.
Archery is a part of something greater than its simplicity. It brings us togther and outside. There’s nothing better than that moment as the arrow leaves the bow and you know it’s in the 10-ring before it gets there. This experience is something that can only come from extending oneself beyond the duties of daily survival – or committing to survival.
Next time, some good ol’ tech talk!