As the Arrow Flies
By Bobby Neal Winters
There are things you do “for the children” that you are really doing for yourself. The kids are an excuse. They are small, but, somehow, that makes them easier to hide behind.
I’ve bought bows for Lydia and myself.
These are youth bows. They are a step above a toy, but they are not yet a weapon. I am waiting to see how we progress before I invest any more. So far I’ve got less than a hundred dollars in it total: the bows were $20 a piece; a couple of extra arrows about $10; shooting gloves $12 a piece; arm protectors a total of $30.
I also got a bail of hay to use as a target, but I am not counting that as an expense since we can use that for dog bedding next winter.
It is a fun activity and would have been a good activity to take up as a child, but I didn’t. I wasn’t allowed to. And I need to be fair here. I don’t remember ever asking for a bow and arrow set. I don’t remember it ever coming up. I don’t remember being denied it or feeling deprived for not having a bow and arrow set.
What I have is a feeling of absolute certainty that it wouldn’t’ve been allowed because Dad would not have allowed it because he feared for the safety of his sons. And he had reason.
Dad had grown up in what would be considered poverty today. He went barefoot until the snow flew. I’ve seen pictures of him in overalls that had the straps extended with cord. He’d worked in the oil field and had seen accidents. He’d gone to war and had seen bodies--friend and foe--laying dead and mangled. He lost a five-year-old nephew to an accident.
His mind was filled with scenarios of disaster of every sort.
My childhood was filled with having pictures of great activities built up, but then shot down because these scenarios of disaster crowded them out of existence.
And I understand. I’ve never been angry with Dad about this. But it has had an effect. As I grow older and gain more understanding of life and of myself--not separate activities by any means--I see the effect this has had on me. It has caused a lack of self-confidence. When a boy’s father shows this much trepidation, the boy begins to wonder whether his father is doubting him.
You take fewer chances and you fail less, but failing, oddly enough, is important to the building of self-confidence. You must fail before you learn that failure is not deadly, not your enemy. Batman’s dad said it: You fall so that you may get back up!
So Lydia and I are learning to shoot a bow at the same time. I am being born-again as it were. You put lay the arrow on the bow and fit the string into the arrow’s knock. You pull back the string while aiming at the target, and you let the arrow fly.
And you miss the target.
So you shoot again.
And you miss again.
With each arrow flying, you tend to get closer.
The string on the bow hurts your fingers, so you get a glove to wear. The string slaps against your forearm, so you get an arm protector.
And you continue shooting.
Soon you hit the hay bail every time and your daughter does too. There is time to think while you practice. Will she remember this? If she does will it be fondly?
The arrow flies again and strikes the target more closely than before.
You wonder if your father would approve. You get the feeling he’s watching.
Your daughter shoots. Her arrow is closer to the center of the bail than yours and you smile. And you think maybe he’s smiling too.