Happy Tuesday, all!
Sorry we were absent Thursday, but celebrating Independence Day meant making sacrifices…
…like camping…and swimming in a lake…
Don’t feel bad for me.
Anyway, what I’m saying, is I missed one. BUT it’s okay, because it actually ties in.
Last Thursday saw all of the above-mentioned activities and many others. The one we’re going to focus on is one I think everyone (and especially any Lord of the Rings kids) should at least try: archery.
The lake/campground/recreation territory whatsamagidget we went to had a ton hiking trails, and of those, one that is itself a walking archery range. I’ve had my bow for about seven years and have practiced the art of flinging arrows off and on in that time. (In fact, anyone else remember that Mayan Calendar Apocalypse that was supposed to happen back in 2012? I’m not saying that I thought the world was going to end…I’m not…I am saying that I had my bow ready just in case it was the Time of Mutants and Raiders was nigh, though.)
All of that, however, is just context for what we’re talking about today: The MegaBoom.
That whole off-and-on habit of practice translates roughly to: “practicing regularly for a few weeks and then taking a few months off.” That means that, after seven years, I’m
pretty good alright I can hang… I do alright. And yes, of course, I check that my grouping is good enough to hit a human-sized target in case the Green Arrow needs a break, duh. So bulls-eyes at 40-meters happen, albeit infrequently, but I’m no Robin Hood or freaky good shot.
…there’s one guy out there who thinks I’m fucking fantastic.
Let’s focus on that guy.
It was one of those times where I was taking up the hobby again off a hiatus and I go to my regular shop (I would super give her a shout-out, but I’m not totally sure that what happens in the story was entirely legal, so let’s just call the shop “Maggie’s.”) I pay for my time and begin stringing my bow.
For a Friday, it’s unusually thin, with myself and two other guys taking up lanes. One of them has his son with him, who’s receiving beginner’s lessons at the firing line. The owner, Maggie, is teaching him basic form and safety, and he’s eagerly drinking it all up. It’s cute. During this time, myself and the two other guys (the boy’s father included) begin chatting it up. I explain that I’m coming off a regular layup and they both say how they’re each taking it up for the first time, roughly, since childhood. So we’re all on relatively even ground skill-wise, which was comforting (after all, it’s humbling to be on the line, shooting wide, while Katniss Goddamn Everdeen steps up and zeroes her quiver with bulls-eyes). At this point, I overhear Maggie teaching the kid the importance of a full draw:
Maggie: “Mmhm, well yeah. This time it didn’t stick in the target because it wasn’t going fast enough. If you want it to stick, it has to go faster; and if you want it to go faster, you have to pull back all the way, buddy. Okay?”
Then, bless her heart, she puts the spotlight on me. Without ever breaking eye contact with the kid, she then says:
“Hey, Evan. Step up to the line and take a shot for us, hmm?”
I politely pause my conversation with the other patrons and step up to the line. I line up my feet, my hips, shoulders, and even crack my neck. I nock an arrow, grip the string, then finally look at the target. One big breath in then out, I raise my bow, draw back to my nose (a habit of form that I’ve always had weird difficulty adhering to), hold a moment, and release.
Calmly, I smile and step back into conversation but on the inside I am: screaming, windmill-playing air guitar, and thinking of what sponsorships I want when I make it to the Olympics. The two other men had kind things to say, and while I outwardly received them coolly, my heart was on fire in my chest.
The rest of the day proceeded pretty uneventfully from there, but I came back the next day to practice, still riding high off my cool moment from the day before. Who do I see but the father from yesterday (let’s call him Tyler)? He greets me as “that bullseye guy” (to which I blush) and we get to practice.
That day, the store was being managed by a friend of Maggie’s rather than Maggie herself (I think she’d come down with a stomach bug). [We’ll call him] Franky watched us shoot, gave us pointers on form, made jokes – the usual. That was, until he said something about a “Mega Boom.” After a run collecting my arrows, I returned to the line and asked what that was all about.
Rather than answer me in words, his eyes just lit up and he ran around the corner to the back office. About a minute or two later, he returned holding what looked like a bike pump, a small mesh net, a clamp of some kind, and an empty 2-liter soda bottle. I watch as he assembles the whole thing and begins apparently pumping air into the empty plastic bottle. When he’s done, he’s left with a highly pressurized soda bottle fixed to a little stand, and I suddenly see what’s going on: an explosive target.
Now, for context, Maggie’s since moved to a larger location, but the range at that time was relatively small, maybe 15-meters long from target to wall. Thing was, the wall was a warehouse door that opened out into a parking lot. When he sees that we understand what he’s offering us, Franky goes, “Yeah, we might want to head outside for this.” He sets the bottle on top of one of the targets at the end of the range, opens the door, and motions us out into said parking lot. He walks us to approximately 50-meters away (approximately 160-feet, for my imperials) and gives us the green flag.
(Which, as a side note, was a bit premature because as we’re looking at each other as to who is going to try to set off this pseudo-domestic explosive first, a couple of nervous, first-time customers were just walking out the front door – next to the door INTO WHICH WE’RE ABOUT TO FIRE. They freaked out and left before anything happened though…so…all’s well that ends well.)
Anyway, Tyler looks at me and says, “You’re the likeliest to hit it, so you go first.”
I still don’t really understand his logic here, as wouldn’t you want the likeliest shot to go last? But I was too taken by the flattering reference to yesterday’s freak accident but well-time bulls-eye to say no.
Now, at that point, I’d never attempted a shot from that far away before, so my hopes were pretty low. I was also shooting at an empty plastic bottle…a thing which is TRANSPARENT. So I just adjusted my eyes best I could and focused on the blue Pepsi label that wrapped around it. I follow the form from yesterday, raise, draw, and release. Normally, at such close ranges, the sound of an arrow shot sounds kind of like “thuum-tak!” in pretty quick succession, right?
This one was different.
I release the string and hear: “thuum…f-f-f-f-f…BOOOOOM!!”
For the second time that weekend, I felt like Green Arrow, Katniss, Hawkeye, the huntress-god Artemis made flesh. And y’all, it was so loud even from outside and that far away, that I can’t imagine what would have happened to our ears or brains if we’d been standing inside.
After a few moments of stunned silence, we walk back to the wall of targets and look at the damage. I’d hit dead center of the bottle. On one side was a small hole the diameter of an arrow shaft, and the other was split and blown out entirely. I also realize then and there that my arrow itself is utterly missing. I dig into the target a little and find the front half of it and start laughing until I cry. I look around, but can’t seem to find the end with fletching until Franky calls out from the usual firing line that it had blown back to the tape. He brings it over to me and apologizes (fair enough, arrows are expensive); but I told him something I very much mean to this day: I’d do it again in a heartbeat.
The next Monday, I went to work with the ruptured bottle and two frayed arrow pieces and put them proudly on display atop my locker, praying that I’d get asked about it.
I probably told this story to over twenty people that day, and I haven’t matched it with a better one since.
But Tyler doesn’t know that. To that guy, who happened to be present for the singularly best moments in my archery career, I’m a goddamn sniper.
Anyway, y’all take it easy until Thursday (for real this time)!