Tuesday, February 7, 2012
I used to read comic books when I was growing up. Like many kids my age I had quite a large stack of them. I was a paper boy and on Friday nights when I was out collecting the money, I would always drop down to Meister's drug store, eat copious amounts of junk food, play pinball for an hour or so and peruse the comic shelf for the newest edition of Superman or the Flash or perhaps Metal Men. The back page of comics always had an ad for something like Charles Atlas who could build your body to be the envy of all the other guys, thus preventing getting bullied, or my all time favorite ad- X-ray specs. I desperately wanted a pair of those.The ad led you to believe that you could see right through clothes with a pair of these. As a young lad entering puberty, I couldn't think of a better gift to give myself, but they cost a dollar, and I didn't believe they would really work, regardless of how much I wished they did. Boy's Life magazine, which was affiliated with the Boy Scouts of America, had more realistic ads on their back page. The ad showed hundreds of great gifts, baseball bats, gloves, basketballs, model kits and even a bow and arrow. The bow and arrow caught my eye; all I had to do was sell twelve boxes of greeting cards to get my prize.Well, how hard can it be to sell twelve boxes of greeting cards? Everyone needs those don't they?I cut out the coupon and sent it off and a few weeks later received my cards. The first box or two wasn't too hard to unload- Mom bought one and I think Grandma did. After that it became a marathon, knocking on doors of strangers for blocks around. You would be surprised at how many people don't want greeting cards, and there were a fair number who didn't want goofy kids knocking on their doors at all. After what seemed like eternity, I finally sold all twelve boxes and sent off for my prize- a bow and arrow. I was half expecting a dorky little wooden job with plastic arrows and a rubber tip; I was cynical even as a kid. What I got though, was a Ben Pearson, re-curved, fiberglass bow,with a 25lb pull, three target arrows, a paper target, finger tabs and an arm guard. Holy Toledo! This was a serious piece of equipment. What the heck were they thinking? A guy could do some real damage with this baby. I rushed upstairs to my room and proceeded to string the bow. Being the ignorant buffoon that I was, I had no idea what I was doing, having only seen bows on cowboy and Indian movies and maybe a Robin Hood flick or something. Of course I strung it up wrong, not realizing there was a right way to do it. I pulled it back as far as it would stretch and the string let loose, whacking my right ear and turning it as red as a Delicious apple. When I went downstairs for supper and told my dad about my misfortune, he immediately burst into laughter. While I was delighted to put him into such a good mood, I could have done without the throbbing red ear. It was then that he went to a bench seat under the dining room window and retrieved a beautiful laminated wooden bow that he hadn't used for years. I discovered he had started an archery club shortly after he moved to Marion, the Black Feathers, and used to make his own arrows, which explained the feathers and cedar shafts in the garage. Several days later he brought home a bale of hay for me to shoot at and set it up in the back yard. Hay is really dense when it's packed into a bale and thus is a good stop for the arrows, assuming you hit the bale. Of course I had no prior experience shooting a bow, and though my dad tried to direct me, I was a bit of a slow learner. I guess I hit the bale enough times to satisfy him, so he left me alone- big mistake. Occasionally the arrow would go high and either hit the top of the bale and launch across the alley or it would miss all together, thus striking Mr. Merchants garage door. I never volunteered why his door had suddenly become riddled with small holes. I'm not sure he would have been overly understanding. It didn't take long before I got tired of shooting the hay bale and launched out into more exciting adventures. I lived down the street from the highschool where there were acres of football fields, baseball fields and general empty grounds to play in. Of course having a deadly weapon in my possession immediately made me a celebrity to my friends. We would all march down to the school to shoot the bow, sometimes shooting an arrow strait up into the air. It would go so high we would see it wobble like a mirage and finally dissapear. Unfortunately my friends were just as stupid as I was and we had no idea where the arrow would come down at so we all ran like hell in different directions until it hit the ground with a thud. How do boys ever grow up to be men? It's a mystery indeed. My most satisfying expeience with that bow was one March day. I was down at the school shooting, minding my own business. Amy O'Dowd, a snotty little kid from a few streets over was flying her kite in one of the practice fields. I was walking home when she say's " I bet you can't hit my kite." I told her I bet I could, so she says,"Well go ahead and try then." So I let fly. Let me tell you, that arrow went straight and true right through that paper kite ripping it and causing it to tumble like an airplane in a dog fight. The only thing that would have been more satisfying at that moment would have been if it had caught fire on it's way down. She screamed an hollered that she was going home to tell her dad and I ran down the hill, retrieved my arrow, smiling from ear to ear and feeling like Robin Hood, William Tell and Fred Bear all rolled into one. For the better part of fifty years whenever I think of that day I still smile. Take that Amy O'Dowd, and watch who you challenge next time.