There are a few moments that stick out in my memory of childhood. Not surprisingly, the majority of those moments were related in one way or another to my mother and father.
In the summer between the third and fourth grade, we were fortunate enough to move into a middle class Houston suburban neighborhood. Our home was, by today’s standards, modest. It was a three bedroom, one bath, one car garage and they paid about $12,500 for the place. It did; however, have a beautiful front yard and a large fenced back yard with thirteen tall pine trees, honeysuckle and a huge bamboo growth at the back corner of the fence. Looking back on those times now I realize, one of the best things about growing up in that area of Oak Forest was our home’s proximity to The Bayou and The Woods.
One must remember that I was growing up in the age of the black and white western. My mother had taken my brother and I to see Zorro at the cinema early on and I had seen many episodes of the Rifleman and Lone Ranger at other kids’ homes. We did not actually get television until I was nearing the end of the forth grade. At the time I felt somewhat neglected. Now, I know the lack of TV was a blessing. Kids being what they are, bamboo being what it is and pine abounding, I had solicited my mother’s help on numerous occasions in the building of bows and arrows. My arrows never had fletching or points and my “bows” (such as they were) were strung with kite string. Needless to say, the results left much to be desired.
Remember my saying “age of the western” and you can well imagine the conversations between my parents (in particular, my mother) and I regarding the probability of Santa Claus delivering a BB rifle on Christmases as another man’s fanciful dreams. We never even broached the subject of a 22!
The Christmas of my fifth grade year brought a longish, skinny box under the tree that rattled strangely. On Christmas morning, upon opening that box, I beheld the most beautiful, laminated, dark brown 20 pound recurve bow and six, blond wooden arrows with target tips I had ever seen. I suspect it was a Ben Person or Ted Williams but for the life of me I can’t remember a brand name. The Sears catalog was a Big Deal in my house.
Looking back on it now, I realize it was either my mother taking pity on the inept bower skills of a young man desperate for a weapon to take to “The Bayou” or relief on her part that I would at least no longer be pestering her about the fabrication of new armament.
The only admonition I can remember regarding safety was something to the effect of “Don’t shoot the dog” and “Don’t shoot your brothers”. By now I had two brothers. I can’t really remember in what order those directives came. I can testify that I loved the dog. I was still unsure of the brother thing. But that is a story for another time.
I shake my head in wonderment every time I think about my poor deluded parents actually believing my finely crafted implement of destruction and death was more “safe” than a BB gun. By this time I had plenty of experience with the normal kids’ assortment of air rifles and this bow could launch a projectile four times farther than any Daisy Red Rider. It was like comparing a Black Cat firecracker to an atom bomb!
As in so many cases like this, the 20 pound draw was a little on the heavy side for me, a tall for my age but skinny kid (You would never guess that by looking at me now!) but I was able to achieve a decent level of proficiency practicing on dirt clods, pine cones, frogs and anything else that caught my fancy. Soda cans were a thing of the distant future.
The “Bayou” I mentioned earlier was the Buffalo Bayou. It meandered through northwest Houston and eventually into the San Jacinto River. It was actually a small tributary and during most times averaged about twenty feet in width. If it got really dry for a few months, there were places to be forded and still have dry feet with the use of a handy downed tree. If we had heavy rains, the bayou would fill its banks and appear to be a lake a three quarters of a mile wide and five or six miles long in my area. The city had taken to mowing in and around the trees along the road that bordered the flood zone of the bayou and had succeeded in making a nice park-like environment easily accessible to the citizenry for picnicking. Further back, closer to the banks of the small river, the mowers were hesitant to go and the natural environment of the piney woods had been preserved. It was only a matter of 20 minutes walking from my house to step directly into THE WOODS and all of her unkempt mystery.
One of the most satisfying parts of archery in those open spaces was what I referred to as “leg shooting”. This was when I would lie on my back, place the belly of the recurve on the soles of my feet and draw the arrow back to its full length and then launch it to see how far it would fly. This was the only way in which I could achieve full draw and man would that baby sail!
Now, armed with my high-tech bow and ever present machete (Yep, never a word about that big blade either.) there was neither man nor beast safe while I prowled the thickets of the bayou.
Time past and the bow was relegated to storage under my bed. I graduated to the Boy Scouts, time past, I grew in strength, Hunter safety courses and more freedom allowed for the other kids to carry their air guns camping. My parents were still vehemently against having a gun of any description in our house and then I remembered my bow. The intervening time had left two of my cherished arrows warped beyond use and I had already lost one. This left me with three shootable arrows. When I first showed up at a campout with my bow, there was some degree of derision from the air gun crowd, however, my increased strength now allowed for consistent full draw and with a little practice I could drill steel cans through both sides at distances that the air guns only left weak dents in. Seeing those cans fly put an abrupt end to the joking.
Interestingly, no one ever asked to try my bow. I never did understand that. Apparently, I had taken the unofficial position of Resident Archer in our troop and no one wanted to debate or challenge the fact.
At this point I must admit I had yet to actually kill anything of personal note. There were many times I had been able to come within easy shot of rabbits, armadillos and snakes but could never bring myself to loose. It just always seemed too easy. Besides, if I had killed anything it would have dictated cleaning and cooking the victim.
It was on one cool, fall afternoon my camping compatriots were taking pot shots with their air rifles at a flock of ducks on a private lake I caved into peer pressure and launched an arrow into the flock resting on the water. There was no one more surprised than I to see one bird unable to take to the air after my shot. I and the godless heathens in my troop of bloodthirsties took to our canoes and pursued the hapless critter. I was kneeling in the bow of one canoe armed to the teeth while my savage companions paddled furiously to the scene. When we arrived at the likely site I found my arrow floating in the water. I stood, arrow nocked and ready to deal the coup de gras. The bird, a mud hen, surfaced directly in front of me, gulped air and dove before I realized why I could not at first find the bird. Moments later I heard a splash to my right rear, I wheeled around and snap shot, striking the bird squarely in the body, driving it under water with the shaft’s impact, killing it instantly.
At once I was surprised with my success and with the suddenness of the event. The poor wretch floated to the surface immediately accompanied by the whoops and hollers of my band of hearties…arrgh!
We recovered the beast and returned to shore with the arrow still impaling the duck as proof of death. You would have thought I had killed a marauding grizzly bear! The celebration went throughout the camp. Even the adult leaders seemed impressed. Of course, fair chase rules required cleaning and roasting of the game on an open spit to satisfy the complete ritual.
One sweltering summer, during another campout at the same ranch a little north of Houston I and another scout (whose name will remain anonymous to protect the stupid), were snooping around in the woods. It was hot. If you have never been in Texas along the Gulf Coast during July and August, there is no way to accurately convey the miserable, stifling humidity and heat suffered by all during that time of the season.
I say there was no breeze. I say I was thirsty. I say I was short of temper all in an attempt to minimize the foolishness that I was about to commit brought on by circumstance. As was usual, I was armed with machete and bow. Never having quite managed to buy a quiver, I held two arrows in the same hand as the bow. We were looking for animal tracks around a cattle pond. For those of you not familiar with such a “pond”, in Texas a cow pond is a hole dug with a back hoe tractor to catch rain water for the bovine population to drink during the aforementioned hot, dry summers. As such, a berm is mounded up around the perimeter of the hole to act as a retainer for the hoped-for water. One might be lead to ask “Doesn’t the water just soak into the ground?” but then you would have revealed that you had never been properly introduced to calitche clay. This dark brown to red substance is completely impervious to the penetration of water, shovels, post hole diggers and pick axes. No honey, it don’t soak in.
My partner already had a long and storied reputation for being a pest (polite for jerk). He continually goaded those much bigger and stronger into pounding on his head and we all wondered if he was somehow one of the less mentally capable among us. At any rate, he took it into his mind on this day that throwing rocks at me and watching me dodge them could be great sport. He began tossing stones at me.
I was able to dodge three or four and began to become more than a little vexed at his behavior. I warned him that were he to hurt me, the consequences would be dire. I think the exact wording was something along the lines of “I’m going to kick your ass if you hit me!” Remember, I was carrying my bow.
He merely laughed, stooped over, picked up a few more stones and hurled two at once. Never being known for an inordinate amount of speed or grace, I was only able to dodge one of the projectiles and was struck on the point of my left ankle with the other. My immediate response was, shall we say, red.
Through the tears in my eyes I vaguely remember cursing loudly that I was going to kill the !@#$. My tormentor disappeared into the surrounding woods still laughing. I nocked an arrow, went to the top of the berm around the cow pond and waited for the instigator to pop up to see what was happening. Within minutes, he indeed came up directly across the pond from me at about thirty yards. Without thinking, I snap shot at the so-and-so.
As soon as I had loosed the arrow, I thought to myself “Oh my God!” I saw my aim was true (one of the best shots in my life, I might add) and the shaft was hurtling to its target as if guided by radar. My quarry’s eyes grew to the size of saucers as he saw the incoming was headed straight for his chest. He opened his mouth to speak and stepped backward, pitching off of the berm and onto his back. The arrow whizzed right through where he had been standing only a second before.
I then heard a timid voice coming from a now well protected position behind the dirt saying “Man, you tried to kill me!” and then “Don’t shoot…OK?” By this time I was sitting on the ground, thanking God, shaking at the thought of what might have been and how fortunate we both were. From that day on, my assailant never picked on me again.
That was my first experience with a target “ducking the string”.
I am so grateful he did.
I like to think I have gotten much better control of my temper since then.
I guess this is what is meant by “Adult Supervision Required”.
-------------------- "...and he put away his looking glass. He saw his face in everyone." Posts: 69 | From: Sedro-Woolley, Washington | Registered: Nov 2009
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My fist kill was a rabbit that I hit a little far back, I tracked it till kerfew then headed for home. after telling story on school bus next morn apparently one of them girls with koodys heard me because that night her Dad came over with my arrow and rabbit still stuck on end of it. Well to make a long story short my Dad didn't want to hear that all he told me was not to shoot your mothers birds.
Posts: 190 | From: PA | Registered: Apr 2011
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Buffalo Bayou....HPD's favorite spot for giving swimming instruction.
-------------------- The two enemies of the people are criminals and government, so let us tie the second down with the chains of the Constitution so the second will not become the legalized version of the first. - Thomas Jefferson Posts: 2157 | From: Texas | Registered: Nov 2003
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One day, when I was 12 years old, the older kids including one of my brothers thought it was real fun to shoot me with their BB guns another kid, my age thought it would be just as much fun to shoot me with his fiberglass bow. He stuck a field point in my arm. Armed with only a 55 pound at 28 inch Pearson Gamester and three bludgeon tipped arrows. I pulled the arrow out of my arm broke into pieces, (my buddy) first took issue "you owe me an arrow". Realizing that I was going to give him one of mine, he took off running, right in the middle of the back. I went over and picked up my arrow. On my way home the older guys started in on me with their BB guns again, this time I was not defenseless, they were begging for mercy and I had none. I got four apologies from four bullies that evening, none of them were feeling very good. The person that took it all the worst was the father of the kid that shot me with an arrow, I do not know if it was for me or his kid. This was the first day that I had those bludgeons, I always had steel blunts and broadheads before. He realized that I could have just as easily used my broadheads and he cut his kid's bow into little chunks. I was po-ed to say the least and he knew it, no one dared try anything again. Sometimes even older juveniles need adult supervision, there is a bully in our public woods that found that he could threaten others to keep them away from where his tree stand is, he goes around demanding to see boot bottoms if he sees tracks in the field. The one game warden half way supports his claim on a whole chunk of woods, the other game warden wants to kick him out permanently. I have given him fair warning that I will hunt anywhere I want and if he pulls his bow on me like he has on others, guess what, I don't take bullies lightly. Be polite with your woodies adventures and don't think you can push people around too far, you may run into someone with a quick temper and even a quicker draw.
Posts: 2559 | From: Iowa | Registered: Oct 2009
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I have my own stories but my mother is still alive so I'll leave them alone..lol
Merry Christmas and God bless, Mudd
-------------------- Trying to make a difference Psalm 37:4 God's grace and love! Roy L "Mudd" Williams TGMM- Family Of The Bow Archery isn't something I do, it's who I am! Posts: 9834 | From: Mid-Missouri | Registered: Mar 2003
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Man, How times have changed. I can tell a few stories like that having grown up on a farm with a bow from the age of 5, a BB gun mixed in there somewhere and a .22 rifle by age 11. This was in the sixties. A lot of boys growing up had the same things. Nowadays I would hate to see the reaction.
-------------------- PBS regular UBM life member Compton Posts: 1020 | From: Imperial, MO | Registered: Jul 2005
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Reminds me of my old Shakespeare 20# fiberglass bow. When I was about 15 I was home looking after my handicapped brother which was something I did alot growing up. This day some friends came over to visit unannounced. After awhile for some reason they began to cop an attitude with me so it told them the conversation is over, time for you to leave. I went in the house but they did not leave, instead they began taunting me from outside, moving onto the front deck. In my room upstairs there was a balcony looking over the living area and the front door. There happened to be a window pane missing from the front door where Dad had locked himself out a couple of days back and accidentally broke the glass trying to remove it so he could reach in and unlock the door. He placed a peice of card board in it temporarily. Well my "buddies" outside continued to harass me despite my attempts to get them to leave. They just kept on and I admit I got mad. I went upstairs, strung my bow nocked an arrow and sent it through that 6 x 8 peice of cardboard and it stuck into the deck between them. One of them let out a "d@#$% Duncan!" but it got real quiet out there and they decided it was best they leave. I'm still friends with them to this day but they have never messed with me again. The scary thing is is that I had a shotgun and a .22 in my rack in my room but I chose the bow instead thinking it would just scare them off and it did.
-------------------- Member NCBA Posts: 218 | From: North Carolina | Registered: Feb 2011
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Nice story Konrad and well written. Thanks.
The only time I shot a person was with a slingshot. He had purposely spooked a huge frog I was about to drill. It was the biggest any of us had killed and I held the record up til then. He ended up killing it and I was so mad I let him have it. I hit him in the backside of the thigh, on purpose, and didn't full-draw on him. I wasn't completely evil.
-------------------- "Always feel the wind, and walk just like the leaves". ("LongBow Country"--Chad Slagle, "High, Wild, and Free"). Posts: 3961 | From: Sayreville, New Jersey | Registered: Feb 2007
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quote:Originally posted by Bill Kissner: Konrad, sounds like a normal childhood for someone from the 40's or 50's . Great remembrance!
I was thinking early 60's myself.... i was in 4th grade myself before we had a TV in the house too.
This story really brings back good memories of building primitive weapons and traps as a kid.My folks wouldn't allow a "Toy" gun in the house either.....I must admit, the sling shot was my weapon of choice then....... Remember the days when you could get those red inner tubes with really good rubber in them?
we made a giant sling shot that would shoot apples 200 yards easily that we took to shooting spears out of. it was like a giant bow and arrow. we had a blast with that thing.