archery · bow hunting · parenthood

The Archery Lesson

Protect your bow, he tells her as they walk towards the shooting line, her four-and-a-half-year-old stride not quite matching his grown-up one. But it will happen in time, sure for certain. Those hands that hold that miniature bow — traditional, we’re talking, not compound; at some point it was settled that we are a traditional archery family — I used to marvel at the feeling of one of those hands curled around one of my fingers. Now those hands manage crayons and scissors and yes, a bow with startling adeptness.

She adjusts her grip on the bow and stands where he directs her. Somehow able to guide attentively without smothering, he shows her how to position the bow, how to hold her shoulders, how to place her feet, what her hands and arms and eyes should be doing. He selects the distance but lets her choose her target (there are several to choose from).

When you’re ready, he tells her.

She carefully pulls an arrow from her belt quiver and nocks it — oops, slipped, try again — on the bowstring. She draws the string back and lets the arrow fly. A little wobbly, but that shot means business, and the arrow finds purchase in the target’s foam with a soft tbwup.

GOOD JOB! We cheer.

She smiles, that’s all, and repeats the process. This one skids under the target.

Hardly missing a beat, she repeats the process again. Another hit.

And so it goes, three more times.

It’s a sunny day with an insouciant scattering of clouds. We walk on dirt trails among scrubby but shade-rich trees. A breeze blows, coating us all in dust and geniality.

Maybe she’ll remember this afternoon, maybe not. But it’s hard not to feel it, an etching on the heart, when he asks her if she’s ready for the next target and she says, with that smile, Yeah.

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