Years ago, I was really interested in archery. Mostly, I think, because my parents presented Robin Hood to me as a hero.
My grandfather taught me to shoot a rifle, gave me my first knives, and bought me my first bows. Except he was ambidextrous, and he taught me to shoot a bow left-handed by mistake. So for years, I shot a left-handed recurve that probably had about a 45-pound draw weight (force needed to pull the string back completely).
I gave it up when I moved into an apartment building. They frown on arrows flying up and down the halls. But the other day I was thinking about the old Robin Hood legends, went on CraigsList and impulse-bought a hunter's used bow.
It's a crazy right-handed compound, more machine than elegance. Max draw is 70 pounds, which means I can barely use it. It's fast enough to bring down large game and it's got more gadgets on it than I know how to use. The first thing I did was remove the sights.
My mother used to read me a 1979 printing of Howard Pyle's "The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood," a beautifully-illustrated edition. My father, a filmmaker, bought 16mm reels of the old 1950s Robin Hood television show, and we'd screen them on a projector in the living room.
My dad and I talk politics from time to time, which is always fun because we don't agree on much. I've always wondered where my own socialistic tendencies came from, because I don't think those were Mom-and-Dad sanctioned. So it was kind of a lightning-bolt moment when I realized that despite their conservative leanings, the character they'd presented to me as a hero was mostly known for robbing from the rich and giving it to the poor (along with splitting arrows, fencing, and drinking a lot of mead).
Just listen to the first 36 seconds of this, an old episode I randomly clicked on.
I'm sure there are a million other moments and ideas and people that influence us all, but the stories of Robin Hood played a large role in my childhood.
So buying this compound bow was a new experience. It's right handed, but that's not an accident. I figure if I'm going to try and learn something new, now is the time to re-learn which side I shoot on. It still feels awkward, but I need the strength of my right arm (what that it is).
Wow, it's fun. Nothing at all like the old wooden arrows I'd shoot with, lobbing them towards a target. You know what's expensive about archery? Frickin' arrows. Especially when you can't shoot and launch them out into the woods at 300 feet per second.
I have to admit, it makes me want to hunt. I've never killed anything with fur or feathers (plenty with scales), but a part of me would like to experience the "food process" from hunt to plate. But another part of me wants to be a vegetarian, so don't expect hunting posts anytime soon.
For now, I've found a use for all the magazines I recently subscribed to: stuffing them in cardboard boxes to use for targets. That part hasn't changed, since I was a kid.