Numbing cold bites at the hunters fingers, the atlatl in his right hand is reassuring to the cautious man as he moves deeper into the darkness of this cold mountain. He has been searching for a sheltered place to build a fire and hopefully get some much needed sleep. Three weeks ago while on a mammoth hunt with his clan he was separated from the other hunters when he slipped into a ravine, the steep sides kept him from climbing up, forcing him to follow the ravine for miles an order to get out. Since then he has traveled for days in country new to him, the rolling hills of his homeland are a stark contrast to these rugged mountains he travels through now. Long Horn is his name, he received the name as a young man when a wooly rhino drove it’s horn through his mammoth hide shirt before finally expiring from the long spears in it’s side. The snow is falling outside this cave, large flakes promise to cover the ground with feet of the white stuff by morning. Long horn searches the cave, once confident that it is unoccupied he builds a fire with his bow and drill. The firelight illuminates the cave with an orange glow, on the walls and ceiling of the cave are strange pictures of men hunting beasts. The pictures of mammoth, mastodon and wooly rhino are familiar to him, but others are not, some sort of a wolf with long spear like teeth and a creature built much like a buffalo with long claws makes him quiver despite the fires warmth. He can have no way of knowing he is seeing pictographs of the short faced bear and saber tooth cat which hunt these mountains. In the corner of the cave he finds a skeleton of a long dead man, next to the man is a bundle of sticks, the sticks are strange to Long Horn. One has a length of cordage on it and the others are much like his own spears, only smaller. The pictures on the wall show men killing the beasts with this new weapon, the longer stick is strung like his bow used for fire making. With effort Long horn strings the bow and for the first time knocks an arrow to the string, after several attempts he releases an arrow from the bow. Long horn stands in awe at the speed with which the weapon propels the small spears, the arrow slams into the rock wall and shatters on impact. He spends the remainder of the afternoon practicing with the bow and is surprised at the speed and accuracy of the weapon, he can only imagine the distance with which game could be taken with his newfound bow.
Long Horn is sound asleep, visions of game falling to his arrows dance in his dreams, his fire has died down to coals leaving the cave bathed in darkness except for a faint glowing of red on the walls and ceiling near his bed. What woke him he can not say, maybe a sound or maybe a scent, whatever it was it saved his life. From the darkness he sees the tawny form of the spear tooth monster coming toward him, his atlatl and spears are too far away to reach, the bow and arrows are right next to his bed, he knocks an arrow and aims at the monster, the first arrow strikes the spear tooth in the neck and buries to the fletching, another follows quickly behind and glances off the beasts shoulder. Long Horn follows the fleeing monster out into the snowy night, on the snow is a wide trail of blood from the mortally wounded feline. Long horn stands at the entrance to the cave and hollers his victory into the night. He will return to his people, his new weapon will make him the best hunter in the clan, his stature as a hunter will elevate him to the position of leader within a year, his people will become the most powerful and widest ranging peoples in these lands. All because of the bow.
We can not be sure of the first person who strung a bow or what they were thinking, one thing is certain, from that moment on their lives were forever changed.. today we enjoy the sport of archery, not for survival purposes of to feed our families. Maurice Thompson, wrote in his book the Witchery of archery, “So long as the new moon returns in heaven a bent beautiful bow“, “so long will the fascination of archery keep hold of the hearts of men.” somehow those words have rang true for centuries. Through my writings I hope to spark an interest in the sport for those who have not had the pleasure of enjoying the flight of the arrow, for those who have but haven’t done so in a while I would encourage them to pick up the bow again and help promote the sport. I promise when you brace the bow, and feel that string slip from your fingers, your soul will become one with the flight of the arrow, and you will become a brother or sister of the bow from the first flight.. Hawk