It turns out that one of the nicest men in archery wears pink boots, but that, as they say, is a horse of a different color.
It all started out because of a conversation about guns. Specifically, my general heebie geebieness in connection with them. Which is funny because everyone else in my entire family has had some sort of up close and personal connection with them. My father, a soldier, used to bring them home. My sister could have been on an Olympic team. My mother shot throughout her pregnancy with my brother until she couldn't lie on her belly any longer, which might point towards the origins of his interest in the sport, now I come to think of it. The fact is, I am secretly proud of the fact that I have never so much as had a light sprinkling of cordite on my hands, much less fired one.
The person with whom I was having the conversation happens to own several of the damn things. Well, slightly more than several; seven, I believe. In all fairness, he has to carry one as part of his job but still, seven? Our conversations go something like this: Me "guns give me the heebie geebies, people get shot". Him "But what if someone broke into your apartment?" Me: "I'd run like hell; I'd be terrified of hitting them". There then follows a circular discussion during which I concede that no legislation on earth is going to stop the villains getting them and people need to be able to defend themselves but counter with the fact that even in situations where people are licensed to carry concealed weapons they often don't use them in extremis because they are simply not trained to do so.
Like I said, it's a circular discussion. On this particular occasion we somehow got onto things I would like to shoot, which, as it turns out is a much older, but no less deadly a weapon: a bow. And the desire to shoot one has been around for almost as long as I can remember but somehow I had never managed to do so. So one day, about 5 or 6 months ago, the gun owner, The Cop (as I like to think of him) texts me a link to a range. An archery range here in Chicago. An archery range, as it turns out, not far from my house.
I took a careful look at my options and considered all the possibilities for oh, maybe 3 seconds, and signed up. I wish I could say that I hated every moment of that first session. I can't. Despite the fact that my arm was bruised the color of red wine grapes by the end of it. I wish that I could say that my interest in getting long pointy tubes of metal tipped with feathers into a yellow circle on a piece of paper 5, 7, 10 yards or more away from me waned. It didn't. Quite the reverse, in fact. It grew. And grew. Until I was at the range on both my precious days off and thinking about being there a lot of the time I wasn't.
And then came what I now mentally refer to as "the conversation". My instructor, the pink boot wearer, possibly in an effort to deflect my evident amusement at his footwear tells me that he's read about a guy on the interwebs who has made a longbow from some red oak and a few tools from Home Depot. At which point he might just as well have said "free crack" to a junkie and pretty much got the same reaction. I started, mentally at least, planning how and when I start on such a project. Oh, who am I kidding? I did some actual planning followed by some actual purchasing of wood and tools followed closely by a lot of actual planing and sanding of wood. Arcus Illegitimae was born.
Which brings me back to the gun question. Having recently acquired a beautiful, sexy, dream of a bow, Arcus Rouge, I find myself not only loving having my very own to shoot with but thinking about the next one, Arcus II (Arcus Illigit. had a fatal flaw and will have to be recycled into something else), because I want to know that a longbow is like to shoot. Will it stop at two bows? Highly unlikely. But here's the twist in the tail - I finally get it. I get why The Cop has so many guns. Like he says: "Each weapon has a different function so one is distance, one is accuracy, one ornamental, one is your baby and there's one you couldn't pass up..." It's not about the destruction or the damage it could do. It's about recognizing the pure beauty of the tool in your hands and what you can choose to to with it.
Oh, and my archery instructor? His boots are pink because he's a civil engineer in his non-archery life and he uses spray paint to mark surfaces he's working on. And wherever I end up in the world of archery, I will never forget that it took a cop and a man in pink boots to start me on the journey.