The Passing Parade: Cheap Shots from a Drive By Mind

"...difficile est saturam non scribere. Nam quis iniquae tam patiens urbis, tam ferreus, ut teneat se..." " is hard not to write Satire. For who is so tolerant of the unjust City, so steeled, that he can restrain himself... Juvenal, The Satires (1.30-32)

Monday, October 11, 2004

FALLEN ARCHERY: Archery began, as near as anyone can tell, sometime during the Stone Age as a better way to hunt. There are paintings on cave walls showing hunters using the bow and arrow as early as 35,000 BCE, and there are other paintings of adults complaining about the damn kids painting on the cave walls and why don’t the cops do something to stop them? Now, one of the benefits of the newfangled bow and arrow, which I’m sure many an old fashioned Cro-Magnon dad told his son was just a passing fad like fire or clothing, is that it allowed you to kill your fellow caveman in a much more efficient manner than creeping up behind him on a dark night and whacking him over the head with a big stick. Not that whacking your unfriendly neighborhood Neanderthal over the head with a big stick was ineffective, but it did require your immediate presence and sometimes it didn’t always work on the first blow. Then you’d have an extremely pissed off Neanderthal trying to whack you over the head with a big stick and pretty soon everyone and his Uncle Bob would get involved and a hockey game would break out, as the late great Rodney Dangerfield once observed. Then the ref would send you and maybe a couple of other guys to the penalty box for five minutes. Life was tough in the prehistoric National Hockey League.

Over the millennia, the materials used to make bows and arrows improved but the basic design remained the same, as did the basic skills needed to operate the device. Then, towards the mid sixteenth century, archers received a startling comeuppance when gunpowder arrived on the scene. Faced with the need to modernize quickly, European militaries traded in their bows and arrows for muskets and cannon. Archery became a sport as its need as a martial and hunting skill evaporated.

I bring this up because a gentleman came into the egregious mold pit that serves as our happy little burg’s library a few days ago and asked for books on archery. I pointed him in the right direction and off he went. A few minutes later, he came into the reference room shaking his head in consternation. He informed me that the library should get some new books on archery since the ones on the shelf were old and outdated. I checked the publication dates of the two books: 1994 and 1998. I said thank you and told the gentleman that I would look into finding some newer books.

Now, given that the bow and arrow’s dominance as the missile weapon par excellence ended about five centuries ago, how can books published in the past ten years be out of date? I haven’t heard of any new movement to re-equip the US military with bows and arrows or to replace the pistols issued to police officers with whatever the newest brand of bow and arrow is. The National Rifle Association, to the best of my knowledge, hasn’t announced any plans to change its name to the National Bow and Arrow Association. And I am assuming that the basic skills archers must have are no different today than those the English archers needed to slaughter the French at Agincourt on the feast of St. Crispin. While I am sure that today's bows and arrows are made from Space Age materials, it seems to me that archery is one of those skills where I don’t have to spend a lot of money on books because what was true a century ago will still be true a century from now. But just in case there are some archers peeved at my denigrating a great sport out there, I just want you all to know that I own a shotgun and I am prepared to use it.



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