Because A Raccoon Attack Makes Sense

Monday, July 11, 2011
I took my first lesson in archery a few weeks ago as research for my next book. I'm not sure what my expectations were, exactly, for lesson #1, but I'm almost certain they didn't include 1) the equation for kinetic energy 2) a smoking audience and 3) my medieval death.

Allow me to elaborate.

1) The Equation for Kinetic Energy
I took my lessons at Sportman's Warehouse which, for those of you unfamiliar with the store, is like a Costco--but instead of crates of spaghetti sauce, and mouthwash by the gallon, Sportman's has guns, knives, kayaks, tents, fishing poles, deer heads, men with get the picture.

Amidst the plethora of dead creatures and weapons with which to execute such mammals, there is a small area in the back labeled: Archery. It was to this area I went for my first lesson in the subject.

After weaving my way through ammunition and bear spray (a real thing), I approached a gentleman at the archery counter. We’ll call this gentleman "Bert". So, up to Bert I went, all excited to learn about bows and arrows.

I introduced myself, gave him my spiel about writing a book and doing research on archery and yada, yada, yada and then asked him, "So where should we begin?"

Bert looked at me in silence for a moment, furrowed his brow and responded, " don't plan on killing anything with these lessons...ya just wanna...learn?"
ME: "Uh...correct. I don't plan on doing any actual hunting."
BERT: "But you wanna write about hunting?"
ME: "Not exactly. I mainly just want to learn the mechanics of shooting an arrow."
BERT (scratching his chin): "For a fictional book?"
ME: "Yes."
BERT: "That's odd."

That's how our time together began. With Bert thinking I'm odd. Awesome.

He then caught me completely off-guard by kicking off our lesson with a math question.
BURT: “Do you know the mathematical equation for kinetic energy?”
ME: “….” (chirp-chirp, chirp-chirp)
BURT: “Well?”

I felt like I was back in my high school physics class and almost had a panic attack. Because I seriously sucked at physics. I don’t even remember my physics teacher’s name, let alone the formula for kinetic energy.

ME: “Um…I don’t know.”
BERT: "Well, how do ya expect to write a believable hunting scene without knowing the equation for kinetic energy?"
ME: "Oh, I didn’t know math equations were, uh…necessary when practicing archery.”
BERT (rolling his eyes): "Every good archer knows the equation for kinetic energy."
ME (nodding my head, like that made perfect sense--which it did NOT): “Okay.”

Really? EVERY good archer can just rattle it off?

And then Bert rattled off the equation for kinetic energy. From memory. And followed up by saying, “Well? Ya gonna write this down or what?"
ME: “Wha..? Oh yeah. Yeah. Lemme uh…,” I rummaged around in my purse for a pen so I could take math notes since, apparently, I might need to carry-a-one before I pull back on a bow. “Lemme just jot that down…what was it again? Velocity times the weight of the arrow…something?”
BERT (sighing): “Alright, one more time….”

So yeah, the first ten minutes of my lesson were devoted to physics and math. My two least favorite subjects. Ever.

2) A Smoking Audience.
Once we finally got around to the shooting part of the lesson, Bert took me to the back of Sportman’s, where there was a small, indoor archery range. Sounds cool, right?


The archery range also doubles as the Sportman’s Smoking Lounge for employees. So here I am, a complete novice at weapondry and a lousy mathmatician, being paraded in front of eight (yes EIGHT) Sportman’s employees (all bearded and wearing flannel) on my way to my first experience with a longbow.

It was like this:
Except, instead of guns, they all had cigarettes. (Although, I'm sure some of them had guns too.)

It’s nerve-racking enough to try something new for the first time under the direction of an expert. But trying to shoot an arrow for the first time in front of nine men who have probably been hunting with compound bows since they were old enough to smear on camo paint, was ridiculously embarrassing. And, of course, I sucked at shooting. That was apparent on my first attempt: when I tried to pull back on the 50# bow and lost my grip, slapping myself in the face.

Not cool. 

For the next twenty-five minutes, I managed to continually embarrass myself in front of my smoking audience. Until Bert finally called it quits (probably because he feared for his life…I'd almost pegged him in the neck on my last draw) and suggested we spend our remaining time discussing arrow material. (Which was just more math, by the way.)

3) My Medieval Death
The most significant realization I had during my lesson was how very strong a person must be in order to effectively shoot an arrow with a longbow. In movies and stuff, archers make it look so easy…like you simply pull back and let go. But pulling back requires a great deal of upper body strength. Which I don’t have.

This is not me, nor will it ever be:

So I had a rough time pulling back on the 50# longbow Bert had me use. (Longbow, like, straight up old school, Robin Hood style.) I think the farthest I reached was four inches back. (Keep in mind, you’re supposed to be able to pull the bow back a full arm’s length, or like 25-30 inches. But nope, that wasn’t happening.) After my many failed attempts, Bert had me put the bow down.

BERT: “You're not very strong. You would never have survived the medieval ages.”
ME: “….” 

What? When was my survival ever on the line, here? Clearly, I would not have survived the Medieval Ages. But I’m pretty sure my lack of upper-body strength wouldn’t have been responsible for my early death. The plague, maybe?...typhoid fever?...attacked by a rabid raccoon?….these are all much better guesses as to how I would have been off’d. Worst-Archer-Ever doesn’t seem like a realistic cause-of-death.

So there it is: My first lesson in archery. What did I learn from Bert? Mainly, that I’ll need a calculator and a personal trainer if I ever decided to travel through time and go hunting with a longbow.


  1. Vanessa H said...:

    After reading the hunger games I want to learn how to shoot a bow and arrow so bad! I'll definitely have to do it after I read your book.

  1. H3@th3r said...:

    Okay I have so much to say :)
    1 - When I first read a few weeks ago about your archery lessons I was so impressed because I knew why you were doing it! So cool. Really.
    2 - I love that Bert thought you were odd. ;)
    3 - I totally would've went with you and embarassed myself along side you. So next time you need someone to share something so new and crazy, give me a ring! :)
    4 - I stopped reading for a minute and literally laughed out loud at the thought of you slapping yourself in the face! Because I know my weak arms would've done the same thing. LOL!!!
    5 - You're so awesome. I love you.

  1. ashley bugg said...:

    bbbbaaaaaaaaaaaaahahahhahahaha!!!!! perfectly written. I think you have a new book here -- "My Mideval Death: Why modern woman couldn't have survived the Dark Ages." AAAAAANNND go. But seriously, I have you wheels turning, huh?

  1. mailyn said...:

    I love your blog!!! You are so funny and great at everything you do, even if its hunting and math:)

  1. @mailyn Yeah...I'm pretty sure I should stay away from sharp objects and mathematical equations. Like, permanently. Haha. :)

  1. @H3@th3r
    Oh, Heather, you have no idea. I slapped myself in the face..HARD. Like, it made this wicked CRACK sound...and I'm almost certain it left a red mark on my cheek. I would GLADLY have you join me next least that way someone can tell me if my face starts swelling.... :)

  1. Cameron Dodd said...:

    Oh, Chelsea. Could we not have picked a book about weaving baskets or painting pottery...really, anything that doesn't feature as its main plotline a life-threatening executionary-type weapon? But, hey, it is a great way to learn. And I know, I just KNOW, that if you go back...well, for one wear an oxygen mask or something, and secondly, you'll be able to pull the bow back a solid 5 inches. Supporting you from Canada, your sister.

  1. @Cameron Dodd
    HAHAHAHAHA!! (That's all I have to say about your comment...I know it's not very creative, but it's the truth. I laughed so hard when I read it. HAHAHAHA!) Maybe my *next* series will be about two sisters who play with ribbons and clouds. Safer? I think so.

  1. Charlotte said...:

    Hi Chelsea, I just have to say "Bert" was, and most likely still is, a jackass.

    There is no reason to start a novice off with a 50# bow. My recurve is 35# and I can only sling about a dozen arrows before my arms start to shake.

    If you want to do any more research on primitive archery, flint knapping or survival go to OJAM (Oklahoma Selfbow Jamboree) where they teach you to make your own. From scratch. Out of a log. With a draw knife. I am not making this up.

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