Footsteps of our Forefathers

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Bill began his writing career by penning articles and stories for various magazines and interests, but eventually devoted his efforts exclusively to buckskinning and muzzle loading. He spent nine years as the managing editor of the American Mountain Menís magazine, The Tomahawk and Long Rifle. His three Rocky Mountain novels about the adventures of modern - day mountain men, based loosely on actual events, have met with acclaim as have his how-to book, Lighting Grandmaís Fire, and the very successful Rendezvous - Back to a Simpler Time, a text and photo work about modern rendezvous. Bill is currently working on a new novel extending the adventures of his well-established characters in the Rocky Mountain series.

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A little food for thought!!!!

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You might remember that the 1960s were part of what is now termed the golden age of archery. It was fun and exciting and filled with friendships and camaraderie. The magazines had articles about men and women who were role models for the rest of the bow and arrow community. Those heroes were stalwart in their portrayal of the sport and of themselves as clean, professional, personable, humble, and fair. At tournaments there would be hundreds of participants and often thousands of spectators. Everyone had a good time. Looking at old photographs of the events of the time reminds one of today's golf tournament galleries. Nothing like that exists for archers now. So what went wrong? In the archery magazines of the early sixties up through the latter part of that decade there were often some very revealing letters to the editor. The demise of the status quo is, in retrospect, plain to see. There seemed to be a common theme decrying the shrinking numbers of archers, especially younger ones. In 1961, clubs were bleeding members, the population of organized archery declining by estimates of up to 50% per year! One letter writer commented that if there was a faltering in organized archery it was (basically) because when an archer joined a club he was classified instantly and put right into competition whether he was ready or not, or wanted to or not. He faced a myriad of confusing and constantly changing rules whose enforcement appeared arbitrary and often unfair. As a result, he left the organizations, took his equipment (and often his friends), and went to enjoy himself in other pursuits or if he remained in archery, did so without the benefit of organized clubs. Some of the "leaders" were heard to comment that the sport was better off without those who would so easily give up. They didn't have the stuff of champions in them and the attitude seemed to be, "so who needs or wants them?" What was overlooked was the fact that it takes a hell of a lot of non-champions to make to a village. Too many rules and too much insistence on enforcement for enforcement's sake, no matter how reasonable or necessary it might have sounded to people in positions of power, resulted in driving away the very people required to keep the sport healthy and fun. As a result, when the technology changed to what is essentially a blood sport there was not the required number of archers left to keep the competition aspect of the sport in the national spotlight. Archery has come to be seen as primarily just another hunting method. Even though bows and arrows show up at the Olympics, and there are field tournaments held around the nation, it is not the popular event of yesteryear. The large number of magazines that were devoted to all aspects of archery have gone. Today there is only one magazine that talks to the competitions, and only two others that really seem interested in the techniques of equipment building and sound shooting. The population of national organizations is a mere ghost of its former self. Is what has happened to archery of importance to any other pastime, hobby, or way of life? You decide. But in the world of what, for lack of a better definition, is often called "buckskinning," what went on in archery seems to already have gotten a good start.

Whether in historical reenacting, rediscovery of old skills, survivalism, or other interests that pull people into the world of mountain men, long hunters, leather, home-spun, rendezvous, and trekking, many people are drawn together in a common interest. Local and national organizations have formed, functioned, and disintegrated.

Magazines and companies devoted to the hobby have come into being, flourished, and disappeared. Rendezvous that were so large it was inconceivable they would ever die have withered like a diseased apple tree and mouldered away. Membership, overall, has dwindled. The age of the majority of the remaining population has moved from the young and nimble to the graying middle aged and the halt and grizzled. Yes, some young folk are still drawn in, but not in sufficient numbers to support what was a dynamic life form a mere 20 to 30 years ago. Why do the youth no longer flock in large numbers to the sport? Where have the once loyal members who filled rendezvous sites to overflowing gone? Where have many of the traders we once depended on, counted on, disappeared to? Why has the hobby (or lifestyle or whatever you prefer to call it) taken such a direction? Again, you decide. But. . . if you are not having the same amount of fun you used to experience when you went to rendezvous, or trekking alone or with friends, or if you no longer get that feeling on just not being able to wait to get out in your leathers, then something has happened to take those feelings away from you, and it ain't just ageing. Perhaps, like archery, the dynamics have changed for buckskinning. Maybe too much is expected of new members (some will defend the status quo by saying "By God, I done it - newbies can do it too! It's only fair). Perhaps in our knowledge of what is correct (gained over a lifetime of experience and research) we refuse the newcomer the same opportunities of learning and mistake making we had. By doing that, perhaps we rob him, and ourselves, the chance to have fun. Not everyone can be a champion - or even a contender. And they sure won't ever be if they are not allowed to train properly before getting into the ring. How can all this be changed - reversed? Better minds than the ones at work now will have to figure that out. Most of the current leadership in the majority of organizations involved in the hobby have failed (else the active membership would be far greater than that of the early eighties and it would be growing each year). Today's apathy can't be blamed on the people who are not interested enough to join up, nor on those who have left the ranks. The present leadership needs to decide to get out of the way of those who can really lead, or be smart and humble enough to change their ways of thinking, or to seek advice and follow that which best points the way, even it goes against their core beliefs. And perhaps above all, the bickering, rule-mongering, name calling, and inter-tribal warfare, will have to come to an end and be replaced with a spirit of cooperation and ego-less desire to re-create the attitudes of yesteryear. Perhaps that will be the legacy of those involved today - but sadly, if history is a yardstick, most likely not.

 

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Until the next time, we'll see you on the trail or at the next camp.

 

stories & adventures pertaining to those than went before us.

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