A Sure, Steady Hand

Today is the anniversary of the day in 1307 when William Tell famously shot an apple off his son’s head at the command of a brutal overlord,  Albrecht Gessler.

I know in the story this was all was done under duress and that Tell and the boy had no opportunity to object. But I still think that as the target of a foolish stunt, no 21st century child would stand idly by (literally) while dad lifts the crossbow.

An unquestioned faith in ol’ pops’ abilities is rare these days, at least in terms of modern popular culture.  There are very few father figures on TV who are reliable and/or competent in any area. Doofuses and failures, most of them.

So if the William Tell story unfolded today, I suspect there would be some push back from the offspring. And as long as we’re totally making things up, I am also quite certain the argument, if it happened, would be framed in a lame verse.

My son, stand straight with posture firm.
Don’t slouch or wriggle, lurch or squirm.
I’m widely known as quite the shot
and if you stay upon your spot
I’ll cleave the apple quick and clean
where it is balanced on your bean.

My father dear, though you mean well
this plan of yours, I think, doth smell.
It’s hubris, pure. And pride to boot
that makes you think that you can shoot
a fruit that’s perched upon my gourd.
One flinch by you – I’m with the Lord!

Hold very still, with eyes tight shut,
Before you can say “Hey, dad, what …?”,
I’ll put an arrow to my bow
and aim the missile, then let go
and through the apple it will flit
Before you can say “Holy split!”

I don’t think mom would be too pleased
if, as you let that go, you sneezed.
I know you sometimes scratch an itch.
I’ve seen you sleeping, dad. You twitch!
You blurt, you fart, it’s all abrupt.
Am I to die if you erupt?

Don’t worry, son. I’m cool and calm.
My mind’s at peace. My soul’s a psalm.
I’ll shoot it straight and true, I know.
We shouldn’t over talk it, though.
Just know that I’m not known to fail
When fruit, with arrows, I impale.

Are you a good shot?

38 thoughts on “A Sure, Steady Hand”

  1. Good morning. I certainly shouldn’t be trusted to aim straight with a bow or anything else expect perhaps a pool ball. I have a have a slight amount of skill at shooting pool. I never learned to shoot a bow or a gun or anything like that.

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  2. It’s a good thing I can hunt my food already dead and packaged in neat plastic wrapped trays in the wilds of Kowalski’s. My results with bow and arrow (or, only once, a gun) are not reliable.

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  3. The nice thing about vegetables is they sit and wait for you.

    My hand/eye skills over distance are awful. Partly a vision thing and part youthful trauma that gave me no desire to spend any time improving those skills. PE was almost exclusively about ball sports- hated every minute of it and was humiliated by my grade. Unlike today, you had it every semester, there was no escape.

    So appreciate that the focus my son has experienced is on personal fitness and a wider range of activities, although I don’t know if archery is among them.

    Waiting to hear from Steve on this question…

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  4. I learned something interesting about this issue. I have been a wretched athlete all my life. I was the kid chosen last to be on any sports team, and I mean I would be chosen after the skinny girl with Coke bottle glasses who couldn’t throw a ball the length of a room. Because I was so inept at team sports, I avoided them in favor of wandering the woods.

    But when I fell in love with pheasant hunting, my physical limitations seemed to doom me to tragic ineptitude. So I began to practice shooting shotguns. I worked once a week at the local trap and skeet field, using my earnings to pay for two rounds each week of a trap or skeet game. I shot and shot and shot.

    Competence came so slowly that I didn’t recognize it as it developed. But in spite of myself, I began shooting well. I never became a champ at clay target games, but I have been described by others as an exceptionally skillful shooter in pheasant fields. The last thing I want to do is brag about any of this. My point is that working hard at a physical skill will make anyone more competent. I didn’t always know that. Practice might not make perfect, but it sure as hell makes better.

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    1. This seems to be true in so many things.

      Lots of people think they “can’t” sing or spwak in public, or they are “bad” at math. I truly believe this message comes first from the outside and very effectively becomes internalized as dislike and a resistance to spend ay time at getting better at something.

      On the other hand, a quick look at the facebook page from my old high school makes me a bit smug regarding my personal fitness compated with the sport’s star from days of yore.

      I never said I was a good person.

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    2. I am reminded that I did have a certain amount of skill at shooting a basketball. This came from many hours of practice just as you learned to shot a gun by practicing, Steve. I didn’t have enough athletic ability to become a really good basketball player. I could shoot well enough to play with the guys who did not have highly developed skills.

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  5. I have no idea. I’ve never shot a real firearm. Tried archery when I was a kid down at the spot between Calhoun and Harriet that used to have big hay bales set up for archers.

    I think I stuck more than a few rubber suction cup projectiles onto hard smooth surfaces when I was a kid shooting those lil’ suckers, and I was pretty good at nailing my little brother with navy beans with my “peashooter.” The bummer was picking up that edible ammunition after we’d played War for an hour or two.

    Chris in Owatonna

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  6. This is my third try to get this out. Just as I’m about to hit post, something happens and it all disappears. Probably a sign I should give up, but here goes.

    In my distant past, I was not bad with a bow. Unusual, because I was not the least bit athletic and had much the same experiences as MIG and Steve. I was so not bad on the archery range that I considered joining a league and trying to get really good. That never happened and if I tried it now, I might not even be able to pull back the bow and if I did the string would probably snap on my batwings causing pain and bruising and sending the arrow on a chaotic and possibly catastrophic path.

    On the other hand, I worked for several years at an allergy clinic and could give a darn fine allergy injection, a skill I believe I could resurrect to this day. So yes, I am (or at least can give), a good shot.

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  7. Morning all. Metaphorically I can always give a good shot across the bow. Physically, hard to say. I’ve only ever shot a gun once, on a desert jeep tour in Arizona. I did hit the pop can (which I kept for years on my dresser) but I can’t take too much credit for hitting a can that was sitting perfectly still while a guide stood behind me, giving me tips about aiming. I did take archery one semester in college, but my main recollection is about how much the instructor talked and how little we actually got to practice!

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  8. Here’s an odd little story about skill and practice. We don’t usually think of kissing as a skill,, but it is. I had only one kiss in high school. The girl and I clunked teeth so hard I was seeing stars. Poor technique!

    When I was home from my first year of college I met a Swedish blond named Cathy Johnson (which doesn’t narrow things down much). We hit it off and began having dates that were mostly about kissing. When we were in the car together she slid all the way over next to me, and I drove with my right arm around her. When we came to a stop sign I realized I would have to let go of Cathy to shift. The car was an ugly old Mercury with “three on the tree,” if you know that phrase.

    Cathy asked if I wanted her to shift. Great! I wouldn’t have to let go of her. When I pushed the clutch, she snicked the shifter into first gear. After brief accelerations she slide the shifter through the gate up to second and then dropped it into third. This was done with the skill of a sports car driver.

    We drove in silence a bit. I had to ask. “Cathy, didn’t you say you don’t know how to drive? How did you learn to be so good at shifting?”

    “Doing this.”

    I determined to become better at kissing. Practice, practice, practice!” If you want to get to Carnegie Hall, you gotta practice. Or if you want to get to second base.

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  9. This is one of the very best blogs Dale has done.
    The image of parents on TV and in movies is one of my hot-button topics. Or all authority figures.Grump. Grump.
    Despite having grown up in the woods, I do not know if I am a good shot. Hunted partridge a few times with a 4-10. I seldom missed but I only shot at the ones that broke right in front of me. I never deer hunted. Have never had the desire, not sure why. Not because of the killing part. I did the killing part of animal slaughter on our farm from the age of about ten. I did so because my father could not stand the killing part. But he did the deer-hunting. But he did not know the deer. And free meat was free meat. We never once discussed having me deer hunt with him or on my own.
    I have always had terrible hand-eye coordination.
    As a ten-year coach, I can say everyone benefits from practice, but there is a low upper limit for some. The ones who come in with talent develop far faster and far more than others. This has been studied. A part of athletic skill is athletic intelligence or a sense of what your body is doing and what is right and wrong.
    I also think that a motor skill will pop up in odd ways on most people. I have very poor hand-eye coordination, but isn’t painting just that? I was born with a modest bit of artistic skill and have developed it to a modest level.

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    1. i think painting is a matter of hand eye agreement about expression rather than coordination. many artists are awkward athletes but use the creative part of their brains whereas all athletes have creative deficiencies

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  10. A guy who lived next to me years ago told me that he had been able to make a ringer almost every time he threw a horse shoe. He said he had been involved in horse shoe contests with some of the best people who throw horse shoes and they could also throw with that high level of accuracy. I wouldn’t have guessed that horse shoes could be thrown that well from my experiences throwing them. I was very impressed when he told me he could do that.

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  11. OT Sandy was up in the middle of the night last night, about 3. She sits in a chair by the sliding glass door. Last night a rabbit came up to the window (we have lots of rabbits and they are very used to us) and after staring at her for awhile, starting awing at the glass.

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  12. I am pretty good at hitting the waste basket with crumpled up paper. I have fired a gun a few times and also shot arrows in archery class in high school. I can’t figure out if I am right eyed or left eyed, so I can’t figure out how to aim.

    I am going to get a shingles shot sometime this week.

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    1. I had it. Hope it works. Must stay healthy to take care of Sandy. Expensive.My insurance would not pay for it, which I knew beforehand.

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    2. I got one last year. Was surprised to know that they’re far from 100% effective. As I recall, the shot cost $92.00 at Walgreen’s .

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  13. Son posted a photo someone took of a mountain lion sitting ouside a patio door. The caption says “If you’re cold, they’re cold. Bring them inside.”

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  14. Afternoon.
    I can’t hit the broad side of a barn usually.

    I’ve had lots of experience shooting raccoons or opossums in the chicken coop, but that’s close range.
    Last year I bought a rifle with a scope for shooting the coyotes eating the chickens.
    Earlier this summer a coyote sat about 50 yards away. I had the cross hairs right on him and I fired and he just plumb ‘disappeared’! I thought maybe I had actually ‘blown him to bits’. But no, he just ran off.
    I think I’m stuck in that bad habit of blinking when I squeeze the trigger.

    Daughter enjoys her bow and arrow. She’s a better shot than I am with that.

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  15. Back during my bachelor days between marriages, I was dating a Swedish guy for a while. He took me to a shooting range once to try to shoot his handgun. I didn’t much care for it because of the noise, but as it turned out, I was actually a better shot than he was despite it being my first and only time shooting a firearm.

    In college I took archery, and really enjoyed it, and was reasonably good at it. I’ve never shot at anything live, and wouldn’t care to.

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        1. The nut I’m married to has been known to shoot mice with a pellet gun. I’m not kidding you. Upstairs in the kitchen. Nuts, I tell you, nuts, but in all fairness, I guess it does attest to his prowess with a pellet gun.

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  16. Trying to think of when I have shot something — nerf gun, potato gun, air rifle once or twice. PE: basketball, volleyball, golf. Horseshoes, pool. No good at any of those.

    Ping pong – we started playing several years ago, and only manage to do it once or twice a year, but I think I could be pretty good if, as others have mentioned above, I really practiced.

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  17. i grew up son of a north dakota bird hunter who was son of a deer/ wolverine hunter. i learned to shoot when i was 5 or 6. had a 16 guage shotgun shot birds until i stopped. i learned to instinct shoot where you dont look down the barrel you lead the birds to hit where they will be not where they are . did that with golf to, putting in particular. i was an atheletic kid and felt lucky to have the natural attributes to run and hit and shoot the basketball hit the home runs etc. then i turned hippy and all that was taken away by the nazi coaches who would let me play if i didnt cut my hair. the wrestling coach was bummed when i pinned his studs in phyed class after i had just turned vegetarian and lost some weight so i was pure sinew and 135 lbs. that ewas the end of my atheletic prowess except for softabll broom ball and football oh yeah and skiing, geeze i loved skiing. until i started breaking stuff that messed that up. shoulder foot collerbone ankle. now i walk pretty good and am gald y heart slowed back down so i can get on witht he last 2/3 of my life. i saw the movie the other day about jane goodall in africa anfd the gorillias getting their hands cut off by poachers. i was crying with her. i dont understand how everyone feels emotion for gorillias and not for all critters. i allow linda to take it out on misquitoes and centipedes but thats where i draw the line. i think maybe i could take a shot at poachers who take the hands of gorillias the horn of a rhino the tusks of an elephant etc and the shot would aim to serve as a reminder and an announcement of what the consequences of acting inhumanely would be. mental images are better imagined than expressed sometimes. but id be a good shot

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