Clyde Davis: CNJ columnist
I magine the pieces of your life, the events and the happenings, intersecting like coordinates on an axis. Each line between coordinates represents some significant event, and that means significant to you not someone else.
Now imagine a line connecting “know I did the right thing, without question” to “totally bizarre and beyond my comprehension.” That is the matrix for today’s story.
The Rankokas Renape First American reservation is a slice of land in western New Jersey. It is not a reservation in the sense we usually use the word, because no one lives there.
It was purchased by a group of Algonkin people for a cultural center. Each year, the supporting factions hold a pow-wow for education and fund-raising.
It isn’t worth the space to explain how I, as a volunteer, got put in charge of the archery range, the fund-raiser of the high school group. Suffice it to say that I got my first bow and arrows at 10 and although I make very few bulls-eyes, I am very familiar with the tools. (I deliberately chose the term “tools” instead of “weapons.”)
Thus I found myself running the shooting line in shifts while the high school students of the cultural center retrieved the arrows. These were regulation recurve sets, not rubber-tipped toys.
We were between shifts, and a boy of about 15 with a girl of about 14 had gone onto the range to get the arrows, when I heard a female voice say “Billy, shoot the arrow.” I looked down the line and there was a little fellow about 8 with his arrow notched, ready to follow his mom’s command.
Between him and the target were my two high school helpers.
Obvious response: I shouted “Billy, put the bow down!”
My two high school helpers turned with a deer-in-the-headlights stare, which turned to relief when they saw all was under control … Billy looked at me, then his mom, with the arrow notched at knee level.
In irritation his mom said, “Billy, just shoot the (darn) arrow!”
I countered, “Billy, do you see those two people in your way? Don’t you dare shoot that arrow, son !”
Billy’s mom looked at me and said, “And just who are you?”
I refrained from the immediate sarcastic answer that popped into my head, “Just a guy who likes to stand on firing lines.”
By now, Billy had dropped the bow, so I simply said, “I am the person in charge of this activity. If your son shoots an arrow, he is putting my helpers in danger …”
I wanted to say more, but Billy and the two teens were listening.
“If you and I have an issue to discuss, we can go talk to the chief about it; he’s the head of the whole pow-wow. But you need to have him wait until the range is clear.”
She said something nasty, grabbed Billy and said “Let’s go.” I looked at my two helpers and we laughed and hugged each other like people do at a near-miss, then some of the other customers, who’d been frozen there, laughed and started shaking hands in that relieved way people have under such circumstances.
It was exactly 10 years ago this coming May, and Billy would be about 18.
I wonder how he turned out … Perhaps I don’t want to know.
Clyde Davis is pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Portales and an instructor at Eastern New Mexico University. He can be contacted at: