Underneath all the festivities, however, lie the twin menaces of the holiday season, gnawing at the back of our minds and causing us (or at least me) to fret to the point that we do stupid things, like lose our cell phones in the Mendards parking lot and leave the house wearing two different colored socks. For the past six-ish weeks, I've been wholy preoccupied by the holiday struggles of a) what do I buy and b) how the h*%# will I wrap it? Laugh if you will, but I can't be the only one driven to distraction by gift giving. I just can't.
Time for Christmas shopping has to come from somewhere, and for me, that time pulled me out of the stand and into the store. On the few rare occasions I made it out, I found myself furtively searching Amazon and Etsy on my phone instead of doing my job and actually watching the woods. Thankfully, one gift was a no-brainer, and even though I knew way back in November that I would be making this purchase, it was the one I waited longest to get, slipping just under the wire to bring it home on December 22nd. And once again, it was my bow shop guy that helped make it happen.
You've read in previous stories about my sister, The Sidekick (see this story, and also this one). As I have fallen more in love with archery, I've taken her along for the ride. From turkey hunting, to target courses, and finally to deer season, Samantha has been by my side, not only cheering me on but also being pretty damn good company. She has carried my pack, recorded scores, and even worked the slate call and binoculars for me. This past fall, she started commenting on how she wanted a bow of her own, and I was going to make that happen for her, no matter what. Greg at Crooked Creek Outdoors picked out the perfect bow, a sweet little red Genesis that we fitted with a whisker biscuit and D loop to help give her stability. Her arrows were just like my beginners, fletched with two orange and one yellow, and some field tips, judo points, and a paper target finished the package. I think I smiled more bringing home her bow than when I took home my first one, but I would need a second opinion on that for sure.
For me, the wind-up of gift giving is just as much fun as the pitch. The delivery of The Gift began on Christmas Eve, also known to almost everyone in McDonough County as "Sammy's Birthday." Her birthday is a big deal; she starts counting down the days until the next one right around the time the room goes dark after she blows out her candles. The wind-up began as she opened her birthday present; a pink-and-purple Nerf bow, complete with two screamer arrows and one suction cup projectile. She was nice enough to look at it for a minute before saying "sister, this is for kids," gently pointing to the photos on the packaging of ten year olds flinging foam arrows from the plastic limbs. I reassured her that it was perfect for her, and it would afford her a chance to practice shooting, just like me. I watched as she sucked up her disappointment and took her "bow" to the hallway, taking shots at a post-it note taped to the back of the guest room door. I almost cracked under the pressure as she solemnly drew back and released, arrow whistling past my head. Almost.
Wind-up completed, I started the delivery Christmas day. All the trappings for her real bow were carefully wrapped, and I started doling them out carefully throughout the afternoon. Arm guard, hip quiver, judo points, and release were all opened and tried on as I reminded her that they were for her practice bow. Thank goodness I don't lie to her often, and she didn't doubt me once (or she is getting better at reading and deceiving me). The coup de gras happened as my parents opened their very last gift, and I told Samantha to grab something for me from under her bed. We all pulled up cameras as she fumbled around, slowly drawing out one final package, the most special one of all. Her face went from confusion to joy in an instant, and she held up her prize with the biggest smile of all, right in front of the little Christmas tree in her room. Norman Rockwell couldn't have painted a prettier scene.
Bowhunting has been my activity alone for more than a year now, However, as she strapped on her release and nocked her first arrow, Samantha moved from my sidekick to my partner. Now archery is a thing we can do together, as we did the next chilly afternoon as she took aim and smoked her first target, a little milk jug from 15 yards. She's so serious as her arm shakes to find steady, her muscles learning the new task of drawing and firing. She punches the trigger pretty bad right now, but I think we can work on it. Her fingers were cold as ice when I pulled the plug on her first practice session, but her smile could have lit up a room. I hope the archery world is ready for Samantha, because she's been ready for a while.