Monday, September 17, 2012

The Trade...

      The tarp was rolled out on the ground as the hunters dragged their chairs to the circle with their barter goods in tow...bows and some arrows, knives and quivers and all sorts of items that any outdoorsman would like to have in his camp. The rules were explained and discussed and all nodded in agreement...

      The trade blanket was about to begin. The crew was a gnarley old bunch of experienced traders, each a die hard traditional bowhunter with years of experience in the woods and in life. A few in their “20 somethings”, but most in their 50's and 60's, trying to put on their best poker face as deals were about to be made. But one trader looked out of place. A young kid of 14, ball cap, red flannel and denim. Tall and lanky, that awkward in between space, no longer a kid, but not quite a man...Thin build and broad shoulders, not yet grown into his giant hands and long arms.

      He's quiet and his nerves show a bit, but he does his best not to fidget or twitch or show his hand. It's time for the bartering to begin as the goods are laid out. Stories are told and stories embellished. Laughter and joking, flavored with some banter before getting down to business. A few jabs are given and a few taken as each player “plays” or passes. A couple of rounds through and the kid is getting his feet wet and the nerves settle...

      Now it's his turn as he lays out a handmade straight knife and leather sheath...Dad holds his breath as his son speaks up. His young voice now deep, not a pop or crack to be heard as he describes the blade in front of him. It's on to the next trader as he proposes a deal and then to the next and so on and so on...Another knife hits the tarp, a long up swept, fixed blade, perfect for “working up” a deer. The boy picks it up and eyes it for a moment...pondering as I can almost see his mind working as he thinks. In an instant, he juts his right hand forward and shakes the knife owner's hand with a manlike grip and in a baritone voice says “We have a good trade”...

     The game of trade continued on, as the smell of the campfire drifted through cool evening air. Good deals made, some not so good deals made, but all of the participants enjoying the round. It's almost over and time to go all in, lay it all out...when its all said and done, the kid came away with more than he had started with. A beautiful, primitive selfbow of Osage, a fine boning knife and a buffalo hide quiver. But his dad came away with even more...a memory made and an experience had and pride felt as he witnessed his boy take another step further from childhood, as his gains his footing as a young man...a lump raised in dad's throat.

(This trade blanket could've taken place a hundred or even two hundred years ago, but it just happened last weekend at a gathering of the Indiana Traditional Bowhunter's Association and a good time was had by all. No Xbox, no non stop texting, no constant FB...only a group of folks with a shared interest in traditional archery and keeping old traditions alive in a world that has sadly become too fast paced)