Dad, Archery, the Shop, and Me
This essay is intended to document some parts of the strong and complex
role that archery and Wilson Brothers played in my life. That
role started when I was about 3 years old and effectively ended at the
beginning of my adulthood around age 21. This essay could easily
be expanded to form several chapters in a book.
Before I go into that relationship I have to tell you a few things
about me that are central to the tale.
I am cross dominant. I do not have a heavily wired in preference
for one hand over the other when you look at all the things I do with
my hands. Most people will
call me left handed as I do two major things with my left hand -
writing and eating. But there are many things I do with either
hand, my right hand, or do well with neither. I strongly prefer
using a computer mouse with my right hand. I shot a bow right
handed along with baseball, playing the guitar, and what little
shooting of firearms I did. I am more dexterous in the
of my right hand than my left, probably from playing classical guitar
for a number of years. But I was completely unable to learn any
of the wrist and arm movements needed to play the guitar with a
pick or in a folk style for
I have a set of characteristics that occur in the non-right-handed
population at least a factor of 10 more than in the right handed.
On the positive side is a propensity for understanding certain types of
systems as a whole rather than just a collection of parts.
Another is the ability to pull together concepts from widely differing
and make them work together.
On the negative side the most important is a set of deficits in
physical dexterity, coordination, and reaction time. In essence
my body does not have a heavily wired-in side to default to when doing
something new or when reacting in a crisis situation. My brain
and body take an additional amount of time to decide which hand or
foot etc. to use in a situation which slows my reactions down.
Remember the slow, clumsy kid in your grade school class that was
picked on and tormented a lot and always last-picked for all game
teams? That was me.
There are other important aspects of me related to my handedness but
they are less relevant to this tale. I pretty clearly didn't
inherit my cross dominance as all my relatives are normal rightys for a
generations back as far as I know. Everyone else in the Wilson
clan I grew up in was right handed of course.
One other physical characteristic of mine central to this tale is that
I did not inherit the sure, steady hands of my father and his
brothers. To this day if I try to do really fine work such as
taking apart something small I quickly get quite frustrated. I
just can't control my hands at a fine scale very well. In
contrast Dad was really good at such things.
I started spending time underfoot out in that shop, which even on
North Delaware in Springfield, Missouri in those early days was less
yards from our house, when I was between 3 and 4. It's hard to
remember a time when I wasn't out there spending time with the hired
help. Luckily Mom didn't stop me as she had her
own really pleasant memories of playing in her grandfather's blacksmith
shop at a similar early age. She didn't see me as going out there
to my peril as other mothers might have. I'm forever grateful for
I soaked up what I saw and heard like a sponge and started showing
precocious abilities for mechanical and electrical things when in the
first part of grade school. I am convinced that my precociousness
came from the inherited abilities coupled with that ability to grasp
systems that goes with my handedness. I tore lots of things up
and by the time I was 8 or 9 I started being able to put them back
together again and have them work. The environment was so rich in
to do that I learned to do a lot of things and became very good with
hand and power tools in
spite of my physical deficits. By the time I was about 11
if it was something in that shop or in the nearby three houses where
the brothers lived I could understand and fix it. Wiring,
plumbing, appliances, refrigeration, TVs, you name it. I am
convinced that without that environment I wouldn't be the strong
Mr. Fixit person I still am today. But I was not able then and
still cannot do precision or finish work.
I started taking part in the actual making of products when I was about
16. Tasks related to things that got shipped out the door fell
into three rough categories:
I did a lot of work in the shop not directly on stuff going out the
Once we were in the building on Highway M I did all the electrical work
required from then on. I fixed a lot of electric motors.
Other mechanical work like replacing bearings in power tools was done
by either Charlie Peck or me. During the time on M if there was a
new power tool I was the one to set
it up and get it running. I was the only one in the shop that
knew how to use the knife grinder that went with the Delta 6"x13" wood
that was bought to replace the old one in the pictures as
I was the one that had originally set the planer up.
- Jobs that required a steady hand or craftsmanship. I never did any of these tasks.
No tillering, shaping of the bows, sanding, spray painting, or anything
of that ilk.
- Jobs that required attention to do right but not
craftsmanship. There were a number of these I performed. In
the pre takedown days I glued handle section blanks together. In
the takedown era I did a lot of drilling and tapping the handles and
limbs - not always accurately. I drilled bows for the threaded
inserts for stabilizers. I fletched arrows for the pro
shop. I prepared the gluing surfaces of the handle sections using
wood shaper and jig. Etc.
- Jobs that were more like mindless busy work. Most of these
were on things other than bows. I did lots of work on Strap-Tabs
such as the drilling and tapping of the holes for the strap
securing screw. I put rug needles together in the earlier days on
M when they were still being made and sold. I stuffed envelopes.
Some of the work was pretty satisfying, but one thing that affected my
attitude towards the work was I never really felt all that much a part
of the products that went out the door, probably because I never did
any of the crafts work on them. Dad of course got lots of the
rewards from seeing his carefully crafted bows go out the door and
be used a great deal. I also learned in the process that I did
have the mind set needed for repetitive work and did not like it at
all (actually to be honest I hated that kind of
work). My mind would always wander to other more interesting
and I'd inevitably make mistakes. Sometimes they were costly,
such as the time in the take-down era when I drilled 9 out of a batch
of about 14 limb sets with the wrong template. If I hadn't been
family I expect I'd have been fired on the spot. Things might
have been better for all concerned in the long run if I had been.
Dad wanted a number of things in his only son. The ones most
relevant here were that he very strongly wanted me to have athletic
ability as he did, he wanted me to be a skilled national champion
archer as he was, he wanted me to be interested in archery and the
business, and for me to ultimately go into it and take it over.
He lost on all counts. He lost big
on all counts except my skill as an archer and there he still
As an archer I never got beyond the level of a good amateur despite my
best efforts. I simply did and still do not have the steady hand,
arm, and shoulder required to shoot small groups at 50 meters or
more. I would always let the arrow fly as the sight wandered over
of the target rather than being able to fix the sight fairly steadily
over the bulls-eye. Only on a really good day could I hold the
bow steady enough to get champion-sized groups and those days were
rare. The situation was quite frustrating for all
Another of my physical deficits is a set of binocular vision
problems. Although I had some depth perception and had no trouble
telling that one object was in front of another my ability to judge
absolute distance was rather poor. I was never able to learn to
catch fly balls and my efforts at instinctive shooting (without any
kind of sight on the bow) were pretty comical.
I think if I had had at least one of the characteristics Dad most
in me he would have handled the situation better. But the thing
that probably most bothered him was that my heart was just never in
archery or the business. I can not remember any time during my
childhood when I wanted to go into the business. It just
wasn't ever my thing.
When I started attending college it became obvious to Dad that my
interests were definitely elsewhere and that his
dreams would never become reality. I became so much more
interested in working on various projects in the Physics Department of
Southwest Missouri State University there in Springfield that I no
longer wanted to work in
the shop at all. The situation between father and son became very
difficult and intense and
around 1972 I all-but-stopped working in the shop. In 1974 I
moved into my own apartment. After I finally finished my degree
in 1977 I found a job in New Jersey and in early 1978 I left Missouri
and the Midwest for good.
Communications between father and son were never very good.
Unfortunately as we both aged our relationship became increasingly
Had archery and a future of working in the family business been
presented to me more as a choice instead of being rammed down my throat
as badly as it was I would now have quite different feelings about my
childhood heritage. Nearly four decades later, I am still discovering ways my
childhood environment was toxic or seriously harmful to me.
Because of some of those things, I will no longer have a section on the
business on my website. Too many memories are just too painful.
Maintained by Daniel V. Wilson
and last modified on 21 September 2012.