THROUGH all the ages since the beginning of the art of shooting with bow and arrow, the manner of making the implements of the art always has been of great importance to the success of the archer. And yet, among all the writing that has been done on the subject of archery, there is extremely little to be found from the pens of qualified craftsmen, or bowyers, in this work. It is for this reason, rather than from any thought of presenting a claim to being an authority on archery, that the present writer has mustered the temerity to stand with the many who have known the sport of archery so well as to have written authoritative books about it.
Having been occupied at making bows and arrows for upwards of thirty years, and having attained to the distinction of supplying the equipment of the most able archers for tournament use, I have of course acquired a fund of practical knowledge, based upon experience, observation and study, which makes me at home among the authorities. And I may as well admit that I enjoy their company. But as for posing as one of them, perhaps I can best explain my diffidence by telling a little story out of my own experience.
When I was a boy in Scotland, sometime about the year 1892, while employed in the Archers' Hall, in Edinburgh, under Mr. William Fergie,—a name well known in archery circles for many years,—I was present one day when a visitor came and set Mr. Fergie a queer task. He was Professor Tait, of Edinburgh University, and he explained his intention of proving how far a golf ball could be driven. He set Mr. Fergie the task of making a bow strong enough to throw a golf ball a distance of 100 yards.
In due time a bow was made, of 75 pounds pull, and in the center of the string was set a block of wood to drive the golf ball with. But after months of effort, Mr. Fergie and his assistant, Dick Thompson, appeared convinced that the attempt was a failure. The apparatus did not seem able to throw the ball farther than 60 yards, which was the full length of the grounds, but at that not a direct hit, only accomplished with a run.
Being only an apprentice, I of course had nothing to say. But I nevertheless was doing considerable thinking. Somehow or other I had learned that centuries ago the same sort of machines had been used to cast heavy stones from the walls of castles under assault, and I could not understand why the apparatus could not throw so light a missile as a golf ball much farther. I quietly visited the Museum and made a careful study of some of these old-time weapons, under the watchful eye of the attendant, and I made, as I thought, a discov-ery. After watching Mr. Fergie and Thompson make their last attempt, I plucked up courage to say: "I think I know what is wanted, Mr. Fergie."
The boss set me down with disdain, remarking that he would do the thinking and I had better get back to my work.
But the following week, while he was away attending his weekly golf party, I broached the subject to Dick, and obtained his permission to take the bow-gun out and try what I could do. It did not take me long to find out! After altering the apparatus to suit my ideas, I had a try—and immediately thereafter sneaked the machine back indoors and went back to my bench without saying anything.