Art of bow building

PerkinsS, Okla. (AP) _ Traditional arts that are as old as red
dirt are alive and well in a wooded enclave near Perkins.

Recently up to 250 selfbow enthusiasts gathered for the fifth
annual Oklahoma Selfbow Jamboree. They came to build bows and to
watch demonstrations on the art of selfbow making and flint
knapping, river cane arrows and arrowheads, fire starting and
string making. Where selfbow friends gather and smells of smoked
meats fill the air, there will also be shared tall tales of
hunting.

“This is for people who want to preserve the tradition of
building bows,” said Oklahoma Selfbow Society President Terry
Newman. Oklahoma Selfbow Society sponsors the gathering to promote
primitive archery and other primitive arts among bow-makers or
bowyers.

Who shows up for the jamboree? Doctors, lawyers, archers, Boy
Scouts, everyday people, individuals and families, hunters and
target shooters, said Mike Hames. And they come from across
Oklahoma and from Kansas, Texas, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois,
Colorado and elsewhere. Visitors have traveled from as far as
Germany and Norway to participate in archery tournaments.

“Selfbow is not just hunters,” said Hames, “it’s for archers,
arrowhead makers and others. We are trying to show primitive skills
and pass them on. I learned from older folks like my dad and other
elders. Then I started making primitive weapons like muzzles. I was
at an event in Fort Washita, met several guys making bows and I
became intrigued.

“It is a simple art that you can take a stick and string and
make a bow or take a stone and make an arrowhead,” said Hames, “And
there is great discipline to do it.”

While the weekend jamboree takes four months to plan, it can
take three times that to make a selfbow using traditional methods
and tools, he said.

“You can make a bow in one day,” said Hames, “But to really
craft one, can take over a year.”

Unlike modern bows, the selfbow is hand-tooled and whittled from
one piece of wood.

“When I am working with someone to make a selfbow,” said Tommy
Leach, OSS charter member, “I make sure they take their time so
they don’t rush and end up breaking the wood.”

Once the work of constructing the bow is completed, it’s time to
decorate. Hames said, “Once I had someone put a Mickey Mouse
necktie on one. Another person I knew painted on about 30
sunflowers.”

Bowyer veteran Tiffany Hagen of Wichita, Kan., has her own
reasons for practicing the craft.

“I like how you can take a branch, work on it and make it into
something pretty with your own hands,” she said.

Harrah student Dillon Stephens said, “I’ve always loved the
crafting of selfbows. This is my first year. My grandfather always
showed me and I was interested. He asked me if I wanted to come
here and I said yes. The best part is when you get to shoot
it.”

For Hames, the best part is when fledgling bowyers get a
particular look.

“We’ve got so many photos of people making selfbows. And when
they have that grin, when they’ve made a bow or shot it,” he said,
“there’s a particular look that tells me, they love it and we’ve
got them.”

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