The Team Trailer Park has been shooting at Norman’s “Soggy Bottom” 3D range for years. It has been the weekly training course for top amateurs and at least one professional archer. Norman and his family are moving to Nashville and the last night at Soggy Bottom had arrived. The usual suspects turned out for the range’s swan song. Norman had reduced the targets from the standard 20 to 15. The fifteen that remained weren’t foam animals stationed at the end of an open lane. Par for Norman, he’d laid out an exception course.
Eight archers took part in Soggy Bottom’s denouement: John, Wes, Bart, Paul, Chris, Lee, of course Norman and finally me. John, Wes, Chris and Norman were about a week out from taking top honors at the Virginia State 3D Championship. Paul had just returned from vacation, bringing with him a cold. Lee has placed in the top 3 in the Maryland 3D Championship and Chris has great form doing well even when he liberates his release during a shot to send it and the arrow sailing. Paul is a multiple IBO World Championship shooter and one of the best hunters in the area. Bart, a former-professional, has recently begun shooting following shoulder surgery and carried a bow rigged to reduce the pull weight for this final contest. Norman, a 4-time IBO World Championship veteran, rarely fails to finish among the top places in a tournament and is master of Soggy Bottom.
Norman divided the eight of us into two teams, The Dutchmen and the other ‘Group.’ The Dutchmen consisted of Chris, John, Wes and me. The other ‘group’ held Norman, Paul, Bart and Lee. Entering the course, the teams moved amid the targets like Ninja archery masters. Well, very loud Ninja’s or to be more accurate like drunken sailors on a weekend pass.
Norman yelled scores, naturally all 11’s, for his team. To prove his announcements, at stake 7 he produced his team’s scorecard to reveal, in fact, all 11’s. His ruse de guerre failed when John, of the Dutchmen, noticed the ‘Group’ had fifteen 11’s and they’d only completed 6 targets.
Wes, as usual, was smacking 10’s and 11’s. Team scores and individual scores where on the line. He’d just fired a disappointing 10 when Norman tramped over to Team Dutchmen’s stake and solicited to review Wes’ scorecard. John was up and at full draw when Norman, using his public address voice said, “Wes, you’d be a pretty good shooter if it weren’t for those fives.” Of course, that remark floated into John’s head and as he laughed his back tension hinge let loose. Norman’s intended strategy worked. John failed on the target scoring just a ten. (What made the comment funny is Wes doesn’t shoot fives.)
Throughout the contest, the Dutchmen confined themselves to the upmost standards of archery ethics. The ‘Group’ became more desperate for victory as the Dutchmen expanded their ever-increasing lead. When Chris noticed his sweat towel (it was 97 degrees in the swamp) missing he asked if anyone had noticed it, no one claimed knowledge of its whereabouts. As Chris was preparing a shot, the ‘Group’ broadcasted discovery of a missing towel and how best to use it to clear perspiration from the medial area of Lee’s gluteus maximus. The towel use explanation was visibly graphic. This ploy, too, failed, as Chris was wise to let down, laugh, and then shoot another eleven.
When the shooting concluded Team Dutchmen had taken victory by a single point. Of Team Dutchmen John and Wes earned the top two individual spots, respectively. Following the score tally and accolades these long-time friends remained together. No one wanted to leave. Years of experience shooting and fellowship exist among them. It was clear they’d miss Norman. Soggy Bottom will be missed, but even if it were to remain available, it wouldn’t be the same. It is not the place that makes a group a family.
Paul (with the bucket) giving Norman a friendly send off.