After nearly a week’s worth of meetings, seminars and discussions on everything from the state of the State, to budgets, to pensions and law enforcement, I was more than ready to get out of Indianapolis so I could breathe.
I checked out of the hotel and – against better judgment – pointed my car north and headed towards the Michigan border for the weekend.
After some considerable slipping and sliding along snow covered I-465, the roads opened up. Cruise control set and the radio on, three and a half hours later found me pulling into the parking lot of the Kalamazoo, Michigan Exposition Center for the annual Traditional Bowhunters Expo.
Now the expo isn’t the same as being outdoors or perched in a treestand, but it’s a close second. Almost as cleansing, almost as therapeutic.
As soon as I walked through the doors, I was greeted with the aroma of raw cedar from the thousands of bare arrow shafts, waiting to be fletched with colorful feathers. The smell of leather hangs thick in the air from the myriad of quivers, arm guards, and shooting gloves.
As I look out over the crowd, it’s a scene from the past. A sea of flannel, plaid, wool and leather cover the visitors and vendors. Heads topped with felt fedoras, “Stormy Kromer’s” and stumpy-billed ball caps, perfectly suited for drawing and shooting traditional bows. I can close my eyes and almost smell the campfire smoke, bacon frying and damp wool of a 1950’s deer camp.
Any minute, you could expect to see the ghosts of archery legends like Fred Bear, Howard Hill and Ben Pearson
I make my way up and down the aisles and hit as many vendors as I can. Several of the booths holds pieces of art, disguised as hunting bows. Beautiful, handcrafted recurves and longbows made of exotic hardwoods with names like cocobola and purple heart. I pick up and draw several of the bows and feel the warmth and life in the wood grips. Stark contrast to the modern bows of today and with carbon fiber and aluminum – cold, mechanical and lifeless.
The traditional bows feel like a natural extension of my arm as I flex their limbs.
The evening wears on and I can feel the stress of the week melt away from me as I continue to shop, look and listen. All the vendors selling their goods, peddling their gear. Commercial without feeling commercialized. Real “mom and pop” operations.
I find some old friends and catch up from last year. We embellish our hunting stories and share our successes and failures. Photos are shown and laughter had. Camaraderie is shared and a few new friends are made as the evening comes to a close.
It’s time to head out.
I’m a little lighter in the wallet, but much richer for the experience, the friendships and the memories made on a cold January evening in Michigan.
I step out the door into the darkness and several inches of new fallen lake-effect snow, as I already begin to think of my next trip North and visiting my friends.