Along The Trail 6-15-17

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Editor’s Note: ‘Along the Trail’ is a weekly column written by David Hewitt of Switzerland County; and covers all things dealing with the outdoors, from hunting and fishing to woodsmanship.

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The older I get, it seems the more nostalgic I’ve become.

I always seem to remember things from my past as more genuine, more special than maybe they really were. In my mind, things seemed larger, my imagination embellished those experiences. Over the years, a lot of my conversations with my kids have began with “When I was your age” or “I remember when” or “I wish things were like they used to be….”

I know I’m not unique in that aspect and probably most of us look back over the years fondly and think what we’ve experienced was the best of times.

This past weekend, I traveled to a traditional archery gathering outside of Cloverdale, Indiana. The Traditional Nationals used to be one of the top events of its kind around the country. In its hay day, several thousand folks would travel from all over the U.S. to compete, shoot the ranges, shop the vendor booths, camp and just enjoy the company of like minded archers and bowhunters. I dragged both of my kids to it for some years and can vividly remember, as if it were yesterday when my daughter shot a flying, aerial target out of the sky with her little bow and how proud she was.

I had visited the Cloverdale shoot in the late 90’s and early 2000’s and had seen many, many times where it was nearly impossible to find a place to park due to the crowds. The lines to the food booths would be a long and winding 30 minute wait for a burger and drink. The 3D range through the woods would take hours to complete as each group of shooters took their turn at the targets. The main tent would be jam packed with people during the evening as the guest speakers told their stories and entertained the crowds.

But, now: no more.

The event is a mere shell of what it used to be. I’m not exactly sure why.

Maybe people lost interest, maybe they have new hobbies and fell away from traditional archery. The economy hitting the skids in 2007 didn’t help as folks lost some of their disposable income. The advent of more and more technology hasn’t helped either as vendors find it easier to sell their goods on line and cheaper than traveling to shows and setting up a booth. Recruitment of kids into the sport hasn’t been easy and that definitely has played a role in the struggle. Regardless of the reason for the show’s decline, once an event begins to fall off, it’s extremely hard to grow it back into what it once was.

I know most readers of ‘Along the Trail’ could care less about a struggling traditional archery tournament in west central Indiana – but that’s not the point.

It could be this archery event, a horse show, 4-H fairs, baseball games, church camps, you name it.

Things that used to be a “big deal”,things that made memories seem to be going the way of the dodo bird and dinosaurs. I do tend to romanticize things in my mind, but I was sincerely sad to see this archery gathering falter. On a beautiful sunny, Saturday afternoon in June, there should have been 1,200-1,500 archers gathered. My best guess is there was probably less than 400 there that day. Events, gatherings and things that were important to previous generations don’t seem to be quite as important in today’s world and this one affected me since traditional archery happens to be my thing and the memories it has made for me with my kids.

Our attention span has shortened and we’re constantly pulled in multiple directions. We live in a digital, online universe where we can get what we want with the click of a button. No travel required, no effort, no human interaction, no true connection or communication. I hope that we as a society can slow down a bit, disconnect from our devices and computer screens and re-connect with those things that mean something to us.

Take some to “remember when” and try and re-capture those feelings and create more memories, because towards the end, those memories are all that will be left.

– David Hewitt