A couple of years ago, at an Outdoor Writers Assn. of America conference in Lake Charles, Louisiana, a guy from New York or someplace was selling atlatls. I’ve always wanted an atlatl, so I bought one, along with one dart for it. I brought it home and put it in my office, more for decoration than anything else.
When my oldest son, Courtland, saw the atlatl, he asked me what I planned to do with it. I told him I didn’t plan to do anything with it, but it was fully functional, and if I ever wanted to hunt with an atlatl I could use it. Courtland said, “I’ll bet you can’t hit anything with it.”
Well. You can’t let a challenge like that go. There was a cardboard box in the next room, about 30 feet away, just begging to be shot. So I said, “Watch this.” I planned to throw the dart through the doorway and hit the box.
But as Bill Shakespeare once said, “The best laid plans of mice and men do often cause them to make holes in their office walls with atlatl darts.” In my case it wasn’t the wall, exactly. The dart missed the doorway by several inches and hit my decorative, diamond plate light switch cover. The field point made a neat 45-caliber hole just beside the lower screw. The good news is that it missed my computer monitor by almost a foot.
The first time McCulloch County Judge Randy Young came into my office after The Mistake, he noticed the hole and asked me what caused it. And now, every time he walks in, if anyone is with him he takes great pleasure in showing them the hole and telling them what a great hunter I am, to bring down a fearsome light switch cover with a single throw from an atlatl.
He was going through his routine recently for the benefit of Roy Don McBroom, who has been a mutual friend for 40 years. During that exchange Randy said, “You’ll never hear that anywhere else, only here in Kendal’s office. ‘That’s an atlatl dart hole.’” And then he looked around and told me, “You should write a column about all the things that are said here, on a routine basis, that are never said anywhere else.”
So I decided to take Randy’s advice. If you like the column, drop me a note. If you don’t, complain to Randy.
Actually, my office is pretty normal, up to a point. A couple of desks, a couple of tables, a couple of filing cabinets, a wood strip game table my brother made for me, some bookshelves, a coat rack, and the usual compliment of chairs. Randy wasn’t talking about that stuff. He was referring to the other things that, to me, are common office items, but that he claims not everyone keeps in their workplace.
For example, I collect old Coleman lanterns, and have several various models hanging in the window in the front of the office. They’re not really worth anything, but they look nice.
On a shelf below the lanterns, among old books, bottles, and wooden duck decoys, there is a mosquito over a foot tall. I tell people I shot it in Alaska with my .45 and had it stuffed, but it’s really an archery target. Rinehart makes some outstanding dinosaur targets, besides their normal deer, elk, bears, and other usual stuff. I’ve had it for several months, but it’s too pretty to shoot, so it sits on the shelf in my office.
On the floor below that is a borrowed bear trap, one of those great big suckers with spikes in the jaws. I tell people I set it when I see certain unsavory characters coming to see me, but I’ve actually never been energetic enough to find some clamps and crank the springs down. Which is probably a good thing, since all I’m likely to catch is me.
People often ask about the dozen or so traditional bows on a rack on one wall, or the arrows scattered here and there, or the coyote-hide quiver (that never leaves the wall because the fur makes it too hot to actually wear). The stalagmite I picked up in a cave in Mexico always makes a good conversation piece, along with the lava rocks I brought home from New and Improved Mexico.
There’s a Marine cover Ollie North signed for me, a shoulder mounted Corsican that Courtland killed at the YO Ranch, and an antique Underwood typewriter that still works. On one shelf is a wooden propeller from a drone I plan to make a clock out of one of these days, and there are model Jeeps on almost every horizontal surface.
The big prize, though, is an 8 x 5 foot American flag, folded three corner, that I got in 1980. I had to climb to the top of the radio tower by G. Rollie White Downs in Brady almost 30 years ago to get that, but it was worth it.
There’s a story behind that flag, but you’ll have to come to my office to hear it . . .
Kendal Hemphill is an outdoor humor columnist and public speaker with a history of making holes in walls with inappropriate objects. Write to him at PO Box 1600, Mason, Tx 76856 or firstname.lastname@example.org