“All I want for my birthday is a goat!” I repeated for the umpteenth time. My father blew out air, closed his eyes and shook his head like he wished he hadn’t told me that he sometimes stumbled upon newborn goats whose mothers had been killed.
He was an archer. He shot with a bow and arrow for sport. Twice a year, he went hunting for deer, elk, sheep, goats or pigs. The lower terrace of our home was a practice range with a target fastened onto two bales of hay. It was a barren strip except for three miniature trees, an orange, a lemon and a grapefruit. Pink geraniums and strawberries covered the hillside up to the ranch-style house.
Not that we had a ranch. We lived at the end of a cul-de-sac on a one acre parcel in San Diego. A busy street full of cars and noise was at the bottom of our hill; the car wash clanked steadily with a long line of cars. On a clear day, you could see Mexico and a thin line of the ocean. I played often in the canyon below our home, pretending I was a pioneer and only came home when the streetlights came on. Or heard my father whistle.
My dad began most mornings by taking his coffee down to the lower terrace and pulling his seventy pound bow. If he missed the bull’s-eye, he slugged himself in the left shoulder. One time, sitting down to breakfast, he told us, “Shot so bad, gave myself a bruise.”
He practiced holding the bow taut. Strengthening his arms gave him more time to aim. I’d sit on the block wall at the edge of the lawn and watch him. He would pull the bow and hold it until he shook, then release the string and pull it taut again. Usually, I got bored and left before he had shot one arrow.
He made his own arrows. He shaped feathers by searing them with a hot wire. After work, he experimented with different shapes for distance and type of game. I was disappointed they weren’t real feathers. These were stiff plastic, bright orange, easier to find when he missed. The acrid smell was something I associated with my father. It was familiar. Mom baked chocolate chip cookies; Dad shaped feathers. And polished his shoes while watching T.V.
Dad built a bow rack in our den. He displayed his collection behind glass in a maple cabinet. Heavier bows were for larger animals. Mom’s was a fifty pound bow, for she was a head shorter than him and close to half his weight. She once shot a doe .