At Stephens Lake Park, a long line of men and women were trying to puncture a number of golden circles no bigger than the face of a clock from 60 yards away. They held completely still, with their hands drawn back by their ears, until the bow string was loosed, and they reached for another arrow from their quivers.
The sport is one of concentration, but amid the thumps of bow strings and whooshes of air, talking and laughter prevailed as the athletes in the archery competition of the Missouri State Senior Games joked and shared stories with each other.
Dick Wood had already put his bow down, but his friend Clint Kasten was still trying to line up a shot. “Is my talking bothering you? You’ve been listening to it for 40 years, why should it bother you?” Wood asked as his friend shot the arrow.
Kasten had been getting an earful of Wood talking about people who shoot using compound bows, or ‘training wheels’ as he likes to call them. The two shoot recurve bows, which unlike compounds don’t have pulleys to lower the strain of the bow string. The comments are as much rivalry as they are fodder for teasing each other. Vernon Sutton, 74, a fellow competitor who heard the comment, said: “Oh they say a lot of stuff.”
The score doesn’t mean that much to him, Wood said, but the fellowship does. Wood, 62, and Kasten, 64, both from the St. Louis area, have known each other for more than 40 years. Each year, they continue the tradition of seeing each other on the archery field wherever the senior games are held.
Ann Hoyt, the first woman inducted into the National Archery Association’s Hall of Fame, said she attended the competition because it’s in her blood. The 82-year-old Hoyt’s aim was affected because she felt a little weak, she said, but she’s still not using a compound bow that would make the weight lighter.
“I’m still back doing the old traditional; somebody’s got to do it so they know what happened before,” Hoyt said with a proud note in her voice.
Hoyt is respected for her accuracy with a bow and arrow, something that made her a world champion in 1959 in two different archery disciplines.
Unlike Hoyt, her friend Avanelle Spelce wasn’t there for the competition. It’s the family aspect that Spelce likes, and she said she thinks the community is more or less a big family.
“Kids that were this tall,” Spelce motions, hand at hip-level, “are now 6 feet tall.”
She then points to 56-year-old Duane Parkinson, who she remembers as a young child. Parkinson brought his dad, Winston Parkinson, 84, to Missouri from Arkansas to compete in the senior games.
This year, Winston Parkinson came to qualify for next year’s nationals in Pittsburgh. He has won the national championship, held every two years, four times since his bout with cancer.
Winston Parkinson has been competing in the senior games since he had surgery for cancer in 1984. “Senior Olympics helped bring me out of it, to give me an incentive to do something about it,” he said.