Two whistles pierce the silence of Saturday morning at Stephen’s Park. Grant Bradshaw, wearing a white bucket hat, steps up to the a white spray-painted line, loads his arrow, draws his bow and lets go.
“It’s not like a gun, there’s no bang, bang,” he said, drawing an imaginary gun and pretending to shoot. “It’s quiet.”
The home-schooled 12-year-old read about the Show-Me State Games in a local newspaper a year ago and decided to participate. Grant and his brother Travis belong to a club in Rocheport, Asland Archers-JOAD, the Junior Olympic Archery Development program. The program taught the boys how to shoot.
“Our parents and coach encouraged us to try it,” Grant said.
The Bradshaws have a homemade target in their backyard that their children practice on.
“My two younger sisters do it, along with my dad,” he said, pointing to a small group of people laid out on a blanket. “We practice every Sunday afternoon, or every other night before the Show-Me Games.”
Participants shot five rounds of six arrows at three different distances. The distance away from the target depends on the age of the participants: cub, anyone under 12, youth, 13-16, or adult, anyone over 17.
“It’s just different from other sports,” Travis, 10, said. “It’s more leisurely.”
Yellow caution tape lined the perimeter of the archery field. Dead grass crunched under participants’ feet as they walked back to their seats. Eight gigantic walnut trees paralleled the 21 targets, keeping participants and spectators shaded and cool.
“I want to go to the Olympics in archery,” Grant Bradshaw said wistfully. “There are people out here who are doing it in their old age,” he said, gesturing to more than 40 participants who were older than him.
Three whistles interrupt casual conversation and Ron Brakeville, 53, deserts his camping chair, fastens his quiver around his waist and walks 60 yards to the target.
“If you shoot a bad arrow, you have to put it out of your head,” he said.
“You have to prepare yourself to shoot a perfect arrow each time.”
Brakeville walks with three other men to the second target, where he squats down. “Ten, ten, nine, eight, eight, six,” and so on, until all 24 arrows are scored and recorded.
He explains how each person in the four-man group has a job: one person to call out scores, one to check the scorer, and two recorders. “Yeah, there is a little bit of a team effort,” he said with a laugh.
But that is not what Brakeville likes about archery.
“I like the fact that you are participating against yourself,” he said, going back to his chair behind two others. “It’s 90 percent mental.”
After retrieving his arrows, two whistles signal the beginning of another round of shots. Brakeville steps up to the line, hooks his trigger release and pushes, sending his black and red arrow flying.
“Once the arrow is released, it’s scored,” he said, after glancing into a spotting scope.
Every year, Brakeville travels from Texas to Kansas to spend a few days with his brother. The two then drive nearly three hours to participate in the Show-Me State Games archery competition.
“We just have a good time together,” Dallas Brakeville, 64, said. “Just doing things that brothers do.”
Although he used to be a competitive archer, Dallas Brakeville took up golf as a replacement.
“I’m too competitive,” he said, walking in front of the other archers to get to the target.
“In order to be as competitive as I wanted to be, I had to shoot seven days a week. I just played golf for fun because I knew I was never very good at it.”
He rejoined the sport, participating in local tournaments and in the National Senior Olympics when a friend asked him to. He also assisted in teaching his younger brother how to shoot.
“It’s something that we can do together,” Dallas Brakeville said, glancing to the right to see his brother shoot.
Richard Hayden, a veteran volunteer of the games, agreed that archery is a family sport.
“You can do archery, both enjoy and compete in it, all of your life.”