MOKANE – In an era when compound bows are burdened with all the sniper rifle gadgets, Tab Leach prefers the elegant weapons of an earlier era.
"It's really nice to do your stuff and pick up an animal with it," Leach said during a Monday presentation. "It's a rare feeling."
Leach manufactures his own bows, arrows, arrowheads, atlatls and more, using techniques developed by the ancient peoples who once lived in Missouri. He stopped on Monday from the South Callaway Middle School to teach students about those techniques.
Danielle Hecktor, a teacher of high school history, and Principal Gary Bonsall, an old friend of Leach, invited him to do the presentation.
"I want them to have a real-life perspective," Hecktor said. "You can see someone doing such things on TV or in a movie, but seeing it done in the first person and keeping the artifacts in hand gives students a different perspective."
Leach showed the students different strings he had made from scratch. Missouri is the home of the bois d & # 39; arc trees, explained Leach, who have a straight-grained wood that is perfect for making bows. Native American civilizations scattered throughout the country have developed different types of bows depending on which wood was available, he said. The hunting habits of each group also had an effect: for example, short bows are preferable when hunting from horses.
He also had the children wear protective goggles so he could demonstrate flint kilts, a technique for using simple tools to carefully model sharp blades, arrows, spearheads and other tools, one token at a time. Flint was the stone of choice for the ancient Missouri, Leach explained. Obsidian is also an excellent candidate for kapping but is not in Missouri.
"Does anyone know what it is?" Leach churches, raising something that looked like an arrow aimed at taking Godzilla.
He explained that it was a dart atlatl, which can be cast using a short, leverage-like length of wood.
"By simply throwing it, I could probably get it at 25 or 30 meters," he said. "With the atlatl, I could launch it for at least 100 yards".
Without the imaginative sighting of gadgets, ancient technology requires a lot of practice to be used competently, Leach said. He started firing the traditional bows as a child, but he still has to train every year on the eve of the season.
"I shoot 75-100 arrows a night for three or four weeks before the start of the season," he said. "People who used them for food were probably much better than I was."
Students looking at Leach's presentation seemed absorbed, often raising their hands to ask questions.
"I really want to do it on my own if my father allows it," said sixth classifier Rafe Murphy after the presentation.
Leach said he was happy to pass on the inheritance. His father hunted with traditional bows, and Leach taught his nephews how to use them.
"I think you teach children respect, caution and rules," he said. "You never know what spark is going to happen in a child's eyes."
Leach teaches lessons on how to make and use traditional bows on his farm. To learn more, contact him at [email protected] or 573-310-3648.