Jerry Zezima, a Newsday assistant editor who writes a nationally syndicated humor column for his hometown paper, The
When I was a kid, I wanted to be like Robin Hood, except I wouldn't be caught dead in tights. But I did love the concept of using a bow and arrows to rob from the rich and give to the poor.
Now that I'm an adult with two kids I put through college and married off, I'd rob from the rich and keep the money myself.
To find out how, I went to Smith Point Archery in Patchogue.
"We've had students ranging from 4 years old to 90," said owner Jared Schneider. "I'm guessing you are somewhere in between."
"Physically I'm closer to the higher end," I responded, "but intellectually I'm in the opposite direction."
"Perfect," said Schneider, 32, a former New York State archery champion who began shooting arrows when he was 5.
"When I was 5, I had those little rubber-tipped suction arrows," I told him.
"The arrows we have here are a little stronger than that," said Schneider, adding that archery has become very popular, not just because of the Olympics, but because of "The Hunger Games," the young-adult novel that was turned into a blockbuster movie.
"I haven't seen the film," I told Schneider, "but I've watched 'The Adventures of Robin Hood' about a dozen times."
"We have Robin Hood-style bows," said Schneider, referring to the traditional one-piece weapons, as opposed to high-tech compound bows.
Then he had one of his merry men show me how to use one.
Troy Kenny introduced himself by saying, "Never trust a guy with two first names."
I said, "Never trust a guy who has never tried archery."
"I bet you'll be shooting bull's-eyes in no time," said Kenny, 41, who has been an archer since he was 12.
"Do you think I can be as good as William Tell and shoot an apple off someone's head?" I asked.
"I'm not going to volunteer," said Kenny, who presumably didn't want to look like Steve Martin with a fake arrow through his skull. "But I think you'll do all right. You can eat the apple when you get home."
He showed me the recurve bow and field-point arrows I would be using.
"Where do you buy your equipment?" I wondered. "Target?"
"No," he replied. "But we have plenty of targets here."
The one I would be shooting at was 10 yards away. More advanced archers shoot at targets positioned at twice that distance.
Kenny handed me the bow and explained that the arrow, with the cock feather facing me, would rest on an anchor point, and that the arrow's notched end, or nock, would be fitted onto the nocking point of the bowstring.
I stood facing a wall and turned my body 90 degrees toward the target.
"Hold your left arm straight out," Kenny said, adding that I should put three fingers below the nock and pull back on the bowstring.
"Your form is very good," he said. "Take aim and slide your fingers off the string."
I shot an arrow in the air; where it landed was just not fair: I missed the target completely, though I did hit the large board on which it was mounted.
"Don't worry," Kenny said. "Try again."
My next shot hit the outermost ring of the target. The one after that was closer to the center. The one after that was even better.
Then, on my fifth shot: Bull's-eye!
"Great!" Kenny exclaimed. "Now all you need is a Robin Hood bull's-eye. That means your next shot has to split the first bull's-eye arrow."
My next shot wasn't even close. Neither were the six other arrows I shot before giving up.
"I'm no Robin Hood," I admitted.
"That's OK," Kenny said consolingly. "At least you don't have to wear tights."