Tom Turgeon is living a 12-year-old’s dream.
As the owner of Boise Bows and Arrows, Turgeon is a master bowyer and wilderness survival expert — specialties that spawned from a youth spent in the Idaho woods.
“I started making my own bows when I was seven because I wasn’t allowed to have one,” he says, speaking over the phone with Cali Bamboo. As his skills developed, the craftsman began teaching others how to make bows and arrows, and it became a paying hobby. He now travels all over the country, leading workshops on long bow building and arrowsmithing.
With Americans still in the grips of Hunger Games mania, interest in archery (the defense of choice for the book’s heroine) is growing. Turgeon has taken notice. “The North Carolina Department of Tourism contacted me. That’s where the movie was filmed. And news stations have called checking for facts on what arrows can actually do.”
While kids clamor for the chance to test their adventure skills in the wild, ala Katniss Everdeen in the blockbuster film, Turgeon has his sights on a different set of students. After a retired Lieutenant Colonel took a bamboo bow building class and recommended him to the Wounded Warrior Project, Turgeon found himself on the road bound for San Antonio, TX. He now leads workshops for Afghanistan and Iraq War veterans at multiple support centers.
“One of my soldiers yesterday in my class was looking at the wood — at what he had created — and said, ‘You just opened up a whole new world for me.’
“He lost a leg in a bombing in Afghanistan and will eventually walk again, but it’s going to take a long time in rehab. This is something he can do in the meantime, and it takes their minds off the very difficult rehab. Some of these guys do physical therapy for eight hours a day, and by the time they come to my class they are wiped out. But in class they start smiling, and by 6 p.m. you’d never know they were injured. They are true warriors… a word that’s really overused.”
The veterans’ enthusiasm for the long bow workshop speaks to the simple yet powerful draw of a sport that has been around for over 11,000 years. As Turgeon puts it, “What’s more basic than a stick and a string? The
Native Americans survived on that for millenniums. We didn’t always have gunpowder. […] Archery is relatively inexpensive and it gets you outside.”
Turgeon’s appreciation for sustainability carries over into the actual construction of the bows themselves, which are all backed with Cali Bamboo slats.
“I’m not saying I’m a simple guy but I like the basics — the philosophy of waste not, want not,” he says. “Bamboo is a very renewable resource — you can cut it today and it will grow back in a month. [Bamboo] is very forgiving — especially for new craftsmen. It is very strong and flexible, and the strength is lineal, so it can bend and then go back to its original shape.”
When asked why he has stuck with Cali Bamboo, Turgeon laughs and recommends taking a listen to the various calls he’s made to his sales rep over the years.
“I’m very, very happy with not only Clark, but with the shipping department and the support you get there. I’ve often called with rush orders five minutes after 5 p.m., and even when Clark’s out for the day, someone else will answer and help me out.”
For a man adept at using natural resources to teach, inspire and survive, bamboo hits right on target.
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