Go to the Summer Redneck Games, if that's your thing. I'd like to point out that a true Redneck Games would have tobacco spitting contests instead of watermelon seeds.
I feel like rambling and riffing, as sometimes happens when I'm not writing well, so bear this post with good humor, if you will.
When I was a kid, my parents and brother belonged to a reenactment group called the The Ameigh Valley Irregulars Black Powder Club–pre-1840s dress and supplies recommended and sometimes required.The club was loosely organized under the aegis of the NMLRA. This was a good time, believe me. The club would meet every month or so and shoot at the range a couple times a month, or maybe once a month, I can't remember. When we first cleared a couple fields to set up the firing range, I was ten tears old or so, and my idea of fun included running the hills with the owner's German Shepherd, Fudgie, or swimming in the large pond called Packard's Puddle, or simply lying on the ground and watching the adults brushhog everything. Then I'd burrow into the grass and tree limbs pile before we burned it later in the day. The mess made a great fort.
Maybe twice a year we'd have a shoot, where we'd compete against another gun club, maybe Land of the Senecas, or Whispering Pines, both still exist. These times provided the most opportunity for me. I wasn't old enough to compete and wouldn't have competed had I been old enough, because I had a problem: flinching. It's one thing to shoot a center-fire or rim-fire rifle, where all the exploding is done in the barrel of the rifle. The three-stage ignition of a flintlock muzzleloader is something else again, because all that action is happening an inch in front of your face. You see the spark when the flint hits the frizzen, see the hiss and puff of the priming powder going off, then the boom of the rifle as the spark enters the touchhole setting off the charge. If you're not experienced, you'll flinch at the first explosion of powder, close your eyes, and not hit anything. It's difficult to get used to, and I never did.
On the other hand, things I could and did do included both tobacco spitting and throwing tomahawk and knife. The tobacco-spitting came naturally, as these were the late 70s days of Skoal and Copenhagen–"just a pinch between your cheek and gum"– at the very least, and if you were hardcore, like my grandfather and my brother, and ALL of his friends (who were mine as well) it was loose-leaf or plug tobacco like Red Man, Beech Nut or Levi Garrett. Now, the idea of spitting is easy, as nearly everyone who chews tobacco has to do it. Spitting the 20 feet or more required for competition takes some power and finesse. You could spit neatly between your teeth and look cool if you had the mouth to do it, but you wouldn't get distance. Better by far to get up a good half-a-mouthful of loose leaf tobacco and hack a plosive loogey. I watched a guy lose once because he spat the entire thing–tobacco, juice and all–when it's supposed to be, you know, just the juice you spit. I'm happy to report I quit the nasty stuff by about 13, partly because I was growing out of my big brother's influence (he also quit, though I don't remember when). I wonder if I'll ever feel as cool, though, as when I walked into school with the faded ring of the Skoal can marked on the back left pocket of all my jeans. It was quite a status symbol once, though never as important to me as the tomahawk and knife.
The target was made of logs nailed together in a rough tripod, the target log being about a foot and half in diameter, and the target itself a simple playing card set sideways. There was no required distance from the target. As long as your hawk or knife made a complete revolution with every throw, you were fine. A simple stick got you one point, if I remember right, three points if you hit the card, and five if you cut it in half. I spent literal hours, even days, at this, every weekend, either at the club or in the barn at home. It became simple physics to me after a while. I discovered when I took four steps from the target and turned around, I had my sweet spot, and could stick every time, same thing with 8 paces, 12, 16, and finally 20. This came in handy when impressing young Scouts during my summers on staff at Camp Brule, but didn't provide much for competition. I became bored, and just stopped throwing for a while.
My brother made things more interesting when he and his friends made their own throwing stars, welding together four mowing machine blades into a very heavy and lethal machine about the size of my adult hand. He got good enough with it to split the tomahawk handle of the unfortunate someone who threw first. More than a couple times, that was me, who would then have to spend hours glassing down the neck of a new handle so it would fit the hawk and still balance well.
In my late teens, my friend Ed and I got good enough to throw in tandem and cut a card, and do various and sundry tricks too. Many of these were made possible by my next-door neighbor, who produced great throwing knives out of scrap metal, quarter-inch-thick pieces of steel; about the size of my forearm, riveted with leather handles, as well as a notch cut on the blade for the balance point. Dad had a big one but didn't throw it much, and mine was somewhat smaller. In time, I inherited Dad's knife too, eventually, as the gun club ran its course of popularity and fell apart, and he didn't need to throw it anymore.
I miss throwing, miss that solid satisfaction of blade meeting wood, the restful rhythms of the walk back and forth to pull the blade, the deep, nearly feral satisfaction of being so good at something so useless. I still have a tomahawk, bought recently from the same Dixie Gun Works I bought from twenty-five years ago, and in honor of having bought our house. Right now, the backyard is filled with the beautiful flowers and a nice wooden fence the house came with. It needs a target. I'm going to find a log (not so easy to find in the city) and set up a range soon, and see how much my throwing's been affected by my twice-broken right elbow. Plus, I can't wait to hear what the neighbors say. 🙂