This year, the Western States Traditional Rendezvous was hosted by the Traditional Archers of California and was held at Rancho Neblina near Petaluma, CA, attracting about 200 traditional archers from southern California, to Seattle to as far east as Illinois. There were also a lot of non-archer family members who were there to spend Memorial Day weekend in the Northern California coastal hills. This was my first time to Rancho Neblina, and it might be my last.
I have no complaint what so ever with the execution of the event. In fact, I had a blast! Even when we shot in the rain, I was having fun. Even when I witnessed archers cheating, I took it in stride and told myself not to sweat the small stuff.
The thing which will probably prevent my return is that Rancho Neblina is a working ranch, and we all camped in the middle of a cow field, and I’m horribly allergic to grasses. I probably overdosed on Zyrtec and still spent more time time blowing my nose and wiping my itchy, swollen eyes than pulling the bow.
We woke up Saturday morning after a very windy night to low overcast, and the rains started before we finished breakfast. Everybody wondered if it was worth it to don rain gear (Which, in some cases, consisted of plastic trash bag ponchos), and most decided that they hadn’t driven three or four or eight hours in holiday traffic just to watch the rain.
I carried an umbrella that lives behind the driver’s seat of my truck, which kept me relatively dry. I had to put it down to shoot, but I spent 90% percent of the time just getting my shoes and pants wet.
The rain affected the kids the most. With smaller volume to surface area ratios, they got cold quickly, and the rain soaked jackets probably added several pounds to their mass.
Arrows also absorbed water, increasing their mass unpredictably. Sometimes I felt that I was just aiming the arrow in the general direction of the target. I laughed it off, saying that everybody was working with the same handicap.
There were three courses of 20 targets each, and most of us shot 40 targets on Saturday, though there were a few hearty souls who did all 60 so that they could go home Sunday morning.
Sunday brought clear, warm skies and beautiful conditions for a leisurely walk through the oak trees. However, it seemed like I was shooting better in the rain than in the warm sun.
The cheating I witnessed was widespread, and involved string walking. I mentioned to the string walkers that the rules specifically forbade this practice, requiring that the index finger remain in contact with the arrow when pulling, and the response was “We don’t pay any attention to that rule.”
It wasn’t the string walking that bothered me so much as the concept of cheating. If they were willing to ignore this rule, what other rules did they simply not pay any attention to?
I refused to let it shake me. I have no pretensions to of placing in this contest regardless.
I had great fun, spent two days with great people, and now I can say that I have arched in all kinds of weather.