Atlatl: An atlatl is a throwing stick that essentially extends arm length to assist in throwing a dart harder and farther than one normally would in hunting and warfare with a spear. This tool was used for thousands of years prior to the bow and arrow which was in use for only the last 900 years or so. I’ve had the opportunity to try using one 3 or 4 times in target practice–sort of I say “sort of” because the very first time I used one I went after live game.
I was on an archaeology field trip and we broke for lunch. Food was provided and substantial consisting of bologna sandwiches, chips, a piece of fruit and some soda pop. The site archaeologist was running a little late, so our guide decided to let us try throwing with the atlatl he had made. One after another the members of our group took turns. I watched carefully and when it came to be my turn I was ready. All of a sudden, a pickup drove up and the archaeologist started to get out. He was about 50 yards away. He started to get out of the truck and as the door opened I hurled the dart hard and smoothly. I was aiming for the meaty part of the archaeologist’s thigh.
All I’ve heard about hunting man was true. It was exhilarating and exciting. He was considerably larger than me and bagging him would have been a rush. Unfortunately, a kill would not be the case on that day. The dart landed short of him and went point first into the ground then fell over flat. Now the predator had turned into the prey. For me it was either fight or flight. My back was against a rock wall. As I mentioned, he was larger than I, so I tried the only defensive move I could think of. I yelled, “Oops!”
I’ve never heard a professional laugh so hard. I didn’t know they could. Usually I’ve found them to be quite stolid and impassive to my attempts at humor. Apparently he did not feel threatened. Good thing he didn’t realize my intention. I could have killed him, or at least bruised his foot.
It all turned out well considering the circumstances. Rather than be banned or shunned from the group he paid special attention to me the rest of the day making sure all of my questions were properly answered. He kept watching my hands though. He turned out to be a pretty nice guy. Very sorry I tried to kill him.