Non-Profit Internet Source for News, Events, History, & Culture of Northern Frederick & Carroll County Md./Southern Adams County Pa.


The Village Idiot

Overcoming myself

Jack Deatherage, Jr.

(3/2016) DW and our archery team captain watched me slam four sets of three arrows each into the bulls-eyes of a 3-spot target twenty yards away. Nine of the arrows were within the tiny X-ring within the bulls-eye. So much for my warming up before shooting a league team score. My official first three arrows were all two rings out from the bulls-eye!

"You're one of those guys?" The team captain remarked as he scored my shots. He wasn't being critical, he needed to know if I understood what I am.

When I allowed it's a mental thing he nodded and began suggesting ways for me to overcome this aspect of myself. I eventually mastered myself to the point where a new barrier to perfection popped up and terminated my goal of a perfect score. I wasn't willing to do the physical exercises needed to build enough strength to hold the bow steady for the forty-five bulls-eyes needed to peak at the game.

Having been like this since childhood, I've become used to not doing my best. Occasionally I become uncomfortable when I begin to pursue a new interest and I hit that point where I either have to quit, or overcome this mental barrier. (Bread building and mead making are interests I've pursued to the point where I see perfection, but just as with archery I have no desire to put forth more effort to achieve it. I'm mostly content to nibble and sip around the edges of perfection.)

Writing, or whatever it is that I do for this journal, has been a lot like my shooting warm-up arrows before the game begins in earnest. There are rules, forms, and style, but as I'm not paid to perform I tend to ignore them. The editor always has better pieces to fill the gap should I grow tired or choke. The pressure to perform has been always what little I apply to myself.

The game begins in earnest when the editor asks me to write feature articles, for pay. DW urges me to do it, "We need the money." I agree to take a stab at it. A twelve hundred word limit. An article every other month. (I have to keep writing The Village Idiot.) I can pick my own victims, I mean subjects, though I have to take assignments as well. My first article is an assigned subject. The restoration of the Doughboy monument.

I can do this. I step up to the line and mentally draw the bow. And the brain goes wacky-doodle. I overcome, and contact Gary Casteel, the sculptor/monument maker restoring our Doughboy. He agrees to let me interview him. I head off to Gettysburg with instructions to get pictures of the statue and an explanation of the repairs and what they each cost. I'm only trembling a little. I did manage to charge the batteries for my camera and remember to take the camera with me along with two pens and a notebook.

But the statue isn't in Mr. Casteel's shop! It's at a foundry in Baltimore! (Ain't nobody paying me enough to drive to Baltimore.) I begin the interview and suspect Mr. Casteel doesn't need me telling him I don't know what I'm doing. He graciously endures my babbling and explains how our Doughboy was made using the "lost wax process", the basic principles of which "haven't changed much since the time of Christ."

I manage to inquire about the damage done to our statue, both from the accident and its having to be moved a couple of times to where he can work on it.

"Surprisingly, very little." He tells me. "Some of the welded, or soldered seams were opened in the fall", but nothing that isn't readily fixable with some minor positioning and welding.

"Did you know the statue wasn't bolted to the stone? A pipe embedded in the stone ran up into the statue. We've made a base plate to securely attach the statue to the new stone." Mr. Casteel thought this would be a barely noticeable improvement. "We'll have your statue back in place as early as March first, weather allowing. Barring future accidents it should last another lifetime."

I fumble around the cluttered attic that is my mind and trip over a $40,000 question. How does the restoration break down cost wise? (A Pulitzer I am not.)

"Much of the expense is the granite base. It usually is." A life size, newly cast statue, mounted on granite, costs upwards of $100,000. (A quick search of the internet turns up granite costs, from the quarry, are upward of $600 a cubic meter.) "I had to order new granite cut for the base. As time, weather, pollution and vehicular damage had changed the stone I couldn't reuse what little had been undamaged by the accident. It would have been too much of a contrast with the new stone."

Lamenting the absence of the statue for my photo shoot Mr. Casteel offers one he took of the statue loaded into the bed of his pickup truck for its journey to the foundry.

"Your readers might find it interesting to know that some people stopped what they were doing as I drove through their towns and they saw the statue. I was surprised at how many of them saluted as I passed by them." Not everyone has forgotten what the Doughboy represents.

We talk a bit about a general lack of interest in America's history, not only among today's youth, but the population in general. I thank Mr. Casteel for his time and patience, pet his dogs and try not to run for my car.

"Idiot!" My always cheerful self howls at me. "Who taught you to take notes? Can you even read the scratches you managed? Gibbering monkeys could ask more cogent questions than you did!" I make a note to look into acquiring a gibbering monkey to accompany me on my next interview.

Gods, I'm planning a next interview?

Yes, I am. Just as I drew and released the first arrow in high school in 1971, never expecting to hit the target (let alone the bulls-eye), I didn't expect this first interview to go well. Nor did I expect the crafting of a feature article to actually happen. What I did expect was to learn a few things.

First, I need to study up on interviewing techniques. Second, I need an audio recording device as I cannot rely on memory or my scribblings. Third, there is a formal set of rules for feature writing. I need to learn them before I can abandon them!

Read other articles by Jack Deatherage, Jr.