The McKenzie Archery Shooters Association Classic has people from all over the country pouring into Cullman. Regions such as the north, west coast and midwest are all represented in the woods of St. Bernard, as 2,000 archers shoot for prizes and pride.
However, this event has attracted people from even further away.
For instance, Bill Watson came to Cullman from Australia.
Well, he actually came to Cullman with a 16-hour flight from Australia to Dallas and then a drive that took him and his wife through Memphis, Little Rock and Nashville before getting to his destination.
“I haven’t been to Cullman before, but it’s quite a nice area,” said Watson, 58.
While he picked up archery 12 years ago, Watson only started traveling internationally for the sport five years ago.
“We travel a lot around Australia to the different venues there, and when a world championship came up in 2007, I thought, ‘Yep, I’m going to come over and have a bit of a holiday,’” he said.
It’s not that the archery in Australia isn’t good, Watson said. He just really enjoys all the joys that come along with traveling.
“I love meeting people,” he said. “It doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from with archery. We’re all archers, and everyone’s going to be friends.”
Seeing what a tourist would see in a new city isn’t good enough for Watson, though.
“I like going on different backroads and looking at different places and getting a bit of history and just driving around,” he said.
In addition to the cities he saw driving to Cullman, he’s also been to New Orleans, Chicago, Indianapolis and Canada, among other places.
Of all the cities he’s seen, Watson said Nashville is his favorite. Most of the places he goes to, it is just to see them. He’s only shot in about six American cities.
Between the two countries, Watson said the sport is pretty much the same.
“It sets all the same targets and all the same sort of archery, really,” he said.
Normally, he flies from Australia to Los Angeles, and he might fly back from there. Flying into Dallas proved to be much more time-consuming.
Watson said there were only two people working the customs line at the Dallas Fort-Worth airport, which made the whole process take five hours to get through.
Luckily, he said his bow has never been a problem during their travels.
Watson balances this travel with his job at home. His title is motorcycle coordinator, which has to do with the postal service.
“In Australia, the post uses little motorbikes to deliver mail in the streets, and I send them out,” he said.
Watson brought his wife with him and also came with two others to shoot. His wife isn’t an archer, but he said she enjoys walking around among the archers while he shoots.
As far as leaving an impression on the people in the States, it seems he’s rubbed off on a few of them.
“People say ‘Good day,’ when they meet me now,” he said, referring to that typical Australian-accented greeting.
He has two kids that are 25 and 27, so they’re old enough that he doesn’t have to worry about them when he and his wife leave to travel.
On his way back, Watson is going to make it all the way around the world. He’s driving from the Classic to a shoot in Philadelphia, where he’ll then fly through Spain and Germany before settling back home in Australia.
There are other international shoots that he mentioned, including ones in Argentina, South Africa and Germany.
“I’d like to be in them, but I can’t get the time off work,” he said. “Once I retire, I might get more, but I’ve got a couple of more years.”
But Watson’s plan is to keep this sport up. After two knee surgeries, he can’t run and play soccer like he used to, but he still really enjoys archery.
“Long as I can walk, and as long as I can see, I’ll do this,” he said.
% Laura Owens can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 258 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.