Bison & Arrow

Sep 18 · 2014 // Art / Blog / Design / Instagram / Process

The Bison & Arrow that I’ve been working on so publicly has been finished and is up for sale here:
Cotton Bureau.
The premise is pretty simple. I’ve submitted the art, they’ve approved it. Now if I sell 12 shirts, they get printed.

I haven’t outlined all the reasoning behind my fascination or current obsession with the subject. Many, if not all, of the reasons go back to what prompted me to restart this blog back in 2011. The Four Bridges Half Marathon in Chattanooga. I began writing during the training for that race. And in the end I shouldn’t have run it thanks to an injury. But I did anyways and it was a miserable experience. After struggling to run through the pain of the injury, and then walking about five miles of the course, my moment of epiphany happened.

I was feeling a bit defeated as I arrived at the Walnut Street Bridge. I knew I would be able to walk to the finish line, but I wasn’t pleased. As I hit the wood planking, I took a few deep breaths and started a slow trot, seeing if I could manage to run the last half mile. It was clear after 50 or 60 feet that it was a bad idea, and so I continued my walk of shame. And that’s when it struck me. Out of the blue I almost began to sob. A well of emotion had uncorked itself in my chest and I found myself choking back tears at a vague notion.

A memory came rushing back to me. One that I’d not forgotten, but one that I’d not thought of in a long time. When I was in junior high I’d considered trying out for the wrestling team. I went to the first meeting to find out what the try-out process would be. There wasn’t really a try-out process, as just about anyone who wanted to wrestle would be allowed, and the team that competed would be drawn from performance in practice, etc. The training was outlined a bit, and it was revealed that the next day would be the beginning of that training. Everyone was going to be running three miles. I thought it over that evening and decided it maybe wasn’t really for me. I can’t recall the exact reasons, but I backed out in my mind. The next day I went to the 1st day of practice to tell the coach I was essentially quitting, which apparently wasn’t necessary. He seemed baffled by my presence. Later I was picked up by my step-mother and taken home.

I related everything to my father and his demeanor wasn’t great. He walked over to a shelf and retrieved a tourist trap picture of Native Americans hunting buffalo that I had given him as a gift. He returned and started a small speech about them, asking if I thought they would quit. If they quit, they’d die. And on it went. It ended with his expression of how disappointed he was that I’d quit.

I went to my room feeling like shit. It was a miserable feeling. I didn’t rally my efforts and go back to the coach and try to continue with the team. But the lesson stuck with me.

Walking across the bridge, the number of things that I’ve begun and not finished, particularly athletic or sporting endeavors came to me. Three months ago I committed to running a half marathon. It is something I’ve wanted to do for years, but just recently been encouraged by my friend Alison to really buckle down and train for. She encouraged me to do it, and her faith in my abilities really drove me to think I could manage it. She also told me not to run if I wasn’t healthy yet. But more than anything this thought of my father’s disappointment in my quitting came to me, and I could look down to the park and finish line knowing that I was finally going to finish something that I’d started. It was stupid to race injured. I couldn’t define before the race why I suddenly felt so driven to run. Maybe it wasn’t some subconscious effort to finally please my father with an athletic accomplishment and I was just being my normal stubborn self. But I struggled to keep the tears away all the way across the bridge.

Thus, the buffalo became a personal symbol, and that moment on the bridge became one of the most meaningful in my relationship with my father who had died a little less than a year before I ran that race. It closed a very long chapter and freed me from a personal struggle with him and his memory. That’s why a broken arrow was incorporated. Most commonly it’s a symbol of peace, and can also be considered a symbol of new beginnings.

These are my reasons for the creation of this icon. Beyond that, my hope is that it’s interesting enough that people would want to wear it.