In my hands, which are big and clumsy, tools are dangerous weapons, which is why I generally avoid using saws, hammers, drills and other menacing objects that could slice off a finger, crush a thumb, pummel a palm or otherwise destroy my hands.
So imagine my surprise and delight to find out that – in my right hand, at least – I am a natural with an axe.
I don’t mean using one to chop wood (not a good idea since I don’t have a fireplace and the house might burn down), but rather throwing one at a target.
And I consistently hit the bull’s-eye, which is no bull, by displaying a good eye at the NY Axe Throwing Range, where I didn’t need beginner’s luck to show that I am a champ at burying the hatchet.
My axe-ploits (more axe puns coming up!) impressed coach Liz Vanek and manager Kaitlyn Lombardi, who agreed that I have an inherent talent at an activity that was popular during the Middle Ages. I considered it good timing since I will be the big 7-Oh on my next birthday and, unless I live to be 140, am a bit past middle age.
“Am I the oldest axe thrower you’ve ever met?” I asked.
“No,” said Liz. “We had a sweet little old lady in her 80s who was really good. She said, ‘I’ve never thrown axes before.’ But she wanted to try. And she killed it.”
“Killed?” I stammered.
“Not literally,” Liz assured me.
Before I tried my hand at throwing caution to the wind, I said to Liz and Kaitlyn, “Let’s get the wordplay out of the way. Do you hear a lot of axe puns, like ‘You axed for it’ and ‘It’s a hatchet job’?”
“All the time,” Liz quickly acknowledged. “The puns make me groan internally.”
“We’ve even come up with our own,” said Kaitlyn, who told me about the names of teams that customers could use.
They included VIP Axe-cess, Axe-cent, Axe-ident, My Axe Husband, My Axe Wife and, the best one, Pain in the Axe.
“We already did the work for you,” Kaitlyn noted.
“Thank you,” I said. “I’m happy to axe-cept your help.”
And I couldn’t have been in better – or younger – hands.
Liz is 18 and became a certified axe-throwing coach after going through a rigorous training program that involved learning safety measures, becoming proficient at consistently hitting the target and – this is very important – not maiming anybody.
“No missing limbs,” she said.
Kaitlyn is 21 and used to work as a clown at birthday parties.
“I’m a pretty good axe thrower,” said Kaitlyn, who started in the entertainment industry. “But Liz is better. After all, she’s a coach.”
“Let’s see how you do,” Liz said as she brought me to the first of the range’s 14 lanes.
“Are you right-handed or left-handed?” she asked.
“I’m ambidextrous,” I replied. “I’m incompetent with both hands.”
“Some people use both to throw axes,” Liz said. “But which hand is more dominant?”
“My right one,” I answered.
“That’s important to know because of leg placement,” she said. “You have to put your best foot forward.”
“Another pun!” I exclaimed.
“Sorry,” Liz said softly.
But first, I had to choose one of two kinds of axes: a smaller one, which resembled a hatchet, and a larger one that was a genuine axe.
I chose the smaller one because, as I told Liz, “I don’t have an axe to grind.”
She groaned internally and handed it to me.
“Bring it back like this,” she said, helping me hold the axe next to my head and parallel to the floor while standing a dozen feet from the large wooden target. “Step into your throw and follow through. The axe should rotate once before hitting the target. Ready?”
“Ready!” I said. Then I let the axe fly.
It landed squarely in the middle of the target.
“Bull’s-eye!” Liz chirped as she rang a bell.
“Great shot!” added Kaitlyn.
I had several more throws, the majority of which were bull’s-eyes.
Then I switched to the larger axe, for which I had to stand a couple of feet farther from the target. It didn’t matter. I scored one bull’s-eye after another.
This continued for an hour (the price for which is $39). I could have gone for an hour and a half ($55), but I had already proved my point.
“You are very good at throwing axes,” said Liz.
“Did you have fun?” asked Kaitlyn.
I smiled proudly and said, “I had an axe-cellent time.”
Jerry Zezima writes a humor column for Tribune News Service and is the author of six books. His latest is “One for the Ageless: How to Stay Young and Immature Even If You’re Really Old.” Reach him at [email protected] or via jerryzezima.blogspot.com.