Safari Adventures: X Marks The Spot

Have you ever tried throwing a spear? What about a dart toward a dart board? Ever try sending a paper airplane out of a second story window? Chances are you don’t hit the target on the first or even second try.

Chris, the main character in BECAUSE OF KHALID, gets his first experience at throwing Khalid’s spear in chapter one on page eleven.

“Chris took the spear and ran his fingers over the smooth wood grain. He was surprised at how heavy and awkward the spear felt in his hands. He had trouble balancing the thing because it was so long. The stick was heavy in the front where the pointy tip was, so he had to adjust the positioning of his hands to keep it from slipping out of his fingers.”

He throws the spear, and it barely makes it past his own two feet. Later on, about halfway into the story, Chris tries again. His attempts at throwing the spear don’t improve much. He is very frustrated, and Khalid gives him some important and wise advice. The Maasai warrior’s advice has more to do with life than how to improve his spear skills. Chris gets a third chance to throw the spear toward the end of the story on the backside of his character arc. I won’t spoil the scene. You’ll have to read it to see what happens.

For my research for the story, I reviewed my journal and looked at many photos of our trip to Tanzania when my sons learned how to throw their first Maasai spear. The Maasai tribesman who worked at our tented camp showed our group how to cock our arm, balance the spear with our arm raised, and then how to release the spear. The motion kind of reminded me of how I threw a ball to my dog. Sort of.

Trying to write the spear scene at home back in the USA, I wanted to recreate the feeling of throwing the spear. Since we don’t own any spears, I used a broom. The broom handle was about the same length, though much thicker, and also made out of wood. Each day, I’d head to the garage for broom-holding. I held it above my head and tried to remember the awkward and imbalanced weight of the wooden spear. I imagined aiming for the target. In Africa, the target was a big burlap sack with an X marking the spot. It was about 20 feet away which didn’t look that far at first glance. The Maasai warrior hit the target very easily. My kids were positive that they could do the same. Chris, in my story, thought so too.

It’s harder than it looks.