Each bow requires 30 to 40 hours of craftsmanship. He coats the wood with animal fat, heats it over an open flame and bends it to the shape he desires. Mr. Walker has so fine a touch most of the bows he makes – about 75 at last count – will pull between 45 to 50 pounds of pressure. Lighter bows are just as lethal as heavier bows. With the lighter bow, a hunter does not tire as quickly. The shot he unleashes, Mr. Walker said, is more likely to find its target if he isn’t fatigued.
Although his grandfather, renowned Chickasaw bow-maker Amon Walker, died before he was born, Mr. Walker remembers his father, Ralph, making bows on cherished allotted acreage near Happyland, Okla. The allotment previously belonged to his grandfather.
“People would gather out there,” he said. “They would shoot bows and play stickball and have stomp dances. That’s what I remember as a child.”
Mr. Walker left the Ada area for 10 years in the 1980s, but returned in the mid-90s. He sought out the elders to advise him how to locate bois d’arc wood and how to make bows. His memories were steeped in the craft from watching his father as a child.
As Activities Coordinator at the Chickasaw Cultural Center in Sulphur, he shares the tribe’s heritage and culture. He demonstrates bows, drums, deer-hide tanning and stomp dances for “people who come from all over the world.”
“Whatever our guests decide they would like to see demonstrated, that is what we do,” he said.
He also shares his knowledge, talent and tribal heritage in a more somber way.
Mr. Walker only has about 20 of the 75 bows he has made. Yes, he has donated a few to museums and given some to friends. He also places a bow and two arrows in coffins of tribal and family members “who died too young,” he said simply. “It helps the families and gives them a sense of heritage and peace.”