To fletch the arrow, you take a piece of twine (pulled off of a woven plastic grain bag) and make a knot, before wrapping it several times around the arrow, carefully placing 3 feathers upside down and equidistant on the end of the arrow. At this point, you have an arrow with upside-down feathers, sticking up like odd hair.
Next, we carefully half the bottom shaft of each feather (the end that is sticking up). This was difficult – the feathers break easily across themselves, but do not give way so well down their length. Then, fold the feather over itself toward the pointy end of the arrow, and notch the arrow. That is where you place the next knot, and begin your second twine wrap. We then bend each feather downward, and wrap them on too, so they are all attached to the arrow. That’s it! Put a little heat from a hot stick on the end of the twine, and press it against itself. There it will stay.
The arrows finished, we moved on to the bow.
The ends of each bow you hack to a narrower point with the knife. My error was not gripping it tightly enough.. once I did that I hacked away well. At one point one of the Maasai who was observing went and got his knife, which was a lot fancier than the kitchen knife I had. I had to tell him, “it’s not the knife that’s the problem!”
Afterward, holding the knife perpendicular to the bow, we smoothed off all the rough bark. The next challenge was making our bow string. The best thing one can do before this maneuver is to shave one’s leg hairs. Why? Well, the fastest way to twist the 10 pieces of twine into string is to roll it against a leg. If you have leg hairs all over the place, they are guaranteed to be yanked out with much agony. This part took me a long, long time… several times Alagu took it away from me and pre-rolled it to speed me along. At the end he congratulated me, "Good job, you have worked very hard."
Finally it was done! But I still wondered.. if I was in the forest with only a knife, where would I find twine to make a bow string? Alagu says they used to use animal tendon or skin. But how could I catch an animal if I don’t have a bow? He just shrugs. I carry on.
Tie one end on, bend the bow and tie the other end on.. wrap wrap wrap. And then it’s done.
Tomorrow, Alagu tells me with a big grin, we’ll have target practice on my shoe. After that, you can help us hunt rats. Rats?! It turns out the staff kitchen has a huge mouse problem, one that the Hadza have been helping to resolve by shooting (and then roasting) the creatures. As they are hunter-gatherers, Hadzabe love to eat any animals they can catch. At Noloholo, wild animal hunting is strictly forbidden…with the exception of the kitchen rats.