It’s a Friday night, and I’m with my family and friends at Oregon Axe, learning from our “axepert”— owner Timothy Stemmerman — how to have a good time, like how to not get maimed or killed, while throwing axes at a big wooden target.
We pay close attention.
“First rule: Do not throw hard,” Stemmerman says, eyeing my husband Ben, clearly a pillar of pent-up 9-to-5 administrative rage. Ben nods in reluctant agreement. Stemmerman then stares down our friend Stephen, a gentle lumberjack-like fellow. “Men always want to throw hard,” Stemmerman says.
Stephen is appreciative, thoughtful. He turns to his wife Niki.
“Don’t throw hard, honey,” he says.
My son Hugh, 13, is old enough to “draw axes”; that’s what it’s called — only a neophyte would call it “throwing” an axe. Hugh has walked into this rustically charming joint already breaking Rule No. 3: “No open-toed shoes or high heels.”
Hugh lives in his Birkenstocks, an obvious hazard. So we agree that, for the fleeting moment Hugh and I can still wear the same shoes, we’ll trade off with my Converse low-tops. Problem solved.
“Keep your hands off the fencing,” Stemmerman continues. “Axes must stay in the lanes at all times.”
This seems wise.
“One axe per target. You are not Robin Hood,” Stemmerman says.
After a few more health-and-safety considerations, I enter the cube. Inside, two axe-throwing lanes are set up, with small and large axes and a big wooden target.
The place smells like wood chips. I’m admittedly nervous.
“I can get anyone to stick it in sixty seconds or less,” our axepert boasts.
I am not Robin Hood. I’m more like Christopher Robin. But it’s a Friday night and here I am, feet planted, an axe poised behind my head, ready to fly.
“Oh, here we go!” says Ben, snapping photos from behind the safety fencing.
I see the target. I feel my heart race.
“Throw it when it reaches eye level,” Stemmerman says.
Visions of a few people I might like to see hurt magically appear in my mind — THWACK.
I stick it.
My axe slices into that big lumber target and stays there!
My future as a World Axe Champion certain, I keep practicing. My best friend Niki joins me in the cube, and this is where I break Rule No. 6: Don’t Retrieve Your Axe Until Both Axes Have Been Thrown.
That is a damn fine guideline.
I hurl an axe through space and it misses the target, landing unceremoniously on the ground.
“Oh,” I think. “Forty-seven years of societal conditioning would say I dropped something, I should go pick it up.”
An alert axepert, Stemmerman stops me just as Niki hurls her axe.
We’re making memories!
When you head to Oregon Axe, you’ll be glad the business is set up with a teacher and guide assigned to your party the whole time, to keep it all fun and safe.
And our jovial crew has a grand time drawing axes.
Besides the inexplicable raw talent Niki and I consistently demonstrate, Ben’s style is light and nimble, dance-like, while Stephen takes a more Viking conquest approach.
But the dark horse is teenager Hugh, who masters axe throwing in no time and lands more bull’s-eyes than anyone.
When I ask Hugh what his secret is, he deadpans: “I just imagine I’m destroying toxic masculinity.”
Oregon Axe makes a fun date night or group destination and is also available for corporate events.
And Toxic Masculinity will definitely be my name when I join the World Axe Throwing League.
Oregon Axe is located at 303 S. 5th Street Suite 147, Springfield, OR. Axe throwing costs $25 per person for 1.5 hours of throwing, paid when you book your reservation online. Visit oregonaxethrowing.com for more information.