Photo by Daniel Vaughan
The Kente Tomahawk and Knife Throwing Club Celebrates 20 Years on a Seventh Generation Farm
Prince Edward County resident Roger Redner is passionate about local pioneering history, with very good reason. He is the seventh generation living on the same land, same farm, settled in the 1700s by his ancestors, United Empire Loyalists.
“The land was deeded from the Crown, about 1,000 acres,” said Roger who just celebrated his 80th birthday. “Rednersville was incorporated in late 1700s. My ancestors were mostly flatlanders, while I became a professional trapper of fur-bearing animals like muskrats, racoons, and beaver, shipping pelts to a North Bay auction house. We originally started with the Ontario Trappers Association; that went under, and the trappers all regrouped and formed the trapper-owned Ontario Fur Managers (OFM), with support from First Nations trappers. The OFM sells more than a million dollars of fur a year.”
Closer to home, 25 years ago, Roger started participating in pioneer day re-enactments at Ameliasburgh Pioneer Village every Victoria Day weekend. “The games always included throwing tomahawks and knives, as one of their fun activities. Everybody was looking for tomahawks and couldn’t find any, so I started designing them.” Different from a hatchet, the tomahawk has a 20-inch handle with a one-degree taper onto which a four-inch (maximum) blade is swaged. The blade is precision cast, guaranteed within 1,000th of a millimetre. The design is traditional, Roger owns the mould and makes 50 at a time.
Immersed in the sport, Roger formed the Kente Tomahawk and Knife Throwing Club 20 year ago. “We get together every Tuesday night at the other end of my farm, at my daughter’s place on Victoria Road. It costs five dollars for two hours. We have five different throws from right and left handed, and underhand and backwards. We give trophies for a high score, and 50-50 scores also. Then we throw knives. I own the moulds for them too.”
The target is a log cut eight inches thick with a playing card placed sideways on it. Participants get five throws from 12 feet away. If they nick the card, that’s three points. Cutting the card in half is five points, and one point for sticking it in the log.
“I enjoy it because it is so much fun, and someone is always digging the other guy, like
‘Why did you throw it that way?’ he laughed. “When it leaves your hand, you don’t have any control. It’s gone. It’s a good, clean, fun night, and what can you do for five bucks for two hours?”
It’s good practice for The Gathering of Friends re-enactment on Victoria Day weekend for the opening of the Ameliasburgh Museum. “We’re all dressed in buckskin, you bet,” assured Roger.
“We have 35 prospector tents and usually a teepee. We have traditional games like atlatl – a tool that uses leverage to achieve greater velocity in launching a five-foot giant arrow. We also have hoop races, sling shot, peanut toss, and rabbit sticks. The settlers played along with the Aboriginal People because they didn’t have their own games. In those days, you made your own. We also have trading tables covered with red blankets, like olden times.”
Club member Rick Hamilton of Brighton, a former paratrooper and retired RCMP officer studying to become a pastor, met Roger while they were members of a blacksmith association.
“We are all re-enactors of the War of 1812 at the Village. To stay true to the period, we can only wear buckskin, no modern day anything, dressed as hunters, trappers, farmers, all pioneers. We have quite a few First Nations people in the group honouring their heritage. In the long bow competitions, the arrows must be old, and hand made by a fletcher. The First Nations started the games, teaching and helping the pioneers a lot. If it wasn’t for the them, the settlers would not have survived the first few winters. We owe them more than we can even say.”
“What I value most in the club is the camaraderie. We all laugh and kid each other. Get a bunch of guys together, and they give you a hard time,” laughs Rick. “In a good way, they try to get you going. I get a wall of trophies and fresh air and it’s great fun and excellent for hand/eye coordination.”
The club’s youngest member is Roger’s daughter, Kelly Dolihan. “It’s such a good time, it’s recreational and social with a great group of friends. You are wielding a (formidable) weapon, and not everyone does it. I have been doing it since I was 13, so it’s kind of second nature.”
Member Ken Scherk, in his late 70s, throws while holding a cane. “It gives me a night out with a mixed bag of people. It’s something different from bowling. I have always been interested in western history and was in the Upper Canada Rifles an early re-enactment group. Some of the club’s fellows are bringing their grandchildren, and they are getting good at it.”
The Kente Tomahawk and Knife Throwing Club welcomes new members. For information, call Roger at 613.969.8139 or Rick at 613.475.9970.