By Marley Graham
“Grahams never quit.”
Now, to this day, I’m still a sensitive person who can be a little intimidated by challenge, but that phrase was drilled into my mind from an age so early that I can’t remember living without its presence. Whether it was trying out for a new sports team or fighting for my life through an Analytic Geometry class for the third time, every aspect of life was peppered with the sentiment that, no matter how difficult things got, I was never allowed to give up.
Axe throwing was no exception.
My first experience with the sport was actually on a date that I had planned. Life felt stagnant, and I was seeing a new guy and trying new things. The guy I was seeing at the time seemed mature and self-assured, so I wanted to appear the same way. I decided on an activity I hadn’t ever done before: axe throwing. If I was good, I would be naturally impressive, but if I was terrible, I had a reason to be.
Boy, was I terrible.
For the first several minutes, I could only launch the Estwing in my hands directly at the ground. I thought it was fluke at first, but then I continued the same way, throw after throw. My muscle memory from the myriad of sports I played growing up came back to haunt me with a vengeance I struggled to shake, and I couldn’t stop flicking my wrist.
By the time competition came around, I was the first eliminated. I excused myself to the bathroom, feeling my composure waning as my face grew hot. When I got to the bathroom, I stood in front of the running sink, trying to swallow my embarrassment.
“Grahams never quit.” My father’s voice echoed in my mind.
As much as I wanted to call it quits and chalk axe-throwing up to an activity that just wasn’t for me, I couldn’t let it lie. I took a moment to remind myself to take a moment and find myself, and then I marched my sorry butt back out to the lane, picked up the dreaded axe, and just…threw it. The heavy shunk! that followed caused a feeling of glory I’ve been chasing ever since.
I was so confident in my random success that I decided to try it again, just to be certain that I could. The second stick affirmed my belief that I could do this, and if I really worked at it, I could probably get pretty good.
In the next moment, I did something that, to this day, I attribute to changing my life for the better:
“…Are y’all hiring?” I asked.
“Wait, what?” My axe master asked, a bit taken aback.
“Are y’all hiring?” I asked again.
“Oh, uhh…” He stammered for a moment, looking around before cracking a slight smile, “Yeah, dude…!! Um, the hiring manager’s at the desk, you want an application?”
By the next week, I had my first job as an axe throwing coach at Bury the Hatchet. From there, my expertise grew. I became a stellar, hands-on instructor, and my axe-throwing steadily improved.
Since joining the team at American Axes, I’ve only managed to climb higher. There have been challenges, trials, and tribulations more than I can count on both hands, but I was uniquely motivated by the environment this new organization created. I’ve reached Assistant Manager, helping run the stores, events, and leagues, and as I have learned how to better communicate with my team and patrons, I’ve learned how to better communicate with myself to improve the throwing experience for everyone.
In axe-throwing, I found something that I can be proud of. I’ve changed for the better as a teacher, as a thrower, and as a person, and for that, I will always be grateful.