The wood chips crackled under his feet as James Monroe Brown walked up and down the hilly, winding course that led the ice cream-maker to a standing ovation in a West German sports hall two weeks ago.
The seven acres of expansive evergreens in Cheltenham, Md., that had become his home away from home the past several years were well trodden from archery practices and competitions.
But last week, the 33-year-old Marlow Heights man walked the trails events that began at an Anacostia Park picnic in 1971 and led to the world title in Neider-Kainsbach, Germany, on Aug. 11.
Like other American athletes in the so-called minor sports, Brown has had his share of personal and financial sacrifices and setbacks. His sport is neither widely understood nor followed; it is not popular as a spectator sport and, thus, presents uphill struggles in securing corporate sponsorships for tournaments.
Aside from reading about the legend of Robin Hood and medieval and Wild West battles with bows and arrows, the exposure most people have to the sport of archery is the rubber-plunger-tipped sets children get as presents.
In fact, the toy bows and arrows were the first Brown ever handled. His father bought him a set when he was 11 years old, Brown recalled, so he could play with a friend who had a set.
The friend eventually moved away and the toys were stashed in a cardboard box in a closet at the family's home in the District.
Brown forgot about archery until the Anacostia picnic when he saw Ken Thompson, a member of the Capitol Hill police force, showing someone how to shoot at the target bails there.
"I asked Ken about it and he said he had a club I might be interested in joining," Brown recalled. "I had nothing at the time, so he let me borrow his bow and instructed me on what I should do."
Recurve stick bows in those days cost $60 to $80. With modern technology comes higher prices for the serious bowhunter; some bows cost $275 (a less serious competitor could plan on spending $150). Additionally, arrows cost about $55 a dozen for aluminimum ones and $125 for graphite.
The club Thompson told Brown about, the Mohican Bowmen, had only black members at the time and they numbered 10. Today's enrollment is about 50, with 15 of the members black.
After bounding around to various home sites, the Mohican Bowmen settled in 1975 at the Naval Communications Unit field archery range which has been given a four-star rating by the National Field Archery Association. A fifth star was dropped because no camping is allowed there.
Brown adopted the "bowhunter" style because he thought it provided the most challenges. It prohibits shooting aides permitted in "freestyle" and "barebow" such as target sites, bowstring release and bow stabilizer.
He developed his own "gap" system for shooting that involved finding a point of reference to aid in hitting the bulls-eye since there were no helpers on his bow.
Because each archery course has 28 targets of different sizes and distances (and deception), a careful study of each course is required. Four arrows are shot at each of the 28 targets and there are 20 points per target, for a maximum of 560 points. Brown has twice broken 500 this year.
"This is strictly target-shooting," Brown said. "This isn't animal-shooting, although bowhunting simulates that kind of hunting because of the various distances and different sizes of the targets."
Within a year of joining the Mohican Bowmen, Brown won his first Maryland State Field Archery Championship. He followed in 1974 and 1975 with two more for a record three consecutive state championships.
He won the competitive bowhunting division of both the Mid Atlantic Regionals and the U.S. National Field Archery Association championship in 1977 and 1978. Since the world championship is held every two years, this was his first victory in the International Field Archery Association championship. He also won the all-around European bowhunter title during contests held in conjunction with the world championship. He accumulated 2,370 points during the five-day world contest.
Brown's accomplishments also marked the first time a black had won the world and national championships, a feat which he said he hopes will encourage other blacks to take up the sport.
After he won the nationals at Aurora, Ill., this year, Brown said, "I knew I would need some money quite bad to get to Germany."
Through the intervention of retired Navy Lt. Cdr. W. K. Reeves, Tysons Toyota and the Jennings Bow Co. he came up with the transportation and lodging costs.
Brown had won the nationals by 160 points and figured he would have a good shot at the world title. He won the crown in the end by 320 points, beating out 380 others from seven countries.
"I suppose it's determination, practice and a lot of sacrifices," Brown said of his success. "All my spare time goes to archery."
The freestyle shooter is generally the "star" or main attraction in an archery tournament. But, along about his second day in the world contest. Brown noticed the spotlight had shifted.
"There was a mob of people following me about," he said, still in disbelief. "Men, women, children and other athletes . . . And at the awards banquet, even before they called my name, I got a standing ovation. It was really heartwarming."
And the television and radio coverage amazed him, he said, since there is so little in the United States. his wife Ruth, daughter Jackie and dozens of friends did not know if he had won or lost when they met him at Dulles Airport. They were ecstatic and his friends at the Safeway ice cream department on Addison Road - where he operates a machine that mixes, freezes and packages ice cream - are also happy for him.
As for the future, Brown said, he is considering turning pro with hopes of repeating his amateur feats.
"But, that world (championship)." he says, "that was my Olympics."