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As Moses, Roy Neal keeps winning at knife throwing and keeps the mountain man tradition alive. Photo by Phil Houseal

To contact Roy Neal, call 830-285-0970 or email mmmoses@stx.rr.com. More information at http://mountainmanmoses.blogspot.com.

Also of Note:
A group of friends has rallied to produce a benefit for Gael Montana - Comfort’s "contrarian/thespian/author and sometime barber" - who has been diagnosed with cancer. The event happens this Sunday, June 15 from 3 to 9 p.m. at the Comfort Park & Pavilion, and includes barbecue, auction, and raffle. Musical lineup is headed by Shake Russell, Snuffy Jackson, Graham Warwick, and Cosmic Dust Devils. For information or if you would like to donate go to www.montanasmiracle.com.

Do you have a musical artist, event, or topic you would like featured in this column? I love to hear from readers. Send comments to:
phil@ fullhouseproductions.net.

webmaster: phil@fullhouseproductions.net

Mountain Man Moses

by Phil Houseal
June 4, 2008


Roy Neal is a man of his time, a successful homebuilder. But when he dons his raccoon cap and picks up his knives and tomahawks, he becomes "Moses, mountain man."

The first time he handled those knives was at a rendezvous in 1999. A few cursory throws at the big block of wood revived his muscle memory of pitching baseballs, something he happened to be quite good at.

"It was second nature to be able to throw," said Neal, who thought the historic get-togethers were only about shooting black powder rifles. "That intrigued me because I played baseball. Throwing was easy for me."

Neal is the kind of guy who wants to be the best at everything he does. So he left that gathering and worked on what he calls "the art of distance." He explains that while the motion and release of throwing a knife is critical, the knife just won't stick in the target if the thrower is not at just the right distance. Then you have to work on accuracy.

"It is like throwing a baseball," he said. "You can get it to home plate, but then you have to hit that glove."

Instead of hitting a glove, knife and hawk throwers hit a series of targets. Each competitor gets five throws of the knife and hawk in 11 events, with a champion named in both knife and hawk divisions. The thrower with the best combined score from all events is named Overall Champion.

Some events involve hitting playing cards. Amazingly, there is an event where the thrower is expected to cut a single strand of raw spaghetti.

As natural as throwing felt for Neal, he did not start out winning.

"The first time I competed, I got up there and they were cutting cards, then cutting pieces of a piece! " he recalled. "I threw three games that first morning, then I quit and said I am going home to practice."

He practiced so much that the next year he tied for first place in the knife division and won third overall. In 2001 Moses won the overall Rocky Mountain National Knife and Hawk Championship.

Since then he has been National Champion, Central USA Champion, and three-time Texas State Championship - the largest throw in the world according to Guinness. In 2003 he was inducted into the International Knife Throwers Hall of Fame.

As much as he wins, Neal's true affinity for his alter ego of Moses goes beyond knives. He spends many weekends demonstrating his sport at festivals and historic reenactments.

"They don't teach you this part of history in the history books," he said. "They don't teach about mountain men and fur trappers. But when I bring out the knives and tomahawks, people want to learn more."

But there is no denying that Moses wants to keep winning.

"The competitive drive in me is that I want to be the best," he said. "My philosophy is if you are going to do it, do it the best you can. I want to be the best, I don't care if I'm throwing washers or throwing knives."

That is another message he shares with kids.

"To me practice is the key," he said. "If you want to be good at anything - handwriting, art, sports - you have to practice. I have put in many hours in my back yard."

That lesson is timeless.