VALLEY – After 40 years of friendship, Darrell Mingo has come to expect the occasional odd request from his best friend Gary Higgins.
“This is always the way it seems to go,” Mingo laughed. “He gets into something and then he asks me if I want to join him.”
The pair have done everything from taking martial arts classes to playing music together for the bulk of their friendship, but last year Higgins got a new activity in mind.
“I was sitting at home one day, and I just thought, ‘I wonder if anybody does competitive knife throwing around here?’”
After his wife took to Google, she found there were no competitive ranges in Nova Scotia. But they did come across the International Knife Throwers Hall of Fame, based out of Texas. With a knife and tomahawk event scheduled for Micksburg, Ont., Higgins set his sights on attending the event and roped in his old pal.
“I thought, ‘Oh my, what is it now?’” Mingo said. “But when you’ve been friends as long as we have, you do a lot of different things together.”
“From there, the idea took me right to my backyard,” Higgins said. “I set up a range out there and started practicing.”
The range features a 10-foot wall with three archery-style targets in a line. Marked on the ground are distances back from the wall.
Starting off, each thrower found their comfort zone in different areas. Mingo struggled to stick the knives with consistency, so he turned to tomahawks, while Higgins found his stride slinging knives. They both had one thing in common, however. They were naturals from long distance.
After a year of throwing in their backyards and in Higgins’ garage, the duo travelled to Micksburg with their wives late last month. There they were pitted up against the world’s best, including world-record holder Mikhail Sedychev of Russia.
“It was great to be there with all the pros,” Higgins said. “Just to see the way they throw and learn off them a bit, it was a top-notch experience.”
At first they didn’t know what to expect in competing with the top guns, but they soon realized they could hold their own.
“We went into it with an open mind,” Higgins said. “But we did great. It was a great learning experience for us.”
In the scoring system, points are accumulated for each of the rings on the target – five for the centre, four for the next ring, and so on. Three knives or tomahawks are thrown from each distance, with a maximum point total of 300. A score of 200 or higher gets you into the top ranking of expert-level thrower.
Higgins hit the top level with a 203, while Mingo came down to the wire.
“I just scraped in there… 200,” he said with a smile.
To top it off, Higgins picked up a first-place finish in the long-distance knife throw, from just over 34 feet, while Mingo won the distance tomahawk throw, sticking the target from 47 feet.
After returning home, the duo has hatched a new plan to help spread the sport around the area.
“We really want to get this going around here,” Higgins said. “It’s a really fun sport, it’s totally safe, and I think it can really catch on. I’d love to see some more Nova Scotia throwers next year.”
Starting in the fall, they’ll be holding seminars on knife and tomahawk throwing for the public to take part in. Anyone will be welcome, free of charge.
“You can really spend hours out here, no problem,” Higgins said as he spun a knife into the target. “It’s really a good way to burn off stress or just enjoy yourself.”