Over his more-than-60-year career as a custom bow maker, or bowyer, Tim Meigs, 89, made more than 9,000 custom bows for archers around the world.
He ended his career at the top of his field, but he got off to an inauspicious start.
“The day after Pearl Harbor, my brother joined the Navy,” Meigs recalled. “I borrowed his bow and took off on my bicycle.”
The bow got tangled up in the spokes, sending the boy head over tea kettle and breaking the bow.
“My parents made me replace the bow,” he said. “I saved the money from my paper route for two months to get the $7.50 to buy a new bow. I’ve been shooting ever since.”
He’s been making bows nearly as long, making his first bow as a 15-year-old in 1943 and becoming a professional bowyer in 1954. He retired last year from Meigs Archery, a business he ran in Carson City since moving there from the San Francisco Bay Area in 1972.
He moved it to Mound House from 1986 to 2017.
In “The Traditional Bowyers Encyclopedia,” Dan Bertalan wrote about Meigs’ approach to his craft.
“He tosses his lanky, 6-foot-plus frame into his work, pausing only long enough to retrieve or replace a template or file before jumping back into his task,” Bertalan wrote. “There’s nothing casual about his bowmaking. Engrossed in each exacting step like a surgeon, white dust mask in place. Tim peers from behind his horn-rimmed glasses, eyes locked on the band saw incision and his oversized ears listening for the right hum on the feather sander.”
After high school, Meigs was drafted into the Army, where he won the Virginia State Archery Championship in 1952. He continued bringing home the trophies in both Nevada and California and was inducted into the California Bowhunters and State Archery Hall of Fame in 2004.
He tested his skills in the wild as well, harvesting some kind of game every year since 1943.
“I hunted with Tim numerous times, and anytime he drew back on an animal, I would be reaching for my skinning knife,” said Mitch Sowl, former employee and hunting buddy, who bought the business from Meigs. “He was that good.”
Sowl has submitted Meigs, along with his wife, Fern, for consideration to be inducted into the Archery Hall of Fame.
Meigs met Fern in an archery club and they were married in 1956. Together, they started the Carson City archery club, Clear Creek Bowmen. She helped in the business by making arrows, bow strings and wrapping leather handles on the bows before her death in 1993.
“If anyone was ever one with an arrow, it was Fern,” Sowl wrote. “She was one of the most natural, fluent archers I have ever seen. Fern consistently scored higher than all of her competition — and most of all of the men — in the traditional class.”
Meigs imported wood from around the world, including Africa, South America and Japan, to make his bows. He was looking for just the right qualities.
“The wood had to be flexible and strong,” he said.
They’re the same qualities he values in a person.
“You learn something new all the time,” he said. “When you stop learning, you aren’t worth a darn.”