Septmember 1993 Montana Bowhunter Publication
THE PAUL SCHAFER I KNEW
By Robert P. Windauer
At the 1993 MBA Convention, Dino Fanelli asked me to write a little piece about Paul Schafer, father and man; the Paul few but his close friends ever knew. Had it not been for some unusual circumstances, someone else would be writing this tribute to the Paul I wish we all could have known.
Standing in a buffet line at the MBA banquet years ago, my young son pointed out Paul Schafer standing right in front of us with some friends. Progress of the line was slow and shortly Paul introduces himself to us. Engaging in warm personal conversation about children and hunting, the legendary man surprised me. I expected an aloof and possibly arrogant type which I am accustomed to finding on the personal side of heroes. Then, for several years, I had little contact with but more respect for and more awareness of this great man. One day my young son Dave, came home with news that he had a job helping Paul in his shop. That day changed the direction of Dave's life, and I began to know Paul Schafer , the man.
Paul is certainly hero material. He was outstanding in everything he did. An excellent athlete at high school, college and professional levels; Paul had not yet even begun to reach his potential. Alaskan guide, outfitter and bush pilot, unbeatable barroom fighter and ladies man par excellence- not enough. Greatest bowhunter of all times... now we're getting close; but he had to do it with the finest quality, high performance bows he built himself. Many will remember Paul for his record book performances, many for his bows, but I consider Paul to be one of my closest lifetime friends and among the finest father I have ever known. Dave's daily contact with Paul exposed our family to a very compassionate person with great sensitivity to the needs of those about him and to the dignity of the creatures he hunted. Paul's mind was highly developed, and I suspect from his analytical capabilities he was a mechanical genius. He built many of the power tools he needed in his work and could make the most of seemingly impossible situations. He could improvise to solve most p[problems and simply overpowered the rest. Overpowering really describes Paul's physical being, but his presence was a subtle as the change from afternoon up drafts to evening downdrafts in the elk country he loved so deeply. Massive but shy, strong but gentle, fast but careful, friendly but lonely, fearless but deliberate, both primitive and sophisticated, he was very complex. Paul was fiercely independent but at the same time longed for a wholesome family life with children to nurture. He searched out and welcomed youngsters to coach in the Bowyer's craft, the quality hunt and competitive sports. Paul went faithfully to athletic events, following the activities of my children and the children of his other friends, just to support those children. He rarely talked of his own achievements, which were great, but spoke in glowing terms of the achievements of others. Often, when parents could not be there, Paul was there. he knew when he was needed.
The changes in Dave's life were subtle, I was still his father and friend, but Paul became a second father, one who filled in some of the voids we all have. Dave said, "Paul does not treat me like he's my boss. He acts just like a father." I've done my best at fathering with deliberate care for my whole life; Paul did it as he did most things...naturally. He didn't even have to try. Such a gift. Paul had a daughter, Laurie, who came early in his life. She was lost to Paul, and he to her for over twenty years. Laurie and Paul were reunited about the time he was ready to become a father. By then he was a grandfather to her children and had a one year old son of his own named Hunter. Paul loved and fathered Hunter with the same intensity that he hunted and shot his bow. Paul's friend, Bart Schlayer, calls it Zen like concentration, coaches call it focus. It was at least dedication beyond anything I had seen before. At Christmas, 1992 we knew Paul was down on his luck with heavy debts and depression settling in, so we invited him and Hunter to our family Christmas celebration. They couldn't come because instead Paul risked severe driving conditions to be with Laurie, Bill and their children in Townsend. It was a very meaningful Christmas for Laurie and her family as well as for Paul and Hunter. Paul managed time for a short visit with our family on his way home a couple days later. Even when Paul had no money, such as this Christmas, he found a way to bring gifts for everyone in his family and ours. He was a very generous man.
Paul loved deeply. He did an incredible amount of fathering for my two sons, Dave and Tien. When I could not get through to my boys, I would talk to Paul, then he would find a way to deliver what they needed to know. Paul passed on solid values forged from the " good but hard" life he lived. Paul was the world's best hunter but had time to teach his niece Jenny how to hunt. He offered to take my daughter hunting, and he spent much of his own time showing my sons the path through the outdoors. Paul and Hunter loved to visit Matt and Sharon Riley and their children. He cherished the family times together with them. Paul loved the Wensels and Rileys and with them he shared the family that never developed in his own adulthood. Paul loved his son, Hunter, above all things. he was a natural parent who was gifted with knowledge of what to do and when to do it. Gentle and perceptive, he knew Hunter's needs almost instantly. During the precious times Paul was able to spend with Hunter, the two were inseparable.. Paul watched every movement and truly sheltered his son in the palm of his hand. Two weeks before Christmas, a friend of mine who barely knew Paul but knew he made bows asked if Paul had any bows laying around. She said she wanted to buy her young son a bow, but they were very expensive, about $60 or $70. Inside I smiled because I knew the value of Paul's basic bows to be ten times that; but I asked anyway. Paul told me that the value of the bow was not important, only that if a young boy is interested in archery, he should have a good bow. Paul made three tries until he built a good enough bow for Tony Gamma. The bow was ready for Christmas at a time when Paul had many other things to do. I believe Paul asked $35.00 for the bow or did it for nothing. He never told me. Paul didn't need to brag or seek approval. He always welcomed boys into his shop and always had time to help them work on their own bow; often supplying his glue, laminations, forms and expensive handle materials. Paul left us while he was a coach of a children's basketball team; a sport he never played, but was asked so he did it. Matt Riley and Barry Wensel have both observed Paul to be the most ethical hunter they have known. I believe strict ethics carried much more deeply into Paul's personal life in his relationships with humans and the rest of creation than most people realize. He would detect insincerity and dishonesty with sixth sense, growing less tolerant of those faults with time. Perhaps ethics is why Paul loved children with such intensity; they have had so little time to become dishonest and insincere. They are easy to read, and they are honest with their needs and their feelings. Paul was hurt many times in his life by dishonest of insincere adults, but time and again in the years I knew him, he refused to sell his soul to that matter. He simply would not compromise his ethics for a dollar. This, more than perhaps any other thing, kept Paul from the financial security so many with less to offer than he seemed to enjoy.
Paul could only be described in the extreme; he is nothing less than exceptional. I doubt there will ever be anyone close. To finish, Id like to relate a story Paul's mom told me:
As a child Paul loved horses and thought he'd someday be a stunt man. He would gallop and jump off to tumble and roll and learn the cowboy moves. When he'd get hurt, he'd keep on going. Mostly, he didn't get hurt. He lived the rest of his life in a similar fashion, so it is not such a surprise that Paul left with his life suddenly taken in a skiing accident. It seems nothing could stop him... not running horses, not tacklers, not grizzlies, lions, cape buffalo, bush planes or anything else.
How can it be: what a loss we all have suffered, especially Laurie Evans and Hunter Schafer, the children who never can know a father like Paul. May our Creator allow Paul, in his gentle way, to guide us all to be better than we are. May we all remember him for his generosity, his uncompromising ethics, and his love for children. May we all carry a small portion of what Paul was and is into the future, for bowhunting and for life itself.
With Humble Respect,
Robert P. Windauer