I was the first US Servicemember arm amputee from recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan to attend this long-running event held in Olney, Texas (originally the One Arm Dove Hunt), in 2010. I couldn't believe the fellowship and community that these folks had created in this small Texas town, and how attached people have become, travelling from pretty great distances (Canada, Australia) to attend for years, including one man who's attended every single one.

First conceived in 1972 by Jack Bishop and Jack Northrup (Olney's Two Jacks) as a joke in response to being stared at by bystanders, referencing all of the two-handed activities that they planned to participate in that weekend, the event has evolved to include a trap shoot, dove hunt, cow chip toss, horseshoe tournament, and the famous "Five Cent a Finger Breakfast."

While the hunt and shoot are fun, they are by no means a requirement for the event, and there are long-attending amputees who do not routinely participate in the shooting events. Mainly, the reason that arm amputees look forward to this event is for the opportunity to connect with friends new and old who share many of the same challenges in life that they do.

Universally, people who attend the event for the first time feel "at home" and as if they've gathered with old friends even if they've never met anyone there before that weekend. There's no substitute for shared experience, and nothing more valuable to those whose experience is so rare. The fewer than 50,000 arm amputees in the US share a pretty rare experience, and there aren't very many opportunities for them to get together.

This is one of them, and if you haven't been, do yourself a favor and get there. You won't be disappointed.

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