Dennis Anderson
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He makes his living as a trick-shooting archer. But while performing, Frank Addington Jr. won’t draw back a bow a single time unless he can talk first.

That’s his deal: Talk, then shoot.

“The fancy shooting is what everyone comes to see,” Addington, 51, said the other day by phone from his home near San Antonio. “But it’s my message I’m proudest of, even more than the shooting. That’s why, if I can’t speak, I won’t perform.”

Addington will be in town Friday through Sunday to appear at Game Fair at Armstrong Ranch Kennels in Ramsey. His most unforgettable feat with a recurve bow is impossible to believe unless witnessed firsthand.

He hits a baby aspirin in the air with an arrow — while shooting his bow from behind his back.

Having no sighting mechanism with which to zero in on the aspirin, Addington shoots instinctively. “It’s target acquisition,” he said. “I lock on the aspirin with my eyes, then instinctively shoot the arrow where I think the aspirin is, or will be.”

But first ... “the talk.”

“I used to shoot the baby aspirin before I spoke, but I found out that a lot of people came just to see that shot and then they’d leave,” Addington said. “Now I speak first and shoot the baby aspirin later.”

Addington’s message is intended especially for children. Turn off your computers, televisions and phones. Don’t do drugs. Instead, do something with your family. And do it outdoors.

“I’m an entertainer,” Addington said. “But I bring a moral message with my entertainment.”

Born with a sunken chest, Addington was told as a young boy he’d never play football or other contact sports. But he had a gift that he retains today: 20/8 vision in each eye.

He also had parents who owned an archery shop in their West Virginia hometown. Given a bow as a young boy, Addington passed countless hours practicing, and soon he was succeeding in competitive archery and also was killing deer from a tree stand.

Both intrigued him. But neither inspired him. That didn’t come until he started trick shooting. Now he performs about 30 shows a year, coast to coast, and has for the past 33 years. Venues have ranged from New York City’s Central Park to San Francisco’s Cow Palace.

Fellow Texan Lt. Gen. (retired) Leroy Sisco runs the Military Warriors Support Foundation and is a longtime friend and admirer of Addington’s.

“I’ve seen the baby aspirin shot many times,” he said. “But it’s still hard to believe.”

Said Addington: “Years ago, there were maybe four guys who could hit a regular-size aspirin with an arrow. I wanted to take it a step further, so I shot baby aspirin instead. Then two other guys started to do that shot, too.”

Finally, to set himself apart for good, Addington started shooting with his recurve bow held behind his back. Now, he does his entire show with his bow in that position.

But even crack shots endure slumps, and in the early ’90s Addington revealed to his friend, psychiatrist Dr. John MacCallum, that he wasn’t hitting targets as often as he wanted — or, as a trick shooter, needed.

“When I was younger I would shoot real well, but when the TV cameras showed up, I’d go to pieces,” Addington said. “At one show, I had six Los Angeles TV stations filming me at once.”

MacCallum subsequently introduced Addington to Dr. Wyatt Woodsmall, founder and president of Advanced Behavioral Modeling Inc. Woodsmall uses “learning technologies” to increase individual and group performance. Among his specialties is neuro-linguistic programming, or NLP.

“Wyatt spent about an hour with Frank talking to him about his best performances ever and how he felt when he did them,” MacCallum said. “Then Wyatt asked Frank to shoot his bow at a regular aspirin, which he hit, before asking him to shoot at a baby aspirin. He did, and that was the first time Frank had ever hit a baby aspirin with his first shot.”

Addington no longer practices very often with his bow.

“I’ve performed in 43 states, and at this stage of my life, it’s more about equipment maintenance than practice,” he said. “I do work out, however, to keep the muscles I need for shooting in the shape they need to be.”

At one time in his career, Addington traveled with a “thrower,” who would toss balloons and other objects, including baby aspirin, into the air. This offered Addington consistency in the angles and distances the targets appeared from him.

But the thrower eventually got married and didn’t want to travel. Now, show promoters provide people to toss the targets, including aspirin.

Given this variable and others, especially available lighting while he performs, Addington sometimes misses. But he makes no excuses.

“Every show, eventually, I’ll hit the baby aspirin,” he said.

Dennis Anderson 612-673-4424

Editor’s note: Frank Addington Jr. will appear at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. daily during Game Fair’s six-day run, Friday through Sunday, Aug. 10-12 and 17-19. More information at gamefair.com or by phoning 763-427-0944.