MAYFIELD, Sanpete County — When Carter Crosland wants to do something, he doesn't let the fact that he was born without arms or legs stand in his way.
So when Aaron Love, a fellow student at Snow College, introduced Crosland to archery, his reaction was, "Maybe I ought to see what it would take to rig up a crossbow (a type of bow used by disabled archers) so I can shoot it."
Love replied, "If you buy a crossbow, I'll find a way to make it work."
Over the past several months, that's just what has happened. Love and another Snow student, Wes Kjar, engineered a device for mounting a crossbow on Crosland's wheelchair. Crosland can slant the crossbow up and down, and move it from side to side, in order to aim it. A lever on the device butts against Crosland's left shoulder. By hunching his shoulder, he can release the lever and shoot an arrow.
Over the weekend, Crosland was the featured archer at a meet co-sponsored by Top Notch Archers, a Sanpete County archery club, and employees at the Central Utah Correctional Facility in Gunnison.
The meet, held near the top of 12-Mile Canyon in the Manti-LaSal National Forest, was a fund-raiser for Utah Special Olympics. It attracted more than 100 competitors from throughout the state, and Paula Brewer, a leader in Top Notch Archers and an archery instructor at Snow College, said she expected the event to raise $2,500 to $3,000.
Crosland, 19, the son of Russell and Lisa Crosland of Fillmore, said the whole thing started when Love took him to a sports store in Payson that had a "techno-shoot" archery range in the basement. The young disabled man was so captivated by archery that a little later he spent about $380 buying his horizontal crossbow, not knowing if he'd ever be able to shoot it.
Then Love and Kjar went to work. "We talked about it for weeks," said Kjar. "We're both pretty mechanical. We went to Home Depot and spent hours in there trying to figure out how to make it work. It was pretty tough to figure it out."
Love, an art major from Longmont, Colo., assembled the device in a Snow College art studio. He used two pieces of "all thread" pipe, essentially 4-5-foot high bolts. The bottom ends hook into the footpieces of Crosland's wheelchair. He used a piece of aluminum angle iron to create a shelf between the two pieces of pipe at Crosland's shoulder level.
Then he attached a 3-inch caster wheel that is usually used on a piano to the aluminum shelf. He devised a way to attach the crossbow to the caster so Crosland could move the bow around when aiming. Then he rigged together other materials and springs to create levers that make it possible for
Crosland, using his left shoulder, to release a safety on the crossbow and fire the trigger.
Love said it was an "honor" to make the mechanism for his friend. "It turned out pretty well," Love said. "He can shoot with it, and he's getting good."
In fact, last semester, the archery club at Snow had an event where archers tried to use arrows to pop balloons. Each shooter who popped a balloon got a chance to throw a ball at a dunking machine and try to dunk college president Michael Benson, student-body officers and other campus notables.
Every arrow Crosland shot hit a balloon. "He didn't miss," said Brewer.
When Benson tried, it took him five arrows to hit one balloon.
One of the participants at the meet in 12-Mile Canyon was Jamie Brewer, a relative of Paula Brewer who grew up two houses away from Crosland in Fillmore. She isn't surprised at Crosland's proficiency in archery. "We always found a way to make sure he could do everything we did," she said. "That wasn't hard because he didn't let anything stop him."
Kjar describes Crosland, who dials a cell phone with his chin and holds a pen with his mouth, as "amazing." People are sometimes taken aback when they first see Crosland, but he quickly makes them feel comfortable, said Kjar. "He has the most positive attitude. He's really easy to talk to. His personality puts people at ease," he said.
Kjar is leaving soon on an LDS mission. But both Love and Crosland will be back at Snow in the fall. One of Love's next projects is to take Crosland bow-and-arrow hunting.