Written by Arthur Treff | Photos by Anthony Harden
Why do people find hitting a target to be so satisfying? Nathan Masters, of SimpleShot, says he thinks he knows: “It’s in our DNA.”
I’m enjoying an unusually warm January sunset in the company of Nathan Masters. The French Broad River runs quickly by our picnic table at Zillicoah Beer, located on the northern end of Asheville’s River Arts District. Just hanging out, we’re talking typical “guy stuff”—oh, you know, like the importance of fun for human development and fulfillment.
“I believe humans seek play, fun, and joy as a means to live fuller and more abundant lives,” says Nathan, pausing for emphasis. A sparkle lights his eyes and a child’s smile appears on his bearded adult face: “…and that is why I love slingshots.”
“Dennis the Menace!” I reply. “Who didn’t try to make his or her own slingshot after seeing Dennis?”
Exactly. After falling in love with them, the Asheville native made artisanal versions of daily newspaper cartoon legend (and neighbor to the eternally harried Mr. Wilson) Dennis Mitchell’s famed forked stick as a hobby, and in eight short years his company, SimpleShot, has achieved 110% average annual growth, employs four workers full-time, and has become the largest online retailer of all things slingshot in the world.
If you grew up in these Western North Carolina parts, you’d know them as, “Flips” or “Bean Flips.” As a kid, I’d made my own slingshots using coat hangars, electrical tape, and rubber bands, but never managed to achieve accuracy. Still, I had fun trying. At Boy Scout camp, I was drawn to archery, and can still remember the joyful moment when my arrows actually hit the target, as opposed to the field beyond. Why was the simple act of hitting a target so satisfying? Nathan Masters, the philosopher, has an answer.
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