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Brent Wasenius / Francis Gardler/ Lee Newspapers 

Dylan Gartner, left, of Fremont Bergan battles Tyler Sjuts of Humphrey/Lindsay Holy Family for a rebound on Saturday in the Class D-1 state championship game in Lincoln.

Bow maker looks back over the years

Vince Smith shot a rhinoceros.

Smith used a rubber-blunted arrow so he wouldn’t hurt the animal.

The thick-skinned animal didn’t even shutter when the arrow hit and bounced off.

But the rhino next to him charged at Smith.

“Lie down; He can’t see you,” Smith’s professional hunting guide said. “They have terrible vision.”

So Smith followed suit.

The charging rhino came very close, looking for the Fremont man in the grasses of South Africa.

It would be yet another interesting situation for the local bowyer.

More than a dozen years later, Smith reminisced about this and other adventures that occurred after he began building bows and arrows.

Smith owns Lonesome Wind Custom Bows, LLC, in Fremont. On average, he makes 25 to 30 bows and 60 dozen arrows a year. He made 80 bows in his best year.

He sells his custom bows at trade shows and has a Facebook page.

“I have bows all over the U.S., Australia, the UK (United Kingdom), Europe and Africa,” Smith said, adding that he’s also shipped bows to the Middle East and Korea.

He sent one to Germany and won for the best type of that bow in Europe.

Smith teaches bow- and arrow-making and is a certified archery instructor. He’s a past and current president of the Nebraska Traditional Archers group and served on the national board of the Compton Traditional Bow Hunters from 2008-2016.

In his basement shop, Smith builds laminated bows, which consist of strips of fiberglass with wooden core material. He also makes self bows from a single piece of wood. He makes wood, aluminum and carbon arrows.

Smith’s adventures in bow-making began years ago.

Originally from Blair, Smith grew up with a craftsman — his gunsmith dad, William, builds custom rifles.

“I learned from a very young age what quality and craftsmanship was,” he said. “I would help my father with what I could on custom guns.”

Smith was 18 when he began shooting shotguns competitively. A year later, he and his wife, Dede, married. He was 20 when he and Dede had their first child, Becky. They later became parents to a son, Ethan.

With a young, growing family, Smith didn’t have the money to compete in shotgun sports so he took up archery in 1994.

Someone gave him a compound bow with cams and wheels and he began going to 3D shoots with targets.

He found that guys shooting with old-style bows seemed to be having fun, while those with the modern compound bows were so serious about their scores.

That’s when Smith started shooting with the guys with the old-style bows and asked where they got their arrows. They directed him to John Schafer of Schafer Traditional Archery.

Smith said Schafer sold him the needed materials to build a set of wooden arrows — and he worked a long time on them — but they didn’t work right. So he returned to Schafer, who gave him another set. Those didn’t work right either.

This time, Smith was angry when he returned to Schafer’s shop.

But he learned something. The arrows he made weren’t the right ones for his bow.

And — in fact — they were a test.

Smith said Schafer had heard about his craftsmanship and tested him with those arrows.

Then Schafer offered him a job.

An Omaha police officer, Schafer said he didn’t have time to build the arrows.

“I was flabbergasted,” Smith said. “I went from never shooting a traditional bow to being an arrow maker for a shop. I went from never having built a wooden arrow to building 150 dozen my first year.”

At the same time, Smith was working as a maintenance man at the former Platte Chemical Co., in Fremont.

Smith said he spent a year building arrows, before Schafer handed him the keys to the shop. Before that, the shop didn’t have set hours, Smith said.

Schafer told him to set the hours. So after he’d get off work at Platte Chemical at 3:30 p.m., Smith opened the shop.

“I would keep it open until 9 at night and then on Saturday I would open at 9 and close at 3,” Smith said.

Smith said he and Schafer traveled to shoots around the Midwest.

One night, Smith noticed three unfinished bows in the shop. He took them home and stayed up all night finishing them.

Schafer looked at the bows and said it was time to teach Smith how to build them.

So Smith started building them in 1999.

The two eventually parted ways and Smith began building bows in his basement in 2001, acquiring equipment as he could afford it.

“John gave me a great foundation,” Smith said. “He taught me the mechanics of a bow — how a bow bends, why you make changes here and there.”

He would learn from other bow makers — called bowyers.

“It’s a great fraternity,” he said.

Smith began by making laminated bows with strips of fiberglass and a core material of bamboo, which are glued together with special epoxy.

Bows are made on a form. After a bow comes off the form, the bowyer grinds the bow blank to the desired width. More cutting, grinding and other work is involved, before a string is attached and the bow is tested.

“Any bowyer worth his salt will have a notebook with recipes,” Smith said. “This tells you what combinations make what pound (weight) bow. The more accurate your recipes, the easier it is to build a bow.”

Smith has three notebooks hanging on a wall in his basement.

“Every single bow I’ve ever built is in these three notebooks,” he said.

He’s put 80 hours into some of the laminated bows he’s built.

After he mastered the art of building laminated bows, Smith turned to self bow. These are bows carved from a single piece of wood. There are no recipes for these types of bows.

Smith teaches a two-day bow-making class for the Nebraska Traditional Archers once a year at the Izaak Walton gun lodge. Anyone is welcome. He only charges for the wood, not to teach the class. The next class is set for July 20-21. Smith teaches kids and adults. He’s had as many as 50 students and as few as five in a class.

“My favorite is to have parents and children,” Smith said.

Smith stresses the importance of getting women involved.

“It’s easy to get guys interested, but if we can women interested, that’s where it’s at,” he said. “If you can get a girlfriend or a wife interested in archery, her husband and children are much more likely to stay with it.”

Smith said archery is a way people can do things together and enjoy the outdoors without the electronics.

“You never have to hunt,” he said. “There’s tons of opportunities to just go shoot a bow. It’s a great activity to do with your significant other.”

Or other family members.

Smith tells how a woman brought her son, who has autism, to a bow-making class. She was so impressed with her son’s focus on the project that she wanted a bow, too. Knowing there wouldn’t be time for her to make a bow in the class, Smith made one for her — in two hours.

Another time, a man who is blind picked up one of Smith’s bows at a trade show.

“He ran his hands down it and said, ‘This is beautiful craftsmanship. Help me shoot it. I want to know if it shoots as good as it feels,’” Smith recalled.

Smith went to a shooting range with the man.

“Point me in the right direction and stand behind me. I’ll pull the string back and you tell me where to aim,” the man said.

The first arrow missed its target, but the man’s skills improved.

“We shot a few arrows and he got to where he could really hit — with me guiding him,” Smith said, adding, “I gave him a really good deal on the bow.”

Smith’s seen the benefits of bow-making.

“I’ve met so many great people doing this,” he said.

Now 51 years old, Smith hopes to turn Lonesome Wind into a full-time business by the time he’s 60.

“I’ve come up with some new designs lately and, hopefully, that’s going to help catapult me where I want to be,” he said.

Smith also hopes to grow the Nebraska Traditional Archers into a bigger group — which has two shoots a year at Hormel Park —and to pass on his passion to future generations. He proudly shows a photograph of his two granddaughters, Emmi, 3, and Maggie, 1, with bows.

And he reflects on that long-ago trip to Limpopo, South Africa and the charging rhino.

“If you think that’s a big animal at the zoo try being a few feet away,” he said.

As Smith laid in the grass, the rhino came just a short distance from him, but then the animal walked away.

Smith doesn’t advise anyone else to do what he did, but adds a humorous part of the story.

His professional hunter took a photo of Smith and sent it to his wife with a message saying, “Your husband shot a rhino. You owe me $60,000.”

Smith’s wife, who picked up on the joke, returned her own message.

“Keep him,” she wrote, referring to her husband.

Smith smiled as he told the story.

It was one more anecdote to add to his collection of bows, arrows and memories.

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Fremont man wins $1M lottery prize

A Fremont man claimed his $1 million prize from the Nebraska Lottery on Friday after matching five of six numbers in last Wednesday’s Powerball drawing.

The lucky winner, Zach Norenberg, beat nearly 1 in 11.7 million odds to win the $1 million prize after purchasing his winning ticket at Hy-Vee Gas on E. 23rd Street.

According to a release from the Nebraska Lottery, Norenberg said he bought several tickets on a whim while dropping his daughter off before he went to work.

Norenberg stopped to get gas and grab an energy drink and notice that the jackpot was at $381 million—so he decided to purchase a few—picking numbers based on the birthdays of family members.

The winning ticket contained three plays, one of which matched five out of five winning numbers (06, 10, 21, 35, and 68) from the March 6 drawing.

Norenberg told lottery officials that he learned of his winning ticket while watching the evening news last Wednesday. After checking his ticket, he woke up his wife Shelby before calling his parents and in-laws just to make sure.

“I said, ‘Dad, I just won $1 million,” he said.

“His dad was like, ‘No way,’” his wife Shelby said.

Norenberg is a Midland University graduate who works in sales at Sid Dillon Chevrolet. He and Shelby told officials they plan on using some of the money to pay off their student loans and their mortgage. They also said they think it will be a big help with their 14-month old daughter and a new baby that is on the way.

Norenberg said he already had an appointment set with their financial advisor for the day after winning.

“We’re hoping to live debt free and maybe retire early,” he said.

Powerball is a multi-state jackpot game currently offered by 44 state lotteries, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands. The odds of winning $1 million playing Powerball are 1 in 11,688,053.52 while the overall odds of winning any prize are 1 in 24.9

Although Norenberg matched five numbers last Wednesday, the jackpot continued to roll over after no one matched all six numbers on Saturday’s contest and is currently projected at $448 million for the drawing on March 13.

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City Council
Council to hear design options for Luther Road extension options that range from $750K to $1.3M

The Fremont City Council will hear a report on proposed design plans for the extension of Luther Road south of Morningside Road on Tuesday.

The report was prepared by Director of Public Works and City Engineer Dave Goedeken after concerns were brought forward at a previous City Council meeting by residents of the Deerfield Subdivision regarding potential design plans for the road extension project.

During the council meeting on Jan. 29, Councilmember Brad Yerger brought forward a resolution instructing the city engineer to develop a street extension design plan that would not offset Luther Road—south of Morningside Road—to the west of the easement centerline between the Deerfield and the Morningside Pointe subdivisions.

The resolution also called for the elimination of any design plans to open up intersections from Luther Road into the Deerfield Subdivision.

“The reason for including this tonight was I received several letters, calls and comments from constituents in my ward seeking explanations about this road project and seeking an opportunity to speak out in opposition of the proposed Luther Road extension location and the opening of intersections into Deerfield,” Yerger said at the council meeting on Jan. 29.

Following a lengthy discussion between council and Goedeken, the council instead voted to continue the matter until its first meeting in March to allow Goedeken time to address design concerns raised by Deerfield residents.

Much of the discussion about the Luther Road extension project centered on a preliminary design plan which would offset the road approximately 8 feet to the west—toward the Deerfield Subdivision—from the easement centerline between Deerfield and the yet-to-be-developed Morningside Pointe project on the east side of Luther Road.

During the meeting, Goedeken said the potential design plan—which offsets the road from the easement centerline—was made in consideration of construction limitations to stay within public right-of-way as well as to address the need for stormwater drainage along the Luther Road extension when it is completed.

According to Goedeken, offsetting the road to the west will allow for an open storm water drainage ditch to be placed on the east side of the road which he said provides several advantages including cost savings and added water retention.

He also laid out another design option that would keep the Luther Road extension on the easement centerline—but would require a drainage pipe to be built and placed under the shoulder on the east side of the road.

“With the ditch, you have the benefit of lower cost, storage of water, cleaning of water, but you have a ditch—that’s the downside,” he said. “The benefit of the storm sewer pipe is that it’s neat and it’s all covered, but the downside is the cost and we are retaining nothing in the system. The water is flushing down that pipe and dropping out in the ditch to the south.”

Documents provided along with the city’s staff report for the council meeting on Tuesday, provide three potential options for the Luther Road extension design proposed by Goedeken.

The first option follows the original design as presented on Jan. 29 which includes the eight-foot shift in centerline. The design calls for building a 38-foot wide road from Morningside Road to Samuel Drive and a 28-foot wide road from Samuel Drive to the south end of the Deerfield Subdivision.

The first option uses a combination of pipes and drainage ditch system and has an estimated cost of $750,000 to $1 million.

The second proposed option keeps the road centered in the right-of-way for the entire length of the roadway and would require a stormwater pipe system to be installed through the entire length of roadway. It also calls for a 38-foot wide road from Morningside to Samuel, and a 28-foot wide road from Samuel to the end of Deerfield. The cost for the second option proposed by Goedeken is estimated at $950,000 to $1 million.

The third option that will be presented on Tuesday proposes a 38-foot wide roadway from Morningside Road to the south end of Deerfield, would keep the roadway centered in the right-of-way throughout, and would require a stormwater pipe system. The estimated cost of the third option is $1.05 million to $1.3 million.

Option Three: Build a 38-foot wide roadway from Morningside Road to the south end of Deerfield Subdivision. This option would keep the roadway centered in the ROW for the entire length. This option would require the stormwater to be piped from the project site to Ditch 2A and eliminates the drainage ditch system. Estimated Cost: $1,050,000 to $1,300,000

The Fremont City Council meeting will begin at 7 p.m. within the City Council Chambers at 400 E. Military Avenue.

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FPS board signs agreements with city regarding school security

The Fremont Public Schools Board of Education during its monthly meeting on Monday signed a resolution with the city of Fremont, agreeing to pay for the use of Fremont Police Department officers as school resource officers during after-school programming.

Through the “School Resource Officer Project,” the city of Fremont provides a uniformed Fremont Police Department officer to work within the schools. The funding for that is split: the city of Fremont provides 25 percent of the funding and Fremont Public Schools provides 75 percent.

But according to Brad Dahl, executive director of student services and business affairs, the city’s insurance provider recently raised concerns about liability when it comes to having those officers working at special events after school, when technically off duty.

During Monday’s meeting, the board agreed to amend the agreement so that Fremont Public Schools pays the full cost of officers’ presence at special events. That would amount to $50 per hour, the amendment says.

“Their insurance carrier was basically telling them … that they could not allow their uniformed officers to be in our buildings in an off-duty capacity, which is what we were doing,” said FPS Superintendent Mark Shepard. “And that’s what everybody does across the state, but they’re all insured by the same pool and the pool was basically saying you’ve got to change what you’re doing.”

Dahl told the Tribune that the cost was “pretty much the going rate” when compared with other school districts.

“It filled a need for the school district,” Dahl said. “We have to have, obviously, police officers there at a lot of our events just for the safety of the public.”

During Monday night’s meeting, the board signed another interlocal agreement with the city of Fremont regarding school safety.

The second agreement allows Fremont Public Schools to use city-owned buildings during emergencies “such as but not limited to disasters (both manmade and or natural), school shootings or any unforeseen circumstance in which the children and the staff are forced to evacuate a school building and need to relocate to a large enclosed building.”

Dahl listed Christensen Field as an example of a building that could be beneficial to utilize during certain types of emergencies.

The resolution states that the city of Fremont would be responsible for the cost of use, and the agreement automatically renews every five years.

“It just strengthens our cooperation with the city,” Dahl said.

Kevin Kavan, coordinator of district security at Fremont Public Schools, was responsible for trying to solidify school security procedures, administrators said. Kavan’s work has also included communicating with several area churches to establish similar types of agreements, Dahl said on Monday.

One of those agreements went into action last fall, went Fremont High School went into lockdown in response to reports that a student had entered the building with a gun, which was later determined to be a BB gun.

During the lockdown, evacuated students were taken across the street to Fremont Alliance Church until the area was deemed safe — a procedure that Kavan had arranged about a month prior to the incident.

“Kevin Kavan’s doing a great job of going off into the community and talking to the churches, talking to any large, group gathering places that we could use, maybe almost on a moment’s notice, needed to relocate students,” Shepard told the board on Monday.

In other news from Monday’s Fremont Public Schools Board of Education meeting:

  • Fremont Public Schools amended a contractual agreement with two cleaning services to provide cleaning services for Linden and Washington Elementary Schools after hours, after one of the companies pulled out of the agreement.

The agreement had been signed at the last Board of Education meeting in February, but some time afterward, the company Jani-King realized it would not have the staff to accommodate the work. In fact, Fremont Public Schools had entered into the agreement to accommodate an inability to fill vacant custodial positions at the schools.

“Just as we have had difficulty employing evening custodians, Jani-King is unable to meet the custodial staffing requirement in the [agreement] in order to provide services to Linden Elementary and Washington Elementary Schools,” schools facilities manager Jeff Glosser wrote in a memo to the board.

The other company, FBG, is still on board. But the board voted to enter into an agreement with the company who offered the second most competitive price during the bidding process: H&F Company. With that comes a price increase — the original contracts were not to exceed $112,344. The new contracts, combined, will not exceed $128,064.

Shepard noted that the change ate into the savings that the district expected by shifting to contracted services, but that there would still be “slight savings.”

  • The board approved two contracts for technological updates at the school — both of which would be funded through the state’s E-Rate program, which absorbs 80 percent of the cost.

The first contract is with Aercor Wireless to replace wireless access points at Bell Field, Clarmar, Grant, Howard, Linden, Milliken Park and Washington Elementary Schools, as well as at Fremont High School and Middle School. It amounts to $70,617 with the district responsible for paying $14,123.30.

The other contract is with Computer Cable Connections to remove and replace structured cabling at Clarmar, Grant, Howard, Milliken Park and Washington Elementary Schools, along with the Lenihan Building and Fremont High School. It would amount to $189,020.34, and the district would be responsible for $37,818.79.

Information Services Director Cliff Huss noted that the E-Rate projects present an “expected cost” for the school district.