tampabay.com

The heart of a bowhunter

At 80, "Mom" Creason hasn't hunted for a couple of years, but she still takes part in the season by running the archery shop she and her husband started more than 50 years ago.

By MOISES MENDOZA
Published August 21, 2006


She loved the thrill of the hunt and the time spent in the woods among the animals.

But Eileen Creason - known to many as "Mom" Creason - really fell in love with bowhunting because it brought her and her husband, Garland, closer together.

For more than 50 years, the two did everything together, including running a bowhunting store that migrated from Tampa to Citrus County. But in 2001, Garland Creason - or "Pop" - died.

Now, as the Florida Bowhunter Council brings its annual jamboree to Inverness for a 44th year in September, the 80-year-old Creason is once again preparing her archery shop for the high season.

With her now-aching hands, she creates more arrows, painstakingly cutting the long shafts and gluing feathers to their sides. She also answers phone calls and greets customers who have visited Creason's Archery every hunting season for years.

She works from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Pop used to work even longer hours, she remembers. Mom Creason can't pull herself away from the shop. She doesn't think she ever will.

* * *

Some of Mom's memories have faded with the passage of time. She remembers the year she and Pop started hunting: 1950, a few years after the couple moved south from Indiana. But she's forgotten the first time, only remembering the way it brought the two of them together.

Frustrated by the lack of local hunting supplies and enamored by the sport they had just discovered, the two decided to start a Tampa bowhunting shop.

It was the first of its kind in the area and the shop soon took over their lives, attracting customers from around the state. They loved it. Mom remembers they used to shoot at a Tampa archery range where Busch Gardens is today.

In 1975, with Pop's health failing in the bustling city, the couple decide to move to Citrus County. It was quiet and peaceful and, Mom remembers, there were root beer shops, small-town grocery stores and deer everywhere. Life was simple.

The Creasons quickly made friends, and half of their house became their new store. Every day Mom and Pop would open their store and work together all day long.

Until a few months before his death, Pop was in the shop every day. Until the day he died, they were never apart.

"When I first got out of bed, the first thing we'd done was make the bed together," Mom Creason says. "We'd done everything together. People think that's impossible, but it wasn't."

* * *

Mom is passionate about staying true to Pop's memory. Creason's Archery could sell expensive, high-powered bows, but Pop was always committed to the personal touch. Customers are carefully fitted to find the bow that suits them best.

It doesn't always have to be the most expensive one.

Arrows are measured and cut by hand. Mom isn't fond of the sterility of the corporate sports shops that sell equipment without the personal touch. Creason's Archery will never be like that, she says.

Mom's so beloved and trusted that people come in and bare their souls to her. To many of her customers who come from far and wide, from Austria to rural Florida, Mom can be like a second mother - in the same way that Pop was a second dad.

His obituary hangs prominently on one of the store's walls. Even five years after his death, his spirit lives in the nooks and crannies of the store. Mom still wears a wedding band on her left hand.

* * *

A couple of years ago Mom stopped hunting. She had become too old, she discovered. It was hard for her to get around. Hunting was too tough now.

"You've got to live with it. You can't always do what you want," Mom Creason says.

So, when the bowhunting jamboree comes to town next month, Mom Creason won't shoot at the targets. Instead she'll socialize with her friends who'll come to Inverness from throughout the state, country and world.

She'll sell a few arrows, give a few lollipops to kids and, for the 56th time, she'll rev Creason's Archery up for hunting season.

And she'll remember how Pop Creason helped set up the very first jamboree in 1962.