December 13, 2006
Arkadelphia, Arkansas – Mason Archer was six days shy of his seventh birthday
when his life changed forever.
He and his family were driving home to Arkadelphia after a shopping
trip and dinner in Hot Springs. At 9:30 p.m. on March 12, 2005, a
Ford Mustang crossed the center line of Highway 7 and crashed into
the Archers’ red Chevrolet pickup. The car’s driver, whose blood
alcohol content was more than three times the legal limit, died
immediately. The whole Archer family suffered devastating injuries.
Braden, Mason’s older brother, came through the accident best and
stayed in the hospital six days, while parents Charlie and Linda
spent weeks in the hospital. Mason’s injuries were the worst – and
permanent. A spinal injury left Mason paralyzed below the abdomen.
As he lay in a bed at Arkansas Children’s Hospital for three months,
Mason worried that he’d never again be able to hunt and fish.
“That was the main comment he made,” said Charlie Archer, Mason’s
father. “He has always loved to hunt and fish, and he didn’t think
he’d be able to do that anymore.”
Mason lost the use of his legs, but he refused to lose hunting and
fishing. Mason’s determination and his father’s resourcefulness
allowed the young sportsman to return to the woods this fall.
Charlie customized an all-terrain vehicle for Mason, using features
from his son’s wheelchair as a template. He modified the
four-wheeler by adding backrests, armrests and a seat belt. He put
stirrups with Velcro on it to hold Mason’s legs in place. Charlie
also modified a ground blind for Mason.
“He had been deer hunting with me for about three years, but he
hadn’t seen anything to shoot or didn’t want to shoot yet,” Charlie
Archer said. “This was going to be his year to shoot, so there was
no way I was going to let his injury stop him.”
It didn’t. Hunting in DallasCounty last month, Mason killed his
first deer, dropping a spike buck from 120 yards with his
single-shot .223. A youngster’s first deer is always a special
moment, but in light of Mason’s injury; this deer was especially
sweet for the Archer family.
“To see the joy on his face, I can’t tell you what that meant to
us,” Charlie Archer said. “It goes so deep in so many different
Mason frequently carries around a picture of the deer, and he enjoys
sharing the story of his first deer with others.
“Of course, the distance between him and the deer has grown with
each telling of the story,” his father said. “And now he’s got the
fever. He wants a big buck now.”
The Archers are also avid squirrel hunters, and Charlie is currently
trying to figure out how to get his son back on the trail of
bushytails. He’s experimenting with a design that would resemble a
Chinese rickshaw, allowing Charlie to pull Mason through the woods
to hunt with their little mixed-breed squirrel dog Tip.
“It’s so important to let Mason know that things are still possible,
that he is still able to do the things he loves,” Charlie Archer
said. “It’s a challenge, but the rewards are countless.”