My name is William Tell and I am an archer of repute. Much of my time is spent hiking the twenty-six cantons of my Swiss homeland, firing arrows from my crossbow at that which presents itself to me as an appropriate target. In a single morning, to give an example, between breakfast and elevenses, I might shoot at a rampaging wild Swiss boar, a henchperson of the Austrian Vogt of Altdorf, or an orchard fruit. So accurate is my marksmanship, I have been known to balance an apple on my son’s head, take a considerable number of paces away from him, turn, aim, and splice the apple in two with a lethal wood and metal missile, without harming a hair on Walter’s abnormally large head. Walter is my son’s name.
Despite the size of his head, I have not yet tried to balance either a wild Swiss boar or a henchperson on it. That sort of thing would probably delight a circus crowd, between turns by clowns and performing seals, and at times of harvest failure, when the Tell chalet is short of food, I have considered it. Walter would have to be persuaded to wear some kind of brace, of metal and leather, to support his neck and his back, and I can foresee problems in so persuading him, for he is very fashion-conscious, quite a dandy in fact. Though just now it has occurred to me that slain United States President JFK wore a back-brace throughout his one thousand days in office, without the citizenry being aware of the fact. I must point that out to Walter, as reassurance, should I decide to go down the circus performing route, next time the Tells go hungry.
Over the years I have fired arrows from my crossbow in all twenty-six Swiss cantons, including those which were once officially half-cantons. But I have not shot at orchard fruits, whether balanced on Walter’s large bonce or not, in each and every one. Consulting my records, I see that no fruit has been in my crossbow-sights in Obwalden, Zug, Solothurn, or Thurgovia. I must rectify those omissions, for I am a determined archer, and a completist. I still remember the afternoon I was finally able to place an X against Ticino in my handwritten canton-list. There I was, in the market square of Bellinzona, the capital, my heart swelling with pride as a hardy band of my Italian-speaking countrymen cheered their “Guglielmo Tell” to the rafters. The rafters were those of a temporary wooden structure erected for my display of archery skills. Four wild Swiss boars had been captured in nets, by tough and fearless hunters, one boar tied to each wooden cornerpost, and I had shot them with my crossbow, one after another, spinning around with the grace of a ballerina. Walter was a babe in arms at the time, the arms being those of my wife Coco, who watched my feat of boar-slaughter-with-crossbow from a safe distance, sitting on a bench at the edge of the market square, outside a butcher’s shop selling spicy Italianate sausages.
When my third statement of particulars is due, I plan to say a few words about sausages in Switzerland. My son Walter will be a great help, for he is apprenticed to a butcher in our home village in the canton of Uri. The butcher was at first alarmed by Walter’s gigantic head, but when he learned that his papa was the legendary archer William Tell, his ecstasy was such that it rivalled that of the Woodcarver Steiner as documented in Werner Herzog’s 1974 film. Steiner, of course, is a man of Switzerland, a skiing ace, and his first name is Walter. I like to think he was named after my son, but I have not had an opportunity to question his parents on the matter. But as I said, I am a determined archer, and I will winkle out the truth, even if I have to tie the Woodcarver Steiner’s papa and mama to the cornerposts of a temporary wooden structure in the market square of a canton capital, and take aim at them with my crossbow, primed and ready to fire.