The game of horseshoes is a fun pastime.
One more time—horseshoes is a recreational activity between family and friends of all ages.
Got that? Good, now let’s talk about how bragging rights—and a mild sum of money—can turn the friendliest of games into a feisty competition.
While most people were enjoying the food, sun, and all that “what a wonderful world” merriment of Canada Day at Pither’s Point, I was sowing my horseshoe oats (pun definitely not intended) at the annual mixed doubles tournament.
For those of you who are regular readers of this column, you know I had just taken up this sport full-time recently and talked a good game in last week’s paper.
Before I begin, I’d like to take you back to my first thrill of competition. Some subtext, if you will, on why I would poison horseshoes with my sick competitive nature.
It was during my first basketball game with Port Arthur Collegiate’s Midget (Grade 9) team against Hammarskjold on a January afternoon in 1991.
Fourth-quarter time and I still hadn’t figured into the box score (yeah, yeah, I came off the bench). Suddenly, a loose ball became mine and we broke out on a 2-on-1 fastbreak. I faked the drive (with what little dribbling skills I possessed) and shovelled a clean pass to my streaking teammate for a nice lay-up.
Boy, what a feeling. We had cut the deficit to 96-18. Good times, indeed!
We were getting drubbed, but not on that particular play. For those fleeting seconds, it was 2-0 in our underdeveloped little minds and that’s all that mattered—except for our coach, who had left midway through the third quarter for a dinner engagement.
So fast forward 11 years and I’m the only guy pacing back and forth as tourney organizer (and my coach) Gord Calder organizes the six teams in the round-robin tournament.
I had two big fears. One, I’d be paired up with a real slinger, who was as competitive as I am, and I couldn’t score my share of the points. Or two, I’d be paired with a fellow novice and we’d get our clocks cleaned.
I ended up being teamed up with Pat Stillar of International Falls and we clicked immediately. I made like Mario Lemieux on my first shift and scored the team’s first point against Ron Allan and Art Geyshick Jr.
Just like Wally Hill—my partner at the Labour Day tournament last year—did, Stillar scored the big numbers and we got the 21-14 win.
Second game against Jim Aspen and Steve Louoma was another tough one. Stillar got a double ringer (six points) to grab our first lead at 16-15 lead and, believe it or not, I sealed the deal with a single ringer at 18-15 for the win.
And yes, I left my hand up there when I sank it to make sure in front of everyone that we clinched (no one was watching).
More Stillar magic lifted us to a 21-3 win over Jesse Loukkanen and Stan Allen. I got my share, but I was clearly Robin to Pat’s Batman and had no problem with that.
My Kurri to his Gretzky. You get the idea — and yes, I’m still talking about horseshoes.
Next up was Calder and Roger Williams, who were sitting at 2-0, in our fourth match which essentially was for the title. Win this and the $50 would be ours.
Alas, we fell behind 14-7 in the early going with me clearly showing nerves against my mentor, who had not allowed me to score on our end.
“You know, I don’t think you’ve scored yet,” Calder smiled as he pretended to glance at the scoreboard, which was a good 45 feet away. A little trash talking, I thought.
But then, rally time. Stillar bagged a pair of ringers on two separate trips, then I scored my first three off Gordie. Eventually, our woes ballooned to 16-14 bliss and then to the brink at 20-18—and I had chance to end it.
A chance, that is. I narrowly fired my second shoe towards the peg and fell short by six inches. Calder huffed his first shoe wide and needed a ringer to steal the win.
He . . . did. We lost 21-20. I should have put a hand in his face.
Even though we beat Richard and Dennis Bruyere 21-7 to finish round-robin play at 4-1, Calder and Williams went undefeated at 5-0 and took first prize. Pat and I settled for the $30 second-place prize.
Aspen/Louoma finished third, followed by Loukkanen/Allen, the Bruyeres, and Allan/Geyshick.
“It was close. I was fortunate to get that hook in there [against us]. I credit an element of experience and luck,” Gord told me afterwards. “But I tell you, this Reuben guy really picked up his game.”
Most of the throwers I played with are going over to Big Falls, Mn. for a July 4 tournament. Count me out guys, I have to recover. But that Labour Day tournament here sounds mighty inviting. . . .
• • •
Local Special Olympians Ray Bedard and Dave Ducasse are heading to Terrace Bay for a regional event this weekend with their softball and track and field teammates.
Right after that, they’ll head to Prince Albert, Sask. for the nationals July 10-13. They earned the berth last summer as a part of Team Ontario in track and field.
Ducasse is competing in the 200m, 1,500m, and long jump while Bedard is in the 50m, 200m, long jump, and shot put. It’s the first nationals event for Bedard and the second for Ducasse.
“They’re very excited and getting very nervous,” said track coach Cindy Baker. “They’ve been trying to practice but it’s been difficult with the rain.”
The game of horseshoes is a fun pastime.