From ‘green’ to ‘golden’ in same day

Whoever said a horseshoe can bring you luck didn’t see me throw one. At least at the start, anyway.
Three two-person teams participated in the Fort Frances District and Labour Council’s annual mixed horseshoe tournament Monday afternoon at Pither’s Point, with the winning team being Pat Stillar of International Falls and, believe it or not, me.
I had never tossed a horseshoe before (I think I held one once) and I went into the tournament wary of the whole idea of horseshoe pitching even qualifying as a sport.
But in the end, I came out of it a better man—and now have aspirations of turning professional.
You need more than luck to throw a two-pound, eight-oz. horseshoe towards a stake in the ground 40 feet away, and in the beginning I was horrible. I wasn’t even getting close and the suggestions from my partner showed.
“Horseshoes is a game of concentration,” said Stillar, who had ringed six of his seven throws in the warm-ups. “Lot’s of concentration.”
“Say, that’s great, Pat, but you probably want to move about 10 more feet from the pit just in case,” I replied to my partner as we warmed up.
In the first match, Ronnie Joyes, who was taking a break from her Wal-Mart staff party on Labour Day, and grizzled horseshoe veteran Gord Calder got beat out by Fred Gosselin and Bob Wepruk.
That set up a semi-final showdown between Joyes and Calder against Stillar and myself, with the winner to play Gosselin and Wepruk in the final.
Like a turbine engine, I started out slow. Horseshoes flying to the left, horseshoes to the right, but none down the middle. (“Sorry, Gord, I didn’t see you standing there.”)
But I began to get comfortable and ended up helping my partner, Stillar, to gain a win over Joyes and Calder 21-4.
“I like the competition. I like anything with competition. It doesn’t matter if its horseshoes, bocce ball, or basketball,” said Stillar. “But horseshoes is fun because it’s an easier game to play when you get older.”
There are two main ways to grip a horseshoe—either a 1 1/4 grip or a 1 3/4 grip, but I don’t believe there is a name for my grip.
If your throw lands within six inches of the stake, you are awarded one point while if you ring the stake (i.e., wrap the horseshoe around it), which is the whole idea of the game, you get three points.
In the end, it was my mutated, but consistent, grip that rung the stake twice and gained many one-pointers in the final to help Stillar and me get our names etched on the sizable trophy with a 21-14 win over Gosselin and Wepruk.
Gosselin and Wepruk came in second place while Joyes and Calder notched the third spot.
“I could tell from your stance right off the bat that you were an athlete, and you are still an athlete. And at the end, you very close to some hooks, in fact you got one or two, didn’t ya?” remarked Calder, who has been tossing horseshoes since he was a teenager.
“It was actually two, Mr. Calder,” I proudly responded like a seasoned pro.
“I play to win, it’s just that I had another off day,” responded Calder.
“Don’t knock yourself down, Gord, it happens to the best of us,” I countered.
“I wish we could have more of you young guys show up. I’m not sure what we really need here,” Calder remarked.
I’m not sure, either. Horseshoe tossing is a great pastime and can be enjoyed by anyone. As Stillar mentioned, it is a game of concentration, it requires hand and eye co-ordination, and is most importantly fun.
“People can come out whenever they want and play,” Calder said of the horseshoe pits at Pither’s Point. “We got six sets of shoes in the shed here and the pits are always in good shape and it’s just a whole bunch of fun.
“If you can keep the interest, you could excel at this. If you keep it up, you’ll be a very good horseshoe player,” he added.
I plan on asking Calder if he will sponsor me for next year’s world championships in Idaho and I hope to become Nike’s first horseshoe pitching representative.
I’ll keep you all posted.