I heard a familiar "clang" through my open pickup's window last Saturday. Then another.
I knew what those sounds were from my farm boy history. A game of horseshoes was being played.
Horseshoes seems rather an archaic game these days. Rather than tossing the steel through the air at a distant stake, now some of our younger generations simply sit on the couch and use their thumbs to play video games on their phones. It seems to me that they are missing something.
There is nothing like a spirited game of horseshoes to test a person's mettle. Just when you are about to grasp victory from the jaws of defeat, some smart guy tosses a double ringer and you are sunk. It takes a lot of personal fortitude not to cuss at such times.
Horseshoe pitchers are notorious at not saying much when they put your game to rest. They just saunter on over to the stake, pick up their "shoes" and ask, "Who's up next?"
My granddad was the first to instruct me in how to "pitch" a horseshoe. He would hold it flat, with his thumb and forefingers gripping the "shoe." Then he would send it flying on a horizontal plane toward the stake.
I, on the other hand, chose to "flop" my horseshoe. My shoe would fly end over end, and if I was lucky my horseshoe would either roll up to the stake and lean against it - what was called a "leaner" for two points - or it would roll to the stake and sometimes actually wrap itself around it!
Those were grand tosses and I managed my share of "ringers" along the way. But Gramps was not impressed and continued to try to get me to pitch the horseshoe the "right way." I never succeeded.
My Uncle Leonard was an expert horseshoe thrower. He played in a league in Westfield, Iowa, and won several titles along the way. My ultimate challenge was to beat him at his own game, and so it was that one summer afternoon, before the feast, I challenged him to a game. He, knowing my technique, generously spotted me 15 points in a game of 21. How could I lose?
I told him his handicap wasn't necessary, but if he insisted, I'd take him up on it. He took me up on it. He beat me 21 to 12. It was my last game with him. Like the Kenny Rogers song says, "You got to know when to hold 'em and know when to fold 'em." I folded.
Today the game of horseshoes seems to have been replaced by games such as pickle ball or shuffleboard and other games for people of my age. Evidently our joints are not up to heaving a horseshoe the 40 feet to the stake. We may experience torn rotator cuffs or displaced hips. Not to say anything about ruining our fragile mental state when it comes to losing.
I once paired up with my Uncle Claude against his neighbor and a friend of his. Our opponent was ahead by three points on his final toss. He was feeling the joy of victory. Somehow I managed to toss a double "ringer" atop his horseshoes. We edged them by three points.
At that point my uncle's neighbor proceeded to tear 15 newly planted silver maple saplings from along his own alleyway. Thus ended that game with my uncle's neighbor and his friend sulking back into their house to cry in their beer.
Losing at horseshoes can have that effect if you are not prepared.
I thought of that last week when I heard that "clang" of horseshoes through my pickup's window. I'll never play pickle ball. I love misery.
See you next time. Okay?