[Home Page] [This Week] [Classifieds] [Legals] [Obituaries] [Newsstands] [Subscriptions] [Advertising] [Deadlines] [About Us] [FAQ] [Archives] [Community Links] [Contact Us]

Sports Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, June 24, 2010

Horseshoes continue to fly every week in Altamont

By Jordan J. Michael

ALTAMONT –– The sweet cling and clang of horseshoes has been a recognizable summer sound in Altamont for almost 60 years.

The Altamont Horseshoe League continues to gather on the clay courts of the Veterans of Foreign War’s post every Tuesday at 6 p.m. for some friendly competition. The league has called the VFW home since the early 1950s.

Ed Cowley and Bud Munroe have been with the league since its inception. The two seniors get to pitch shoes from a closer distance and Munroe is the returning champion and currently has the point lead this year.

“We started with two dirt courts and a few lights,” said Munroe on Tuesday. “There’s no better court around now.”

The VFW has six courts made strictly of clay because clay “sticks,” Cowley said. “The shoe stops right in the clay. Sand or dirt is bad because the shoe just slides. It’s important to have clay.”

Dark green fences on both sides protect spectators, and overhead lights are available if play extends into the night. There’s a giant tent with picnic tables underneath and a shed full of supplies.

“I encourage the players to finish before dark,” said Cowley, half joking. “It costs too much to turn the lights on.”

The league has 16 players right now and always encourages more to join. Women are welcome, but none signed up this year. “I don’t know why that is,” Cowley said. “We’ve had female champions in the past.”

Every participant plays three games of 30 pitches each and the best score wins. Todd Hubbard, the scorekeeper, said that every player starts with a handicap of 45. “We base the scores on 60 and anything over that we divide by the number of games thrown,” Hubbard said.

Players get one point for landing the shoe within six inches of the stake and three points for a “ringer,” which means wrapping the shoe around the stake. Cowley told The Enterprise that he once saw a world champion pitch 100 ringers in a row on the VFW courts.

“This sport is very systematic,” said Cowley, who decided not to play on Tuesday. “Everyone gets used to their own style. Some of these guys are getting pretty good.”

“It took years to perfect this,” said Rocky Rockenstyre between turns.

Some players, like Pete Gustafson of Knox, compared the pitching motion of throwing a shoe to that of bowling.

“It’s like the same stroke,” said Gustafson, who is in second place despite being a rookie. “I’ve been a bowler for years and horseshoes has the same repetitiveness. You’re trying to hit a target, and throwing it the same way every time is the key.”

Dan Jacobson of Altamont said that Cowley tricked him into playing about six years ago. “I don’t have a crazy shot or anything like that,” he said. “I’m just trying to win like everyone else.”

Hubbard told The Enterprise that he followed Jacobson to the VFW one day because it looked interesting. “I always liked horseshoes and now I never miss a week,” he said. “It’s not too strenuous on the body and I have the luxury of keeping score.”

For 17 years, courts at the Altamont Fair were home to an annual tournament, but plans changed some years ago and the courts got torn up. Most of the veteran players in the league would love to see horseshoes back at the fair.

“I would volunteer my time to rebuild the courts on the fairgrounds,” Rockenstyre said. “We’re trying to bring the old times back. It would be nice, but we’ve got to have a serious plan.”

The top six players with the best averages at the end of the session enter a playoff round to determine the overall champion. The league is open to the public and the fee is $5 a night.

“I just love the game,” said Cowley, who learned from his father while growing up in Buffalo. “It’s nice to play against others and have a fun time.”

[Return to Home Page]