Pitching Horseshoes

A comment from Brian reminded me that pitching horseshoes was a Borreson family activity, especially at picnics and reunions. In my memory these events always included food, conversation, softball games, and horseshoe pitching – and this last I only watched unless we kids could sneak in a few tosses when brothers and cousins of an older generation had reached their limit.

Did you know that pitching horseshoes goes back to the days of the Roman army? I didn’t. There are disagreements about whether it began with a round ring or actual horseshoes, but in some form, it was played by officers and foot soldiers alike. The game’s long route included England and then the soldiers of our own country in the Revolutionary War. This old photo from the 1930s, I think, reminds me the game was big in farm communities like the one where the Borresons lived. (I wish someone had a family photo.)

Today horseshoe pitching is bigger than I thought. There’s a national association with a world championship and even a couple online versions, one called Ringer King (available free). I saw one website advertizing two pair of horseshoes for $59. I think there’s an active horseshoe pitching group in nearby La Crosse, and when I drive through Galesville 12 miles away, I see horseshoe pits just off the downtown square.

I think my dad Garven only played it at family reunions as we were growing up, but especially the Estenson Sisters reunion around July 4th. After the picnic/potluck dinner in Melby Park in Whitehall, the clanks of ringers and the thuds of misses would be accompanied by laughter and kidding from brothers, cousins, and maybe an uncle or two who may not have played since the last reunion. Of course, that was no excuse for missing the stake!

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