By BRIAN PAULS Close counts, it is said – but only either in horseshoes or hand grenades.
Well, a group of Winnipeg sun worshippers, unequipped for the mortal combat required by the latter alternative, has discovered an age-old pastime in the healthier choice of pitching horseshoes, a game where points are tallied by coming close to the target without actually attaining it.
Memories are hazy but apparently it all began at the lake, once the children had grown and no one was playing any longer in Eddie Shell’s big yard. So they dug a pit and inserted a stake at each end of it, creating what became an enduring commitment to pitching shoes.
This was at Winnipeg Beach, so a sufficient quantity of sand for the pits was readily accessible. Sam Klapman, David Rabb, Ally Shnier, the late Harvey Sawyer and Martin Cohn were the originals.
A permanent tradition was given birth, although, like Nathan Detroit’s crap game, it floated, and presently is in California.
Fast forward to 2017. The star performer, Allan Shafer, is a nonagenarian. In order to infuse some fresh blood, a couple of raw rookies, both under 75, have been offered a tryout.
Play continues each Monday and Friday during the annual winter migration.
When the original Winnipeg Beach crowd became snowbirds, their numbers were insufficient to crowd out the sun, but there were enough, all tribal members, that they became known as the “kibbutz”.
Later, there were tournaments, scored meticulously by Al Chisvin, and once there even was a fan, known as the “kibbitzer” (in truth, a bored wife).
Along the way, the self-appointed leader, Eddie Shell, set out on a path of exploration which brought him to Palm Desert, where a pal, Bernie Katz, could claim residency. Their treasure trove comprised a well-maintained horseshoe pit, actually a triple one, groomed regularly by the recreational department of the city. A little schmoozing where it could do the most good ensued. To this day, the successor kibbutzniks have a permanent facility for their sole use.
The shoes weigh two and a half pounds each, the pitching distance is 37 feet, so once the facility is ready, and horses have been persuaded to go unshod, the object of the competition is to heave the shoes to “ring” the stake or, if they don’t, to land them nearby. It is an activity well suited to athletes of every vintage. It’s fun, it’s not easy, and injuries are infrequent.
The Talmud (Pirkei Avot 5:2) says: “According to the effort is the result”. All of us inhabit certain uncontrollable circumstances-ageing being the primary example. But what we can control, each of us, is the effort expended.
An energetic time spent pitching horseshoes, as exemplified by grandparents to their descendants, is a fine lesson well taught. To pitch horseshoes is to appreciate that close really does count.