If you’ve never pitched horseshoes, you’ve probably played a variation of the sport.
Washers. Bean bags. Cornhole toss. It’s a common activity at a picnic, family reunion or tailgate party. It can be extravagant — do a Google search and you’ll find websites and companies that specialize in cornhole boards and washer squares and octagons. It can be as simple as a coffee can, a few pieces of wood and a handful of washers.
But have you ever played with a trophy on the line?
In the Salazar family, there’s more at stake than bragging rights. My wife and I recently went to Texas for her family reunion, and with family and friends combined, there were more than 90 people gathered at a family ranch outside of Dallas for a weekend of food, music and fun. Among the highlights of the annual reunion is the holeyboard contest. You don’t just pick a partner, line up and play. It’s much more serious than that.
Like washers or bags or horseshoes, it’s a game of skill and luck. Two boards, each with three holes drilled out, are placed on a flat surface a set distance apart. Two two-person teams — one man and one woman — face off by tossing 2 1/2-inch washers into the holes. Each team receives points based on the holes the washers land in — one point for the closest hole, three points for the middle hole and five points for the furthest hole. Games are played to 21 and the winning team must hit the number exactly. Go over 21, you bust and you’re eliminated.
And like I said earlier, this is serious business. There is a trophy where the names of the winning team are engraved each year. Teams are decided by a random draw. The men have their names written on the bracket sheets, while all of the women’s names are put in a hat and drawn to fill out the teams. Spouses aren’t allowed to be teammates. Neither are siblings.
Trash talk is welcome. The deeper you get in the tournament, the more the pressure mounts, too.
There are some old pros who seem to be in the championship mix every year. Kenny Salazar (pictured above) had the shot of the day. With his team leading 17-11 and one washer on the edge of the one-point hole, Salazar used his final washer to knock the washer into the one-point hole and got a ricochet into the three-point hole to win the game. However, he wasn’t around at the end. The championship ended with Doni-Lee McCullough and her partner (sorry, I forget who that was) putting their name on the trophy. It’s the third time Doni-Lee has been a part of the winning team.
As for me, my partner and I were first-round casualties. The days of pitching slow-pitch softball and tossing washers didn’t pay off. I could use the excuse of the Texas heat making me sweat and the washers slipping from my hands, but I won’t. There were no excuses. I couldn’t make a shot.
Oh, well, that’s OK. Like Cubs fans know so well, there’s always next year.