Pitching Horseshoes

Standing on my work bench is a short section of a limb cut from a cherry tree. Since the horseshoes were last hung on it by Big PaPa, the limb has grown over the horseshoes, capturing them in a time capsule of a time gone by.

At one time, not  too long ago, parents would take their children to a grandparent’s house for a “get together.” Grown siblings and adults talked with each other, sharing news and gossip while cousins played in the yard and house. Heaps of food were placed on the kitchen table and in less time than it took to prepare the food, the empty pots, pans, and plates needed washing. In some families the adults then scattered about the house for a nap, or if the weather was good they went out to sit under a canopy of deep shade. Children ran about, adults talked still, or napped.

But some grandparents, like Craig’s Big PaPa, had built a horseshoe pit, and after the meal and until the shadows of day’s end, the matches between family members was on. The pitching was competitive, but fun. While winners and losers were tallied, it was the doing that counted most.  After the pitching ended and each family gathered itself to return home, Big PaPa gathered the iron horseshoes and hung them on the cherry limb until the  next pitching. Yet Big PaPa, like King David, went the “way of all the earth” and eventually died. In due time his family members chose from his estate, and some wanted furniture, some gun(s), or other items. Craig chose nothing but went out and sawed the horseshoe limb from the tree and took it home. That was Big PaPa’s gift to him.

Craig told me about it a few weeks ago, and I persuaded him to trust me with it. I stripped the bark, cut one end to square it, and wire brushed the rusty horseshoes, After hand sanding the wood of the limb I applied two coats of lacquer and it is ready for two more and then will be mounted on a natural cedar board. (The red cedar resembles a clay pit). Next week Craig will come to get his Big PaPa’s memory gift.

Families have scattered across the land and even if some live close together few travel on a weekend afternoon to share time. Soccer games, football contest, dance recitals, and other overly scheduled youth activities fill the time that was once reserved for large gatherings of families where plentiful homecooked food, naps, cousin play, and horseshoes with Big PaPa was shared. Nothing learned in a youth  activity can rival what a grandchild learned pitching “shoes” with Big PaPa.

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