Laurel hosts MHPA horseshoe tourney

Pitchers enjoy good times with old friends
By: 
GARRETT HARR
Outlook staff writer

Horseshoe pitchers from area counties came together to meet in Laurel at Riverside Park for a tournament last Saturday, Dec. 3.
The white metal building next to the outdoor horseshoe pits is nestled quietly in the southwest area of the city park. Inside there are four pits, two on each side of the building. A giant stack of firewood separates the lanes used by the pitchers during competitions.
Two scorekeepers sit next to the large fireplaces keeping the the players warm and cozy in the winter. A crow’s nest filled with bright lights rests high in the back where the scorekeepers sit during tournaments, but not practice. Up the small staircase are two chairs and two tables which gives observers a bird’s eye view of the players’ arena.
President of the Laurel club, Nick Kisch, still remembers how the horseshoe pitching arena was built. Sometime back in the 1970s, he says. Don Bolinski, a Laurel resident told all the boys to meet him down at the park. Kisch said they all went down there, wide-eyed and filled with anticipation. Bolinski had a giant semi-truck waiting for them, packed with materials that had travelled all the way from Oklahoma.
“It’s all yours,” he told the young men.
Bolinski donated the materials for the entire building, Kisch and the others were in shock, but the generous gift started a tradition of professional play that has continued to this day.
Players of all ages and all skill-levels are invited to the practices. Whether new players want to get in on the action or just watch, the door is open. The game is fun and even offers a handicap for different players of different skill levels, Kisch explained.
He leads the Laurel team. Each member of the group is registered with the Montana Horseshoe association as well as the NHPA.
Kisch has been trying to get people involved in the game he’s loved for years. He shared his history of fame and accolades in the sport. Kisch took first place out of 84 pitchers and 12 classes during the Montana State Horseshoe Pitching Championship in Butte, Mont. Not only that but, he was a part of a local team that competed at the State Horseshoe Tourney that was held in Laurel in 1984.
During the last week of that tournament, the game and the commraderie attracted a number of players considered pros throughout the state for a day of pitching and food.
Ed Morgan, Red Lodge; Steve and Linda Story, Big Timber; Dallas Roots, Big Timber; Mark Stephens,Big Timber; Dale Karlstrom, Billings; and of course Nick Kisch of Laurel are all in that league and were in attendance to compete.
Linda Story said that in a single day of play she walks about three-and-a-half miles back and forth from the pits.
“It’s great exercise,” she said. Story and her husband have been pitching together for years.
The group’s oldest player, Dallas, is 86. For years, the game has brought out his competitive nature. His dad got him started in the sport in 1967.
The Laurel club is a rarity in this part of the state. There aren’t many clubs that bring together so many pitchers to perfect their skills. Each player has a different form and uses a different horseshoe. Some throw with a flip-flop, causing the shoe to go all the way around when tossed; others throw with a turn at a quarter angle and maintain a straight line. That style of throw is called Allens. There are many ways to throw and many different horseshoes. Kisch and the rest of club hope to introduce the game to many more folks.
All-comers are welcome to attend. Tournament dates and times can be found on the Montana Horseshoe Pitchers Committee Facebook page.

Dec. 3 Horseshoe
Tournament Results:Class A
First place Ed Morgan- Red Lodge
Second Place NIck Kisch- Laurel
Third place Dallas Roots- Big Timber

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Monday, June 17, 2019
Corinthian Lodge No. 72, AF&AM, first & third Monday, 7:30 p.m., Masonic Temple, Laurel Masonic Temple, 9900 Airport Road (except July-August)
Tuesday, June 18, 2019
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