Originally published june 28, 2012.
On Monday nights, you'll find George Juergens, of Huntington, playing horseshoes at the Memorial Park pits with the rest of the Huntington Horseshoe Club.
The club is popular with Seniors, including the 76-year-old Juergens, who have been playing the game for many years.
There are a few members of the club who stand out, though, and among those members are Juergens' son, Dan, 50, and grandson, Brandon, 25, both of Huntington. This is their first season with the club.
"Well, several years ago up 'til now Bob Hale had said, ‘You need to play horseshoes with your dad,'" Dan says. "And so when dad asked this spring, I was ready to play.
"And then before we came here, I asked Brandon if he would play, and then my father-in-law, which is Brandon's other grandfather. We all came out and played at the same time," says Dan.
"I thought it would be something different and fun to do," adds Brandon.
Dan and Brandon's membership with the club coincides with George's return to the sport after a decade-long absence, which began when his longtime horseshoes partner died.
This season, George decided to make his comeback, and it's been a family affair.
"The way I got on to playing here was my dad played," George recalls. "We used to always play up at the lake. We had a lake cottage up on Big Lake. We had horseshoe pits up there and we played and he was pretty good. So, he kind of showed me how to hold the shoe and how to throw it the way he did."
Just as George's father helped him learn the sport, George has helped Dan and Brandon learn the sport, too.
Before long, they were taking their turns tossing horseshoes at stakes in the ground, which are traditionally placed 40 feet apart.
"When we first started, we were like three or four foot short of the stake every time," says Dan. "Now we're starting to get closer and we're seeing a lot of improvement."
While all three agree that one of the benefits of playing horseshoes is how it enables them to spend time together as a family, Dan and Brandon, in particular, are starting to appreciate something else about the sport.
"What's interesting to me is there's 25 years between all of us and, just like yesterday we were playing, you can't think of many sports where you can all play at the same level," says Dan.
"In other words, these guys are really good," he continues, indicating the club's Senior members. "They're playing 20-plus ringers a game. So, 50 years from now, Brandon could be as accurate and competitive as he is today."
Ultimately, all three men, plus the other members in the club, hope to see the sport populated with younger players. That's key to its growth, they say.
George says the playing field at Memorial Park is improving with time.
"It took a while before we got lights, so when it gets dark; we have backboards so the shoes don't go all over the place; we got clay pits," he says.
"All that took time and these people that played earlier, they took the initiative and developed all of this, put the fence up, so now we've got a nice facility to play."
"It's a lot fun and we're only using half the courts," offers Brandon.
While a youth movement may be in the works for the future, right now, it's no secret who rules the roost.
"Well, it was interesting, yesterday was Father's Day and we all played, the four of us, with Bud, who's the father-in-law, and we got pretty competitive to where we made up rules so that we ended up in a tie," says Dan. "Dad's by far the best player, so we're trying to beat dad most of the time."