The last traces of a flaming rose sunset flee from another Bluegrass summer day. The birds go silent. The bats dart and dip. Butter-yellow squares on dark blocks mark the welcoming windows of home and the neighbors’ houses; open windows seeking relief from the smothering warmth of the evening…open also to the sounds; anger and laughter from the flesh and blood within or on television (The Honeymooners perhaps). Windows open also to the sounds from without; the passing cars, porch conversations, sirens, and…
Two and a half pounds of steel gliding forty feet through the night air.
Two and a half pounds of steel slowly flipping once and once only, like a gymnast in slow-motion.
Two and half pounds of steel crashing into dust and sand, sliding to a violent rendezvous with a one inch steel stake firmly anchored in a cubic foot of concrete sunk far below the surface of the planet. Its cry of defiance of the dying of the day pierces the night.
Let the Bluegrass humidity try and smother that!
And it’s no singular event.
It’s repeated three more times.
Some neighbors’ windows close. Some expletives are un-deleted.
The twelve-year-old mind behind this performance trudges the forty feet to pick his horseshoes up and prepares to continue his metallic meditation in the other direction.
And make no mistake: a meditation it is.
Each shoe is banged against another to remove the dust gathered from the previous throw. Every bang rings like a mighty bell. This backyard, this horseshoe pit, is 500 miles from the nearest ocean, but ships at sea spring to emergency stations upon hearing these mad night bells from Central Kentucky.
Each ring of each shoe is a centering om-m-m-m-m to the soul of this nocturnal pitcher of steel.
Probably not so much for the neighbors.
Each earthward swing of the arm, each precise release of the shoe, each slow arc of the flight, each moment of mayhem when steel meets steel, is a mantra of serenity smashed by gravity.
I loved to pitch horseshoes.
My dad built the pit. He dug the hole and poured the concrete and angled the stake. He built the frame and filled the whole schmegegge with sand. Pretty soon the sand was mostly beaten away and dirt remained, but everything else endured my constant pitching.
I pitched for hours. The ring, the swing, the fling, the flight, the landing, the clang, the trudge, repeat ad infinitum.
I thought no great thoughts. I solved no personal problems.
I simply became one with the dust and the clang and the air and the motion and the gravity and the steel and the night and the summer…
…and then my mother framed in the yellow square of our back door;
“Roger Lee! It’s time to come in. You’ve bothered the neighbors enough tonight.”
The call has been issued again…to the world…