By Rick Houser –
Over the years I have always enjoyed summer lawn games, things like croquet, badminton, and horseshoes, even the new game of it’s time “jarts.” I guess one could refer to them as the games of summer but I think maybe they are referred to as lawn games. Either way they are the games that can really only be played in warm, dry weather.
When I was growing up I think every lawn had a set of horse shoe pits. I know we had a badminton net, a couple of birdies and at least four rackets. Our side yard was big enough for a challenging croquet court (even if it did slope a little to one end). Everyone who had a lawn seemed to have the equipment for the summer games. Summer didn’t seem complete without playing these games and it didn’t matter if you were any good at them or not. It was mandatory to play.
I remember that as long as the weather would allow and if Dad and his crew didn’t have to do extra farm work, we would go outside after supper and play at least one of the games. If we all were present, croquet mallets and balls were handed out. The game always started out pleasant enough, but before much time passed my ball would get hit and get sent away and as I said before, there was a slope to the playing field. It seemed that the more I objected, the further my ball traveled out of bounds. Once in a while I would win, but I think Dad and my brother Ben let me just so I wouldn’t get mad and never play again.
My Dad loved to play horseshoes. To stride and loft a horse shoe two and one half turns and more times than not get it to land for a ringer is a talent. My Dad had that talent. Ben was good at shoes but he wasn’t as good as Dad. Me, I was terrible. To get me to play Dad would spot me 11 points and we would play to 21. Dad almost always beat me 21-11.
In the summer when the men from church would come to the farm for the annual fish fry, the horseshoe pits became the center of attention for there were several talented men from church and Dad would meet his match or had to work extra hard if he was going to win.
The one thing that stands out to me most about tossing horseshoes is the one day I needed a repairman to work on our tractor. This was the busiest time of the year and we couldn’t get the regulars to come so dad called a retired mechanic who had been the ace at Harlow’s for years, Shep Day. Shep didn’t drive anymore but he told Dad if I transported him he would take care of the tractor. I gladly went to get him but before he would get in the car he said I had to play him a game of horseshoes. I told him how bad I was but we still played. He beat me 21-0. Seven straight ringers he threw at which time he pointed out I was really not very good. By the way he was the state horseshoe champion the previous two years and the best I ever saw.
Badminton was a sport that was more in my sister Peg’s area of skill. She loved the game and was athletic enough to make it look easy. When we played doubles games I always yelled to be Peg’s partner. Most times I got to be and I guess that is why I liked badminton better than the other lawn sports. When there would be a family outing and it came time to play badminton each family would announce the two best players in their families for the competitions. These sports were on a very competitive level and people took pride even if it was just a lawn game. This even included volleyball if there were enough to play a game.
I don’t recall when but probably close to when I was out of school my cousin Tom Houser introduced us to a new lawn game called “Jarts.” Just because the end of the winged metal rod was pointed and they were lofted into the air to try and land them into a ring lying near where you stood was no reason to think there might be some danger to the game. It really didn’t look dangerous but the game has been banned from use. Oh well, we really weren’t the dangerous type of folks anyway.
Until maybe the last 15 years or so when there was an outing at someone’s home or at the park, some if not all of the games mentioned above were available and almost everyone played and no matter what folks might say they enjoyed trying to play them or maybe just the memories these games might bring back.
People aren’t as competitive as they once were and families don’t gather nearly as often or as long as to even allow lawn games to take place. When I am around lawn games I don’t really want to compete but I do want to look over the croquet balls or the badminton equipment. Doing so takes me back to when our family played the games and how we played them together as a family. Thinking about to who won is not nearly as important as who played. This is when I remember. It was my family.
Rick Houser grew up on a farm near Moscow in Clermont County and loves to share stories about his youth and other topics. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.