06/20/04 — A game of horseshoes can make this Father's Day a happy one

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A game of horseshoes can make this Father's Day a happy one

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on June 20, 2004 2:04 AM

Every Sunday afternoon on a farm nestled in Seven Springs, David Van Smith plays host to an assortment of friends and neighbors who happen by for a game of horseshoes.

It's not uncommon to have two or three games going in his back yard, rain or shine. When it gets too dark, someone will prop up a white Styrofoam cup to direct players where to throw the horseshoes.

And each week, the 78-year-old retired farmer paints the horseshoes different colors so that players can tell them apart. He has several sets for visitors to use, while many players bring their own and leave them there.

Smith says he began playing when he was in school, but has played regularly for 40 years. Along the way, he has competed in numerous tournaments and collected nearly three dozen trophies.

Son Brian Smith, 44, played some while growing up but now is busy tending the family farm and attending his son Tanner's baseball games.

"We used to play at a local tobacco barn for about 15 years," Brian said. "I played more then than I do now."

The games were moved closer to the house about six years ago when matriarch Hope Smith became sick. Daughter Diane Thomas, clinical coordinator of the nursery at Wayne Memorial Hospital, said her mother died in March.

Mrs. Thomas said that having people frequent the place and share in his love of the game of horseshoes has been good therapy for her father.

"It's good for us to hear the horseshoes clang and know that you have got good friends around," she said.

"For years, we would be in the house with Mama so he could be outside. Just to hear the horseshoes, you know you're home and he's happy."

She said young and old have stopped by for the Sunday games, some long-time friends of the family's, others visiting from out of town.

"Everybody needs a little friendship and I think they lean on each other," she says of the arrangement. "They just all help each other."

Brian said, "He's kind of started something. But it's clean, cheap fun and they enjoy each other."

Grandson Tanner, 11, started playing around age 6. He says he plays mostly because of his grandfather, and especially enjoys when they can be on the same team.
"Whenever I get to play on his team, I can win a lot," he said.

Mrs. Thomas said her father has built something luckier than any horseshoe.

"A camaraderie, friendship, a group of people as close as any family dared be," she said.

Smith shrugs off any credit.

"It's just fun," he says. "I enjoy the friendship and fellowship."

Last year, the weekly event spilled over to Father's Day, which prompted an idea for today.

"I was thinking, they're going to be there every Sunday and on Father's Day, there's going to be all these people without their sons, without their daughters," said Mrs. Thomas. "So why not invite the families so they can see it?"

This afternoon starting at 3:00, the family will hold its second annual Father's Day horseshoe tournament. In addition to adult games and "kiddie horseshoes," Brian says he'll fire up the grill and cook hotdogs.

It's only fitting that the event take place today, say his children.

"He's kind of a father figure to a lot of people that play," said Mrs. Thomas.