A different pitch



Sporting a red and white baseball cap, an Indianapolis Colts T-shirt, tinted aviators and worn gloves, 75-year-old Leroy Salmon steps up to the 30-feet spray painted line in the grass for his pitches.

His first horseshoe hits the pin and the second falls just short, on top of his opponent’s pitch.

When he’s not concentrating on his throws, Salmon, of Seymour, wears a smile between pitches as he converses with his opponent and the crowd.

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On the sidelines, between matches, he sips a yellow Gatorade and sits down with his wife in the stands.

It’s a social outing.

For nearly 30 straight years, Salmon has competed in the annual horseshoe pitching competition at the Jackson County Fair.

This year’s event boasted stiff competition, as 19 contestants took the field.

The tournament was set up in a bracketed format, with a winners and losers bracket.

“I’ve been here at the Jackson County fair for about 30 years,” Salmon said. “It takes a lot of concentration. I concentrate on the peg: that’s something I learned this year. Usually, I just go up there and sling them.

“Since I’m older now, I’ve had to learn how to pitch all over again 30 feet. When I was at 40 feet I threw a turn and a quarter, or a turn and three quarters. I like to pitch a flat shoot.”

For Salmon, honing his pitching skills has taken time.

“It took me a long time to learn, I didn’t know how to throw a horseshoe,” Salmon said with a grin. “I starting pitching and said, ‘Hey, I like this.’ “I’ve belonged to the national horseshoe pitching association for 30 years. I like to pitch as much as I can so I can be fairly competitive.”

Most every week, when the weather cooperates, Seymour hosts a horseshoe pitching league at Geiser Park.

Many of the members of the league come out for the fair’s tournament.

The competitors travel around Southern Indiana competing in various horseshoe tournaments.

“There probably isn’t anyone here (at the fair competition) I don’t know,” Salmon said. “We have a pig roast in Scottsburg, with a competition, and the Oktoberfest pitch. I’ve won Oktoberfest nine different times with nine different partners.”

Salmon hasn’t ever won the competition in Brownstown but hopes to capture a plaque in the future.

“I’ve won Vallonia three out of the past four years, but I’ve never won in Brownstown,” Salmon said. “I’ve gotten second, second, second; third, third, third and fourth over the years. Never a first. I’m going to keep trying. You have to believe you can do it.”

There were also a handful of competitors from Scottsburg, Salem and other areas of Indiana at the fair’s pits.

One of the competitors at the event was 2014 Indiana Horseshoe Pitching Champion Dennis Shepard.

When the final horseshoe hit the muddied pit, Shepard, from Lexington, emerged as the champion.

Seymour’s Glen Hollin claimed second and Salmon finished third.

Horseshoe pitching has turned into a lifelong game for Salmon.

“I’m going to do this as long as I can,” Salmon said. “I love it. If i didn’t like it, I wouldn’t be doing it. I get nervous and I still love it. All the guys here love doing it.”

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