×

Sunday Seniors: Quechee Man, 92, Is Still a Ringer at Horseshoes

  • Norm Boynton, of Quechee, Vt., left, plays horseshoes with Pete Sanderson, of Reading, Vt., on Monday, July 10, at the Thompson Senior Center in Woodstock, Vt. (Valley News — Liz Sauchelli)

  • Norm Boynton, of Quechee, Vt., teaches Brady Jones, Thompson Senior Center Executive Director Deanna Jones' son, how to play horseshoes during at Generation to Generation program at the Thompson Senior Center in Woodstock, Vt. (Courtesy Thompson Senior Center)

  • Norm Boynton, of Quechee, Vt., plays horseshoes at the Thompson Senior Center in Woodstock, Vt., on Monday, July 10. (Valley News — Liz Sauchelli)

  • Norm Boynton, of Quechee, Vt., plays horseshoes at the Thompson Senior Center in Woodstock, Vt., on Monday, July 10. (Valley News — Liz Sauchelli)

  • Norm Buynton, of Quechee Vt., regularly brings flowers from his garden to the staff at Thompson Senior Center in Woodstock, Vt. (Courtesy Thompson Senior Center)



Valley News Calendar Editor
Saturday, July 15, 2017

Woodstock — Less than 5 minutes into a horseshoe lesson with Norm Boynton, it was clear I was not a natural.

“Let’s move up a little bit closer,” the 92-year-old Quechee resident said after my second toss again fell miserably short of its target.

With his encouragement, we moved up, cutting the 30-foot court in half. I tried again, putting my left foot forward like Boynton instructed, holding onto the horseshoe where it curved and looking through the opening to line it up with the stake. It still fell short.

I’m short and lacking on the biceps front, so Boynton had me move closer still, to less than 10 feet away from the stake. He instructed me to put a little more power in my throw and to raise my arm higher before I let it go. Finally, it made contact with the stake.

Horseshoes, I learned, in addition to being deceptively heavy, are quite unwieldy: unlike a bocce ball (my favorite of lawn games) that settles comfortably in my palm, I couldn’t get a good grasp on it.

Prior to my lesson, I watched Boynton play a round with Pete Sanderson, of Reading, Vt.

He made it look easy. At one point, after getting a ringer (the horseshoe landing around the stake, spinning around it), an onlooker shouted, “Wow! Take a bow, take a bow.”

Boynton declined, but went on to defeat the 77-year-old Sanderson, who said that’s a regular occurrence. 

“It ain’t often you can beat him,” he said.

Boynton has been playing horseshoes all his life. He became interested in the game as a boy when he would visit an uncle’s farm, who had a set of official horseshoes.

“Other guys were using them right off their workhorses,” Boynton recalled. Since then, he’s played with numerous teams and with numerous partners throughout the Upper Valley. He can still name them all.

Along the way, he’s taught a younger generation his love of the game.

“He taught both of my boys,” Deanna Jones, executive director of the Thompson Senior Center, told me as we watched the match between Boynton and Sanderson.

It’s a skill that Boynton is glad — and eager — to pass on.

“The younger generation doesn’t seem to pick up like they used to,” Boynton told me somewhat mournfully. “It’s too bad. I’d like to pass on what I know about horseshoes.”

There are many benefits he sees of the game. “Number one, it helps you… to get muscles in your back, your arm and your legs,” he said. This is evident in the way Boynton walks: if I didn’t know he was 92, I never would have guessed it.

“Well, I know one thing, I think I’ve really slowed up,” he said after the match with Sanderson. Those watching looked at him dumbfounded.

Boynton estimates he’s been playing horseshoes at Thompson for “10, 15 years. I’ve enjoyed it ever since we started,” he said.

Boynton has been a regular presence at the senior center since before Jones joined the staff seven years ago. Every Monday, he brings them flowers. “It really makes our day,” Jones said.

His good cheer is infectious, his manner kind. Throughout our lesson he was patient and encouraging. At the end, he recommended that I set up a horseshoe pitch at my home and even instructed me on how to build one. 

“Don’t get discouraged,” he said. “It took me 75, 80 years to learn it.”

Editor’s note: Want to learn how to play horseshoes from Norm Boynton? He’ll be giving free lessons on Monday, Aug. 7 at 1 p.m. as part of Thompson Senior Center’s Generation to Generation Week. For more information, contact Jones at info@thompsonseniorcenter.org or 802-457-3277.

Liz Sauchelli can be reached at esauchelli@vnews.com or 603-727-3221.

Correction

Brady Jones is the son of Thompson Senior Center Executive Director Deanna Jones. His first name was incorrect in a photograph caption in the July 16 Sunday Valley News.