Barbara Bush said, "you'll have to wear a cowboy hat. No one with any self-respect plays horseshoes without a cowboy hat." She rummaged around in a closet just inside the front door of the Vice-President's official residence in Washington. On a top shelf sat an assortment of George Bush's hats. I tried on a few of the Western variety. His hat size is a lot larger than mine, so the hats tended to slide down my forehead nearly to my eyes. Was I being handicapped before going out to the horseshoe pits?
"These hats all seem to be the same size," I remarked, a somewhat lunatic observation because it suggested surprise that my host's head measurements don't vary.
I finally picked a tall-crowned model with the President-elect's name stamped in gold on the inside. I wore it out to the horseshoe pit at a curious, rakish angle so that I could see where I was going.
The Vice-President was waiting there with his oldest son, George Jr., who would also be playing. Two George Bushes to contend with! The President-elect stared briefly at my hat. His was decorated with a braided Indian cord that supplemented the hatband. He held out some horseshoes.
"You got a choice," he said. "The drop-forged eight or the 10."
"I'll take the...ah."
The President-elect laughed. He looked down at the horseshoes, hefting them to judge their weight. "I don't know the difference myself," he said. "They tell me the harder the metal the more it tends to be rejected by the stake."
Then he explained the rules—one point for the shoe closest to the stake and three for a ringer; the winner would be the first among us to reach 15. We took some practice throws. I threw my shoes so that they revolved, parallel to the ground, toward the opposite stake. This somewhat startled the President-elect since that is the style (though I was unaware) used by most topflight pitchers.
"Hey, what have we got here?" he asked. He prefers to hold the shoe at its closed end and toss it so that it turns once, ass over teakettle, as it goes down the pitch.
"You played this game before?"