BJ DRYE COLUMN: Pitching shoes and playing keys

Ronnie Tucker must have missed his horseshoe partner.

That was the first thought I had when I heard the news.
Tucker, 72, died Sept. 14.

Bill Hinson, one of his horseshoe pitching pals, died Oct. 6 at age 86.

The pitchers from the Frog Pond group would often make appearances at the SNAP office when they had a tournament coming up or when they would bring in the trophies won at the previous tournament.

Curly Ballard, left, and Bill Hinson display their trophies from the Tar Heel Classic horseshoe event in Raleigh in 2018. (File photo)

In 2014, he became the U.S. Senior Games horseshoe national champion for men aged 70-75.

I hate it I never picked up a horseshoe, as I did graduate from West Stanly and the mascot is the Colt.

But I did know Mr. Hinson. He did not deserve to live out his final years the way he did. Several factors did not allow him to keep up his active pace.

He was always playing golf, basketball or horseshoes and always participated in the senior games. I think he even did some speedwalking.

He spent more than 40 years as a coach, teacher and administrator at schools in North and South Carolina.

He was my principal throughout my elementary school years at Stanfield.

There are many memories from those years — not all great, but a few that stand out with him include:

• the time the boys played shirts versus skins in basketball. That’s something that would not happen today, and something I wished had not happened back then, as I was on the skins team — and nobody wanted to see that. They still don’t.

• the time we found him sleeping on a bench inside the National Gallery of Art during our eighth grade trip to Washington, D.C.
It is hard to believe that has been 28 years ago, but it was a life-changing trip for me.

• the time I received the Piano Man Award.

I don’t have the talent or the money of Elton John or Billy Joel, but back in the summer before eighth grade I was dabbling with the ivories.

Well, Mr. Hinson walked in as I was experimenting on the keys and thus the superlative award was presented at the end of the year.
So I guess there are two things to take from this story.

I’m going to either have to learn how to pitch horseshoes or play the piano.

Since Elton is retiring, maybe there is a room on the yellow brick road for me.

I’ll leave the horseshoes to Ronnie and Bill.

B.J. Drye is editor and general manager of The Stanly News & Press. Call 704-982-2123, or follow bjdrye1 on Twitter.