As the Summer Olympic Games began in London this week, a local contest just as grueling and passionate took place at the pavilion at the Wise County Old Settlers Reunion Tuesday night.
The third annual “Put Yo Money Where Yo Mouth Is” washers tournament began with all the pomp and pride of the Olympic opening ceremony. Main Street Director Frieda Haley kicked off the event by singing the national anthem.
Much to the chagrin of longtime washer players, a pair of newcomers won the contest that lasted almost seven hours in the heat, dust and humidity.
Finishing first was the team of Tyler Hodges and Alejandro Beltran; second was Jacob Luttrell and Casey Hale; and third went to the father and son combo of Kyle and Matt Badger.
“It was my first time to ever play washers,” Hodges said. “My teammate has only played afew times. It was awesome. Especially when we beat the defending champions 21-0.”
After making it to the finals two years in a row, Chase Chapman and partner Kyle Jenkins were eliminated in the early rounds this year.
Seventy-five teams signed up. This year teams could buy their way back in after losing in any round. Forty-three of the teams chose to buy back, which pushed the tournament well past the midnight hour. It made the game as much a test of stamina and endurance as it is for the skill and precision required to make a deft toss into the hole of the angled washer boards.
Hodges and Beltran were one of the few teams who never even had to buy their way back in. They finished the game perfect. It took 11 rounds for them to claim the championship.
“You just have to toss it high and aim for the hole every time,” Hodges said. “If you don’t go for the hole the washer will bounce off.”
The event serves as a fundraiser for the Decatur Chamber of Commerce. This year’s tournament raised more than $5,000. The winners received modest cash prizes and gold, silver and bronze washers.
“It’s not about the money; it’s about the pride,” said Carey Williams, who started the tournament three years ago. “That’s what makes it so neat.
“Washers have been part of Reunion ever since I can remember, and I’ve been going to Reunion ever since I could ride a bicycle. Almost every cabin has a washer board beside it.”
Williams said they plan to make some adjustments to help speed the tournament along next year. They will increase the number of washer boards from 13 sets to 20. Also, instead of allowing losing teams to buy back in, teams that suffer one loss will get shifted in a losers bracket. The price of entry will increase from $40 to $50 since it will be double elimination.
The game of washers, also called Texas Horseshoes or Hillbilly Horseshoes, was allegedly created by oil field workers trying to find a way to pass time. They originally tossed large washers into a hole dug into the ground.
But washers is now played on a wooden board with a single hole cut into it. Players take turns tossing. Points are scored by sinking the washer into the hole or getting closer to the hole than the opponent.