Shoe Biz Profile - April 1997


Originally Written by Jeanette Claas

If ever there were to be a "Mr. Missouri Horseshoes" contest, Earl Winston would surely unanimously be the winner. His horseshoe history began as a young lad and today as he approaches the age of 70, Earl has "been there, done that." The title that he holds today as our State Historian is quite befitting: Earl is the history of Missouri horseshoes.

Earl, born June 4, 1927 in Knob Noster, MO, was the eldest child of Wayne and Leona Winston. He would be followed by five sisters. He was probably a little spoiled and definitely became the apple of his mother's eye, as the girls all left home and he didn't until he was 33 years of age.

Earl's folks moved to rural LaMonte when he was a child and he has lived in that area ever since. He grew up like all farm kids being put behind a team of horses at the age of nine. Earl's childhood memories were of corncob fights with cousins and climbing trees to rob crow nests. After Earl was married, his mother's crippled pet crow disappeared and she missed it so much. Reverting back to his youth, he climbed a tree and brought back four baby crows, two of which he gave to Vicki.

Earl came from a longline of horseshoe pitchers so it was only natural for him to follow in the footsteps of his dad, his grandpa Ernest, and several uncles. His uncle, K.C. Winston, was once a Junior State Champ; he no longer participates but still buys his NHPA card. Earl's dad, Wayne, was the first World Intermediate Champion winning that title in Fargo, ND in 1967. As a young boy he watched the competition at the MO State Fair until he was finally old enough to join in.

After graduating from high school in 1946, Earl enlisted in the Army, serving a tour of duty in Korea. Returning home he enrolled in the College of Agriculture at the University of MO (Columbia). Upon getting his degree, he moved back hoome with his parents to begin farming with his dad. He also drove a semi part time; driving old Highway 40 between Kansas City and St. Louis many times.

Earl was active competing in community softball pitching in the early fifties but his first love was horseshoes. In 1951 he entered his first World Tournament in Murray, Utah and became hooked for life, never missing a W.T. since. During the 1950's a Missouri teenager was showing great promise and Earl & Wayne would take him along to Utah a couple of times. We all know what Dave Baker accomplished as the years went by.

The war years of the 1940's had taken its toll on the annual State Tournament which was held at the Missouri State Fair in Sedalia each year. It was soon dropped from their schedule of events and held only a few times when John Elkins could find a place and sponsor. It is to Earl's credit that the State Tournament returned back to Sedalia in 1954. By then Earl was President of the State Association and held that position until September 1978 when he refused the nomination in order to devote more time to his NHPA duties. Earl continues to serve as the Superintendent of Horseshoe Pitching at the State Fair to this day. Visiting horseshoe pitchers have fond memories of this era as they looked forward each year to being guests at the "Winston Motel" and sampling Leona's fired chicken and homemade cinnamon rolls.

Remaining a bachelor for many years, Earl kept busy with farming and horseshoe pitching on weekends. He also took up bowling, a sport he still enjoys in the winter league season, carrying an average of 180. It he was looking for a young lady horseshoe pitcher to come along, they were mightly scarce at that time, but he did spy one at the annual World Tourn. in Utah. He waited a few years for her to grow up and then a friendship developed at the 1959 W.T. After a courtship conducted mostly by mail, Earl married Vicki Chapelle of Oregon on June 10, 1960 and he became hooked for the second time in his life. He now had a new and constant traveling companion as he continued on the tournament scene. Eventually, two sons became a part of the entourage that headed out to tournaments and it was necessary to get a small travel trailer in order to attend the World Tourney each year. The last time the trailer went along was the year the World Tourney was in Ainsworth, Nebraska. Sons Keith and Carl participated a bit in junior play, but their interests would ultimately take them in other directions.

Earl has accomplished much during his horseshoe pitching career. He won the Men's State Championship in 1955, and there were several years he qualified into the Men's Championship Class at the W.T. attaining some 70% plus averages. His best tournament was an 80% plus when he won a Tournament of Champions at Phelps Grove Park in Springfield, MO. In 1995, he won the Senior Men's State Championship and when the computer paired him with his wife that year in the State Mixed Doubles play, he also became a State Doubles Champion.

In every category Earl has excelled, giving his time and energy always helping and promoting this game that he loves. Along with years of service to the MOHPA, Earl was elected NHPA 3rd Vice-President in 1972 where he served until he was elected the 1st Vice-President in 1983. He is also the Chairman of the NHPA Hall of Fame Committee and serves on the NHPA Rules committee. He has been named as on of the directors for the new NHPF, the foundation which is to oversee the property in Tennessee that is being donated by Dr. Jack Freeman. For his pitching, and especially for his years of service, Earl has been inducted into the MO Horseshoe Hall of Fame, the NHPA Hall of Fame and has been a recipient of the NHPA Stokes Award.

Service to community, as well as horseshoes, has been a big part of Earl's life. A lifelong member of his neighborhood United Methodist Church, he now serves as its Chairman of the Board, Sunday School Superintendent and Adult Sunday School teacher. He is also a certified Lay Speaker. He spent many years on the local school board, 15 of them as President.

Earl and Vicki continue a grain farming and beef cattle operation. It has grown smaller in recent years, as most rented land has been given up. However, there is still plenty to do on 300 acres. The work is all done by mom and pop and there is no hired help. When Earl is not pitching horseshoes or working in his office, he can be found doing some farm related chore.

Yes, life has been good to Earl, and Earl has been good to us. The horseshoe pitchings of Missouri are forever greatful to this man for his tireless efforts that he has given to this game we all love. His spirit and enthusiasm has made Missouri horseshoes what it is today. Walking in "Mr. Missouri's Horseshoes" will be a mightly large size for any of us to fill. He has done it all!

A few years ago, Charles Killgore called their home and wanted to speak with Earl. When Vicki told Charles that Earl had gone to inspect some of the crops, Charles replied, "Well, I guess we can say Earl is outstanding in his field." and that sums it up pretty well!