Shoe Biz Profile - June 2000


Originally Written by Jeanette Claas

The "Shoe Biz" spotlight shines upon a horseshoe enthusiast who has spent many years organizing and promoting horseshoes. At the time Howard Brandt became involved in horseshoes, there was very little "sanctioned" activity. His name may be only remembered by the people who were pitching horseshoes in the late fifties and early sixties who traveled many miles to pitch in a horseshoe tournament. In a 40 year time span Howard was to direct an amazing 292 horseshoe tournaments!

Howard Edwin Brandt was born on a farm in Franklin County, near the city of Rosebud in 1928. Being an only child, Howard recalls the excitement he felt when it was threshing time on the farm. A number of men and boys from neighboring farms would follow the threshing machine from farm-to-farm until the harvest was completed. A bountiful meal was served at noon time. The men and boys would relax for a while after eating and some would pitch a game or two of horseshoes. Howard recalls that they used "real" horseshoes (straight from the horses' hoof). If horseshoes weren't available they would pitch "mule" shoes, which were much smaller than horseshoes.

As a youngster, Howard attended a one room country school house and graduated from Sullivan High School at the age of 16. Howard's mother, being a school teacher, encouraged him to attend a teacher's college. Howard didn't pitch shoes very ofter after leaving the farm for college at Southwest Missouri State Teachers' College in 1945. Howard earned 12 college hours during the summer and taught in a rural school the following fall. He was paid $90 per month (also serving as the janitor), walking two miles to the school and another two miles home. The following summer he attended college classes and earned 12 more hours. This continued for a total of six years.

After teaching in elementary school for a few years, Howard's family sold their farm and moved into Rosebud. While teaching in Gasconade County he met his future wife, Idabel, also a teacher. Shortly after they were married, Howard enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in July of 1951. After completing basic training in Texas (and taking his bride with him), he was transferred to Parks Air Force Base near Pleasanton, California. He continued "classroom teaching" instructing basic trainees for the entire four year period of his service.

Howard was always active in sports. He and a co-worker represented Parks AFB in a horseshoe tournament held at Castle AFB in California. It was at this event Howard won his very first trophy. That tournament was Howard's first experience in organized competition. Needless to say, he was very proud of that trophy and showed it to his landlord who was a well-seasoned pitcher and belonged to a club in Oakland, CA.

Howard was invited to attend the annual picnic at the Oakland Horseshoe Club shortly after the landlord was aware of Howard's interest in pitching. Celebrities in attendance that day were Admiral Chester W. Nimitz (Commander of the Pacific Fleet during World War II and a member of that horseshoe club), Guy Zimmerman (world champion) and Don Titcomb (state horseshoe champion). Howard watched Don pitch a perfect game and was so impressed by his ability to throw ringer after ringer consistently. He was also impressed with Guy Zimmerman's demonstration of skills, especially when Guy three ringers while his wife held her chin on top of the peg. Howard has never convinced his wife to demonstrate that much confidence in his ability to throw ringers. Needless to say, after watching those guys pitch, many thoughts and questions were running through Howard's mind. Later in the afternoon he had the opportunity to approach Guy with some of his questions. Guy was kind enough to give him some pointers on holding the shoe correctly, etc.

In 1955 Howard and Idabel came back to Missouri and settled into civilian life. They purchased a farm near Rosebud, finished college and continued teaching school in the Gasconade R-2 Owensville District. In 1957 Howard was appointed as the rural mail carrier out of the Rosebud Post Office. He retired from the route 26 years later in 1983. Idabel retired in 1985 after 31 years in the classroom. The Brandt's have a daughter and two sons, plus four grandchildren.

Howard's interest in horseshoe pitching continued after arriving back to his hometown. While listening to a local radio station and hearing about a horseshoe league in Washington, MO. Howard rounded up three other horseshoe pitchers and they joined that league. This continued for a few more years until Howard suggested that they approach the City Park Board for permission to build courts in Memorial Park in Owensville where the Gasconade County Fair is held each year. Permission was granted; the courts were built and the first tournament was held in 1960. Courts were soon built in the Rosebud City Park and the first tournament was held there during the Old Time Thresher's Show in 1968. In 1972 Howard was asked to organize a tournament in Vienna for the Marie's County Fair. He ran tournaments there for many years.

Several events stand out in his mind as he recalls many of these horseshoe tournaments. He jokes about winning the Franklin County Sesquicentennial Horseshoe Championship in 1968. The honor is good for 50 years. An accomplished horseshoe pitcher, himself, he vividy recalls a game in the Owensville tournament in 1989 when he pitched 22 consecutive ringers against Bob Diekamp. Bob also remembers this particular game. "Howard kept apologizing over and over because I was taking such a beating, but I was just happy for him to be pitching that well".

Howard organized the first tournament held at the Ozark Extravaganza. It was at this tournament that Howard met Danny Gladden. Danny had no partner so Howard pitched with him. Howard encouraged him to continue pitching and Danny later became a member of the NHPA. Danny has also brought several other players into the game and membership of the NHPA. The Ozark Extravaganza Tournament held in Vichy, MO proved to be a memorable tournament for Howard and the winners of each class. Donna Douglas, more well know to us as "Ellie Mae Clampet" of the Beverly Hillbillys, was the featured star attraction that year. Howard asked her to present the trophies to the winners, she complied and Idabel took pictures of the winners and later presented them to the guys.

In Belle, MO a big fair was being held; another horseshoe tournament was about to take place on the fairgrounds. The courts were located a short distance behind the main stage. Ricky Scaggs was the performing start that night. While resting in the bus, Ricky heard the clank of horseshoes and came off the bus to observe the guys warming up for the tournament. He ventured closer and asked if he could pitch a few shoes. After pitching, he thanked them and expressed his love for the game.

Howard enjoys running tournaments but since he has had some heart problems he is quick to tell you that his good friend, and many times his partner in doubles' Duke Enke, helps out with the many aspects of running a tournament. Without the help of Duke and Tom Reeves, Howard would not be able to run the tournaments.

Although the present day tournaments that Howard and Duke direct are mostly made up of local talent, there was a time when many state champions and Hall of Famers traveled many miles to attend these tournaments. Earl & Vicki Winston, Art Schroeder, Paul Lattray, Sam Carter, Charlie Webb, Jerry Dumstorff, H.P. Heidel, Charles Picraux, Val Eikel, Sam Foster and Don Jones.

He has been a member of the NHPA for approximately 15 years. Howard has attended 6 or 7 state tournaments and has won three state titles: Class I in 1973, Class H in 1974 and Class F in 1990. Today, at the age of 72, Howard hopes to pitch in the state tournament in New Melle this year standing at 30 feet. Howard's favorite shoe style, a 1 3/4 shoe turn, has been changed to a 1 1/4 turn for the shorter distance. "Standing at 30 feet is an adjustment that is more difficult than one might think," says Brandt. He has pitched several types of horseshoes but for the last several years he pitches only Dead-Eyes.

An avid sportsman, Howard has also been active in softball (fast pitch), bowling, hunting and fishing. Due to a heart attack and other health problems during the years 1992 through 1994, he has given up softball and bowling. In the golden years of their life, "music" has become a vital part of Howard and Idabel's life. In 1988, Idabel's Old Tyme String Band" was organized consisting of four members of which she is the lead singer. A talented man, Howard enjoys playing the guitar and lending a vocal bass voice when the girls sing old time gospel songs. Howard drives the van keeping the gals on schedule and takes charge of loading and unloading instruments. He and Idabel have performed at Silver Dollar City, Six Flags as well as other festivals in MO, IL and Iowa.

Howard keeps busy when not pitching horseshoes. He has served in his community as treasurer for nine years for the Rosebud American Legion Post #587, Secretary of the Owensville Masonic Lodge #624 for 18 years and served on the Owensville R-2 Board of Education for six years. He is presently serving on the Owensville Senior Center Council and serving on the building committee for the addition to the center.

"It's a good feeling to watch beginning pitchers develop their skill and improved to the point that they want to continue on. I enjoy helping pitchers who have never pitched in a tournament. Some gain confidence and ability to move on to further competition in other tournaments. I always encourage the guys and enjoy their friendship. After all, some of the nicest people I know are horseshoe pitchers."

He has directed 292 tournaments, none of which were sanctioned, but many of the contestants developed an interest and became members of the NHPA later. "In my last tournament at Owensville, , I had three pitchers who had never pitched in a tournament before. Sometime later, the junior came and asked to become a member of the NHPA and now he and his father have joined and are planning on pitching at the state tournament this year. So, I do get the new members by having nonsanctioned tournaments and offering good friendly competition."

We salute this active senior citizen, Howard Brandt, who has spent over forty years of his life promoting, organizing and directing tournaments in Missouri. Not only has he represented the sport of horseshoes graciously, he has respectfully served his country and community as well. His contribution, dedication and promotion to the sport makes him a part of our Missouri horseshoe history,