Shoe Biz Profile - November 1997


Originally Written by Jeanette Claas

Our spotlight shines upon a horseshoe legend living in Missouri and needs no introduction to our readers as we all know Vicki Winston! Did you know her ten World Titles have earned her a place in the Guiness Book of Records, alongside the great Ted Allen? And in 1989 Vicki's pitching career was highlighted when she received an invitation to the Whtie House and participate in the Inauguration of President Brush's personal horseshoe court!

For many of us an 80% game is only a dream; for Vicki it is commonplace. Someone once said, "A horseshoe goes where you throw it... it's mind over matter!" And Vicki made up her mind a long time ago; her subconscious mind was programmed to think ringers!

As we drift through the life and times of Vicki Winston we must admire her perserverance and determination as she struggled to the top of her field that was once considered only a man's sport. Would it surprise our readers to know that by the end of the 1950's she had won 3 World Championships, but had never been allowed to participate in any other tournament? from 1960 - 1965 she actually took part in the Mo. State Tournament competing against the men, since there was no tournament for women. She qualified into the top class atleast once.

Vicki (Chapelle) Winston was born June 10, 1939 in Portland, Oregon, to Cletus and Daisy Chapelle, Vicki was partically born with a horseshoe in her hand; horseshoe pitching coming naturally having a dad who was a top pitcher in that state and who would later serve a short term as the NHPA President. The Chapelle name became known July 26, 1955 when Vicki's dad became the victim of Ted Allen's World Record of 72 ringers in a row. The score was 9-9 when Ted started his string. During his 72 straight, Cletus had 24 doubles and shot 82.6% to Ted's 96.7%. He passed away in 1983, but Vicki's mother and brother, Barry still reside in Portland and are active in the horseshoe scene in the Pacific Northwest. Brother Barry served as 2nd Vice President of the NHPA for several years.

Throughout her early years (and maybe later years too), Vicki was what would be referred to as a "tomboy." Dolls were of no interest, but softball, basketball, table tennis and horseshoe pitching took up many hours. An occasional game of football was also thrown in for good measure. (The neighborhood kids were all boys!) Approaching womanhood brought an end to the rough sports and a new interest in bowling. Vicki remained a league bowler until just a few years ago.

Vicki started pitching horseshoes at the age of ten on her dad's practice court in a vacant lot behind the house. She first used the 3/4 turn, but in a few years her dad advised her to try the 1 1/4 turn, which she has pitched ever since. About the time she began to get real serious about the sport, the vacant lot was sold and the practice court had to be removed. That proved to be a real hardship.

From 1950 thru 1959, the annual World Tournament was being held in Murray, Utah and was a much smaller event than it is now. Vicki made her first World Tournament debut in 1953 at the age of 14. In those days, any female who could pitch a horseshoe was welcomed into the Women's Division to have enough for a class. Vicki won her first Women's World Title in the summer of 1956, before starting her Senior year in high school. Starting a new job in 1957, Vicki had no vacation time and was unable to defend her title, however, in 1958 and 1959 she regained the title and in later years would gather in seven more World Titles. The last one came in 1981 in Genola, Minnesota, the year Vicki's dad was inducted into the NHPA Hall of Fame. This proved to be a very special year, as a few months later Vicki's dad was diagnosed with a terminal illness and it was the last World Tournament he was able to attend. That 1981 title gave Vicki the privilege of having won World Championships in four different decades.

At the 1959 World Tournament, Vicki got better acquainted with a young man from Missouri, Earl Winston. A long- distance romance flourished keeping the postman busy. Earl made a short visit to Oregon during the winter holiday season and Vicki's finger sported an engagement ring when he departed. The couple married June 10, 1960. (Sort of a prelude to Alan Francis and Amy Brown, but Vicki had to relocate instead of Earl) Vicki set about learning farm life having never before lived on or visited a farm, except for a brief visit during the spring before the wedding. She soon learned to drive the tractor; the truck and even the combine. Over the years two sons were added to the family, Keith and Carl. They both showed an early interest in horseshoes, but it faded when they could not achieve the skill of their parents. Things like 4-H, FFA, band, football and girls got in the way. Keith graduated from college and Carl started, but then opted for a career and marriage. There are no grandchildren yet.

With the boys grown and gone from home, Vicki finds more time for farm work, horseshoe related activities and church duties. She serves as the treasurer of their neighborhood United Methodist Church, as well as being the pianist. She also is know to sing a solo now and then. She still prepares all of the fields for planting and does a lot of the hay raking. When putting up small bales of hay, Vicki is usually the one in the barnlott doing the stacking. Vicki and Earl also raise Angus cattle along with the small grain farming. It is a real "mom and pop" farming operation.

Marrying a horseshoe pitcher gave Vicki the opportunity of following a pitching career that has taken her throughout much of the United States. At last count, she had competed in events in at least 27 states and Washington D.C. Invitationals have taken her to Florida, Connecticut, Ohio and the Astrohall in Houston, Texas. Because of the mixed pitching format of many special events, Vicki has had the privalege of pitching against and defeating many Men's World Champions and top pitchers. Of course, they has also returned the favor at other times. She has pitched against all of the tough women competitors for many years, until having to withdraw from the 1996 World Tournament because of health reasons. She had the opportunity to skunk the defending Women's World Champion at Spearfish, SD in 1993, but has also been on the receiving end of a skunk in World Tourney play, so it all evens out. The women's competition gets tougher each year, both at World and State.

With interest beginning to grow among lady pitchers at the local club level, Vicki and husband, Earl were the initators of the first Women's State Tournament, held at the Missouri State Fair in 1976. At last she thought her problem was solved. Wrong! Others complained that her ringer average was too high and she should be banned from the State Tournament. This was not done, but discouraging to say the least. Since 1976 Vicki has captured the State title every year but two. From being the only female NHPA member in Missouri in 1960, she has delighted in watching the women's membership grow each year to around 220 in 1996.

When Vicki arrived in Missouri in 1960, she was quickly put to work assisting with two major tournaments each year and was eventually named Assistant Superintendent of Horseshoe Pitching at the MO State Fair. The MO State Tournament was held there thru 1977. She also served a term as a NHPA Vice President in the 1960's. Vicki was elected the Vice President of the MO State Association in 1978, an office she held until becoming Sec/Treas. in the fall of 1987, still serving in this capacity. For several years she also chaired the annual State Officers meeting held during the World Tournament, but resigned that position three years ago.

Looking back, Vicki says, "It's been a long career, filled with so many wonderful experiences and I hope it hasn't come to an end. The thrills and rewards have been overwhelming. It was such an honor to be the first women inducted into the NHPA Hall of Fame back in 1970. Since then, I have been joined there by my dad, my husband and my brother. I have also been inducted into the Oregon and the Missouri Horseshoe Halls of Fame and was awarded the NHPA Stokes Award in 1995 for contributions I have made to the sport of horseshoe pitching."

Vicki continues, "There have been disapointments too. The elusive 11th World title was within reach a few times, but I goofed up. Also, my best pitching performance don't show in the record books, because they are years I didn't win. However, these are minor things compared to what I've been blessed to experience. God has given me a talent and then provided the opportunities for me to use it in ways that are granted to very few people. For this, I will ever be grateful. As a young girl of ten, standing on my daddy's horseshoe court, there was no way I could ever envision the journey on which I was about to embark."

The Show-Me State is proud of this talented horseshoe pitcher for Vicki has "shown us" achievements and accomplishments beyond our imagination. It's not often that a person of her ability will take on such a time-consuming job as our state secretary/treasurer, striving to keep our records straight, helping another horseshoe club get started, putting our State tournament together, forever promoting this game of horseshoes which has become a daily part of her life. She has paved our way, ladies, earning our respect for making it possible for us to enjoy competition.

The next time you see Vicki out on the courts throwing ringer after ringer, maybe you will think back to her early years of pitching and all that she has conquered in he lifetime. Watching Vicki pitch horseshoes is an awsome experience that leaves one spellbound, green with envy and wondering "Why can't I do that?" With almost five decades of pitching behind her, she remains, "the amazing Vicki!"