Puttin' the "Rrrrr" in Washers

The sport of backyard kings

Jul 14, 2004 at 4:00 am
SAT 7/17

It all began some forty years ago in north county, when four neighborhood pals got together on a sunny July Saturday for a friendly afternoon of lawn darts and malty libations. For hours these weekend warriors tossed hand-held steel projectiles into the air toward plastic rings and bantered idly about their work, wives and whelps. The game of lawn darts was a grand pastime in those days -- a ritualized imitation of the sun's passage across the sky, just dangerous enough to make sons of the suburbs feel like knights a-jousting.

All was well until the sixth hour, when a beered-up Biff Hamilton disputed the placement of Joe Koninchen's foot on his last throw. Joe wasn't buying Biff's beef, and the jocular imbibing became a joyless imbroglio. Insults were exchanged until Clancy McSpadden told Biff he should probably go home. The angered man gathered up his darts and huffed toward his house across the cul-de-sac. The remaining three were relieved until Biff turned on his heels, took aim and hurled a dart squarely into Joe's chest. Koninchen died instantly, but it took Hamilton 30 years to die in prison. It's all fun and games until someone gets a jart in the heart.

It was that fateful day that spawned a safer, gentler sport that has become a St. Louis favorite. The game of washers (or "warshers") also involves the arced tossing of a projectile toward a stationary target, but the round edges of a flat, doughnut-shaped washer (the projectile) aren't going to hurt anyone.

The KHITS (96.3 FM)-sponsored First Annual World Washers Championship happens at the Greensfelder Recreation Complex in Queeny Park (550 Weidman Road). The competitive field is now full and registration is closed, but spectatorship is free, so feel free to cheer on the team of your choice. Call the Washers Hotline at 314-613-7744 for start times. And don't forget to throw one for Old Joe. -- John Goddard

Glass House
Plants: Dome Home

WED 7/14

R. Buckminster Fuller isn't a name easily forgotten. Although his name may stick out in your mind, perhaps you don't remember his greatest patented achievement: the geodesic dome. Lucky for you, there's one right here in St. Louis. Nowadays there are more than 300,000 domes around the world, but in 1960, when the Missouri Botanical Garden's Climatron opened, it was the first greenhouse geodesic dome. On this patent's 50th anniversary, the United States Postal Service is honoring Fuller with his very own postage stamp, and the stamp-dedication ceremony begins at 11 a.m. outside the Climatron (4344 Shaw Boulevard). The event is free with paid garden admission; call 314-577-9400 or visit www.mobot.org for more information. -- Amy Helms

Pioneering Past

SAT 7/17

You know those funny commercials where kids are trying to get excited about history by playing with cardboard cutouts of historical figures? (Well, we think they're funny, at least.) The Jefferson Barracks Park (Telegraph Road and Kingston Drive) has taken those commercials to heart with Living History Hayrides (departing at 10 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 1 p.m., 2:30 p.m. and 4 p.m.). With period-costumed re-enactors along the trail, these rides give kids a lesson in times past. Prices range from free to $7; register at 314-544-5714 as soon as possible. And after the ride, when your kids say they actually learned something of value during the summer, it will be true. -- Alison Sieloff

Rubber Baby

SAT 7/17

Nothing's worse than a grocery cart with a wobbly wheel -- except a stroller with the same. Anyone who has pushed a bum buggy knows that those fancy strollers with only one wheel in front are like manna from Heaven. Well, you better bring that manna to St. Louis Union Station (20th and Market streets) for the 8 a.m. Buggies for Babies Stroller-Thon's 5K race (314-420-7107 or www.buggiesforbabies.org); your high-tech baby ride is the secret to sweet victory. And if your brood's not the competitive type, there's also a one-mile walk. Breakfast is served after both, and the $7 to $21 entry fee benefits the babies at the Villa Maria Center. Taste the charitable triumph now! -- Alison Sieloff