The sound of iron hitting metal has had a familiar ring around Magdelena every since the central New Mexico town came into being.
Back in the 1860s, it was the silver miners’ hammers hitting chisels echoing through the hills that lie some 30 miles west of Socorro.
In the next century, the Iron Horse rumbled through town on steel rails, in part to support the cattle industry that rose up around the area.
The clatter of iron on metal could be heard again Saturday in Magdelena during a horseshoe-pitching tournament when the town hosted its 31st Annual Old-Timer’s Reunion.
“They’ve had that tournament out there for a long time,” said Peter Baca, a native of Magdelena, now living in Socorro, who assisted Dan Jaramillo of Belen in organizing the tournament this year. “That was back about the time I got started and got into it. Now I’m glad we’re getting a lot of little kids.”
In addition to some real old-timers pitching in the tournament, including Bobby Landrum, a former state champion pitcher from Albuquerque who’s somewhere in his 70s, there were some new-timers too, such as brothers Ace and Cory Jojola and their cousin Matthew, who was the youngest at 6.
In all, more than 40 pitchers from near and far competed in the tournament, which awarded expensive belt buckles and various hunting and fishing knifes to the top placers in each class.
“We tried to give them something that was worthwhile,” said Dan Jaramillo, who has run the tournament about six times over the years. “People get tired of trophies. They’re nothing but dust collectors anyway.”
Jaramillo is one of a line of horseshoe-pitching enthusiasts who have kept the Old-Timer’s Reunion going over the years.
“I think it originated with the cowboys in the area,” he said. “They only had two pits to start out with, and the people around there decided to add more pits.”
The lot grew to six courts and, this year, Jaramillo dug two more pits to bring the total to eight.
The courts were filled all day with singles classes having to go off in three shifts, beginning at 10:30 in the morning.
It wasn’t until the sun had gone down on the day that the highly-coveted buckles were distributed to the winners.
Costing $200 apiece to produce, four sapphire stones were set at the corners of the shiny silver buckles. Glittering in the bright sunlight, the buckles couldn’t help but catch the eye of those competing.
Henry “Bozo” Jojola of Socorro won one of the buckles by winning class B. He almost won a second in the doubles competition, losing a close match 25-23.
“Dang it, I wanted another a buckle,” he bellowed in frustration after the match, which ended as the sun went down after a long, hot day of casting iron at a 16-inch stake.
At least the other buckle stayed in the family. Bozo’s mother, Annie, made up half of the winning doubles team.
Horseshoe pitching is a family affair for the Jojolas. Like a lot of folks, they started as backyard pitchers. Now some of them are pretty good and pitch competitively in sanctioned horseshoe-pitching tournaments around the state.
There was a lot of competition for those buckles, for sure. But for the most part, the Magdelena Old-Timers tournament was just a great way to spend the day.
“I always have a good time when I come to Magdelena,” Baca said. “I’ve been pitching there 15, 20 years. I enjoy the people. You get to know them, and they turn out to be good friends. Our thing is having fun — win or lose.”
(Editor’s note: Glenn Benavidez of Belen placed second in Class A at the Magdelena Old-Timers Reunion horseshoe pitching tournament).