By Brenda L. Holmes
CLAYTON — There’s a barn on the southern edge of Hendricks County with some unusual occupants.
They call themselves the Mule Skinner Shuffle Crew. The “crew” are shuffleboard enthusiasts who gather to play and just have a good time.
“This barn and property had been owned by Jim Daum,” Ray Davis of Clayton explained. “He used this barn for his trucks and his radio handle was The Mule Skinner.”
Davissaid he bought the barn and house in 1997 after Daum had passed. The name kind of stuck with the group and the barn.
There are now four regulation size shuffleboard courts, mostly built by Davis.
“And all four are a little different,” Davis said. “Their speeds are a little different and they may slant a little different. Playing at each end is also different.”
Davis and his wife, Lois, started playing shuffleboard together and have made numerous friends over the years.
“You may play with someone you’ve never met before,” he said. “You’re sitting with them for a couple of hours so you talk and learn about each other. So when you walk away, you feel like you’ve made a new friend, whether you win or lose.”
The Davises are also members of the Indiana Shuffleboard Association, which was started by Don DeHart in the Franklin area. DeHart had been a school principal in both Nineveh and Trafalgar.
That group shuffles at the Franklin County Fairgrounds where there are six courts. They are limited in the summer time, especially during fair month.
Betty and Jim Weddle, Franklin residents, shuffle both in Franklin and in Clayton with the Mule Skinners.
“I’d say we average about 12 people every time we shuffle,” Betty said. “I think on the books we have about 75 members.”
The Indiana Association of Shufflers holds open hours Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturday mornings.
Davis said the barn will be open on the off days for open play on Wednesdays and Fridays, and also on Saturday mornings.
“We will be open on Saturdays, if we don’t have tournaments going on,” he said.
The Indiana State Tournament will be at the Clayton facility on July 17. They are already expecting to have people come from Illinois, Ohio, Kentucky, and Michigan, as well as all over the state of Indiana for a tournament planned for Aug. 10.
They will also make special arrangements for groups, clubs, or Sunday school classes who may want to come for a special occasion or get-together.
Shirley O’Neal of New Whiteland has only been playing shuffleboard for three years but said she’s already made great friends and loves the challenge of the game.
“You meet some of the nicest people,” O’Neal said. “They are really top notch. And they really help you learn how to play and understand the strategy. It’s really a challenging game. Not just for ‘old people.’”
Jo and Stan Miller of Avon have been playing with the groups for about six years, ever since they moved back into the area.
They said many people learn to play when they move south for the winter to places like Florida, Arizona, or Texas, which is where they were from.
Shuffleboard courts started popping up in Indiana when the “snow birds” decided they wanted to keep playing year round, Davis explained.
The game is scored based on the triangle outline on each end of the court. A puck or disc, which lands in the top of the triangle, is worth 10 points. The second section of the triangle split into two parts is worth eight points on each side, and the third section back is worth seven points on each side. The very back of the triangle is worth a loss of 10 points.
No points are awarded if the puck is touching any portion of the line. And players are allowed to knock each other’s pucks out of the scoring area.
The pucks or discs are pushed across the court with a long stick called a cue. The team using yellow starts out. The other team’s discs are normally black or blue in color.
The group encourages new people to come out and try shuffleboard. For more information, call Ray Davis at 539-4611.