The Horseshoe King

Alan Francis works for a food ingredient manufacturer.

Mr. Francis, who is 45, has a neatly trimmed mustache and closely cropped, brown hair. He grew up in a family of farmers in Blythedale, Missouri, population just under 200. Now, he lives in Defiance, Ohio, population just under 17,000.

Mr. Francis met his wife, Amy, in Des Moines in 1978. They married in 1996. Mr. and Mrs. Francis live with their son, Alex, in a ranch house on Melody Lane.

But in the backyard and the attic of that ranch house, there are two things that the other houses on Melody Lane don’t have.

In the backyard, there is a horseshoe court. And in the attic, there are trophies. Lots of them.

Because Alan Francis is the World Horseshoe Champion. It’s a title he’s won 20 times.

In horseshoes, the thing to watch is the ringer, when the horseshoe encircles the stake. It’s something Mr. Francis has worked at since he was a kid in Blythedale. Now, he pitches ringers nearly 90% of the time.

It’s a statistic that has made Mr. Francis the best horseshoe player the game has ever known. His consistency has led to speculation that he might be the most dominant athlete in the world.

But the world doesn’t confer much power on Horseshoe Champions.

There’s not a lot of money to be made: the World Horseshoe Championship Prize is $4,200. And Mr. Francis has only one sponsorship. It’s with White Distributors, who sells the Alan Francis Signature Horseshoe for $70.

While horseshoes might not matter to the press, the trendsetters or the kingmakers, horseshoes matters to Alan Francis. Since he was a kid in Blythedale, Missouri, he’s respected what matters to him.

And while the world doesn’t confer much power on Horseshoe Champions, Mr. Francis has a different kind of power, the kind that only comes from spending our time living out our convictions.

So, even when the world isn’t looking, Mr. Francis pitches horseshoes.

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