Jim Barksdale, 80 and Jan Weisel, 55 – Steeleville, Missouri
Some people take up sports as a hobby. Jim Barksdale of Steeleville, Missouri certainly has fun bowling, but considers his five decades of rolling the rock as a bit more than a hobby. Along the way he has collected a 25 year American Bowling Congress tournament plaque, multiple Missouri Senior Olympic medals of all colors, plus more gathered in regular trips for National Senior Games competition since 2007.
Barksdale’s real hobby is wood carving, which he has been doing for over 50 of his 79 years. He liked to whittle, and carved a pair of miniature herons as a third anniversary present for his wife. “I never dreamed about selling my work, but a few years later I sold a couple of pieces at a show and it just snowballed.” To date, he has sold more than 6,000 pieces, mostly shorebirds and songbirds. “They’ve gone to every state and all over the world,” he says with a mixture of pride and disbelief. “I do it really to support my habit of collecting old decoys and duck calls.”
Barksdale, now retired from a career in the women’s shoe industry, started bowling in 1957 when the only place to play was an old center in the nearby town of Cuba. “There were six wooden lanes and they had pin boys setting the pins,” he chuckles. “A few years later a new Brunswick bowling center was built here in Steelville.”
The kegler’s signature moments? “Shooting a 300 game in 1981 was exciting, but the peak for me was when I scored an 807 scratch during qualifying play at the Missouri Senior Olympics in 2006. That continues to be a state record.” Another was when he and younger doubles partner Dennis Sandstrom won the Gold at the National Senior Games presented by Humana in 2009. “I had to “play down” in the 50-54 age division. We were so excited about winning-I remember Dennis ran ar
ound town all night in his bowling shoes. He forgot to take them off.”
Another peak experience was as a proud father. Barksdale’s daughter, Jan Weisel, caught the bowling bug from him and recalls her dad’s relentless recruitment for Senior Games. “When I was 47 he started asking ‘Are you 50 yet?’ and kept after me,” she says. “He was anxious to see me come play.”
Not only did she show up, the now 54 year old captured the Gold in singles play at her national debut in Houston in 2011, and then the father-daughter team took the Bronze in the 50-54 mixed doubles division. The pair now enjoy sharing the Senior Games experience and look forward to the trip north to Minnesota for 2015. “It’s like Doublemint gum – it doubles the pleasure,” Jim quips.
We had to ask if Barksdale had ever considered carving a bowling ball or pin for the fun of it. His reply? “No – but thinking about it, I might carve a ten pin just because I hate that thing.”