CHEYENNE – Ron McIntosh started competing in Highland Games for a very simple reason.
“My brother and I went to festivals in Estes Park and Greeley (Colorado) and thought I could throw farther than the guys who were competing,” he said with a chuckle.
He started competing the following year, starting with a competition in Gillette. McIntosh hasn’t stopped throwing since, and no Wyoming man has been competing longer.
“I was only 170 pounds back then, but I was still throwing farther than most guys,” he said. “I got addicted to it and fell in love with it.”
McIntosh – who taught art in Burns, Carpenter and Pine Bluffs – competes in a half-dozen events per summer. There have been a few years where the 1972 Cheyenne Central graduate made it to eight competitions.
The Celtic Bison Highland Games at the Cheyenne Celtic Festival featured caber toss, stone put, Scottish hammer throw, weight throw for distance, weight throw over bar and sheaf toss. There were women’s and men’s divisions, as well as divisions for heavy or lighter weights.
Caber toss calls for a thrower to hold a large pole upright before running and trying to throw it end over end. Stone put is akin to shot put in track and field, but calls for athletes to heave a 16- or 20-pound braemar stone as far as possible.
Scottish hammer throw is nearly identical to track’s hammer throw. Weight throw for distance calls for competitors to spin and heave a weight that’s attached to a ring and short chain. Weight throw over bar requires throwing the weight vertically over a bar.
Sheaf toss forces competitors to use a pitch fork to toss a 20- or 10-pound burlap sack of wheat vertically over a bar.
Placings are decided by the average finish in all events. Each competitor must wear a kilt and high socks while competing.
“My problem is that I’m usually one of the smaller guys doing this, and most of the guys are 40 or 50 pounds heavier than I am,” McIntosh said. “I have still found a way to hold my own.”
McIntosh, 64, retired from teaching and now lives in Laramie. He trains for Highland competitions by lifting weights and doing cardio. McIntosh and a friend also crafted some implements he can use to train for specific Highland events twice per week.
“They’re not as nice as what we use here, but all the weight is right,” he said. “I do it in the lot next to the old Deti Stadium. If you don’t lift and stretch, you’re going to kill yourself.”
While McIntosh naturally threw farther than many of his peers, he also had help learning the nuances of each event from them. He credits Mark Buchanan of Colorado Springs, Colorado, with helping him catch up quickly.
Buchanan is a three-time world champion, and was inducted into the Scottish Masters Athletics International Hall of Fame in 2017.
“He really welcomed me into the fold and showed me what to do,” McIntosh said. “(Buchanan) is such a humble champion. He is still giving me pointers.”
There are competitors who are regulars at Highland Games in the region, and some athletes McIntosh only sees at certain events each summer. They are like family, he said.
According to Buchanan, there’s a reason for the overwhelming camaraderie.
“When you get to be our age, there aren’t a lot of guys doing this,” he said. “The last thing you want to do is be too competitive and scare a guy away. Then you wouldn’t have anyone to throw against.”