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Goliad retiree regarded as washer king (w/video, photo gallery)

By Bianca Montes
March 15, 2014 at 10:03 p.m.
Updated March 14, 2014 at 10:15 p.m.

King David Cullum, 82, of Goliad, and his daughter, Barbara Heinold, 55, of Victoria, shake hands with their opponent, James Johnson, of Goliad, in the horseshoe tournament at the Goliad County Fair and Rodeo. The Cullum family has put together the washers and horseshoe tournament for 25 years.

GOLIAD - King David Cullum can't remember how long he's set up the horseshoe and washer tournament at the Goliad County Fair and Rodeo - it's been that long.

To be safe, his three daughters - all state horseshoe pitchers - guess about 25 years, but Cullum grunts at their recollection, pulls on a weathered University of Texas hat and argues that it's closer to 30.

Growing up in Alice, the 82-year-old man who settled in Goliad said tossing coins into holes that he and his brother dug was as much a part of country living as raising animals and Sunday dinners.

"I grew up in the country. We didn't have much to do but shoot rabbits and play washers," he said with a sincere look on his face.

Every year during the fair, Cullum wakes up early to tend to the tournaments: He mows the grass, marks off the perimeters of each game and digs the small holes into the ground.

Over the years, Cullum, a retired Enron employee, has earned a lot of respect from the younger men and women who come to play - or, as his wife of 59 years puts it - "beat this old man." But sadly, after a near-death experience seven years ago during a tournament, he isn't playing like he used to.

Cullum scored the coveted double ringer - when you land two horseshoes around the metal peg - and became so overwhelmed with excitement that he threw his hat to the floor, his hands up in the air and yelled as he twirled in a circle. He then went into cardiac arrest and fell to the ground.

He was dead. A sheriff's deputy resuscitated him.

Cullum said he doesn't remember collapsing, and the last thing he recalls is seeing a big, white spot in the sky.

"They all see that," Cullum said about others who have faced a similar near-death experience. "We all see it."

Looking for the good in an otherwise scary situation, he and his family say that since the heart attack, more teams have joined the tournament every year. Twenty-six teams played last year, compared to a typical five or six.

"Once you've been there, you come back and think about all you would have done differently in life," Cullum said about nearly dying. "All I think about is that we've had a good time doing this, and I wish that we can continue for many years to come."

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