From there I started playing during vacations. My ex’s family had a cabin in Northern California where we would spend hours on the screened-in porch chucking darts at an electronic board. With fresh air, plenty of booze and many hours to kill, my aim got pretty good. And when the booze really flowed, I was grateful to have the electronic board that would keep track of the score.
This inspired me to buy a cheap dart set last summer and put it up on my patio in Reno. With the additional practice, I have perfected my technique and am proud to say I can usually put the dart right where I want — slightly less accurately after the aforementioned booze. Sober or not, I wish I could say my dart-playing guests’ aim was so good. Hopefully a little paint will take care of the dings in the wall.
The board I purchased last summer was $20 and included six generic darts. For my purposes, this set is fine but when I came across a business card for Sparks’ own Nevada Dart Company, I decided it might be time check out some better gear.
Located in an out-of-the-way industrial complex at 615 Spice Island Dr., my first thought was, “How does this place get any business?” Owner Russell Hicks explained to me that the dart store is his hobby, while his real business is the print shop next door.
“It was never meant to be a money-maker,” he said.
Hicks, a Sparks High School graduate, studied electrical engineering at a college in Arizona, where he had a roommate who was into darts and a really great dart store close by. After college he came home to work at his parents’ print shop, Sandell’s Printing. In 1994, Hicks bought the print shop and three years ago, after experiencing the “culture shock” of not having a local dart store, he started Nevada Dart Company.
“I just got fed up with trying to drive over the hill all the time to get what I needed,” he said of his trips to Sacramento to feed his habit.
Until recently, Hicks said, there was no competition in the area for his dart sales. Even now with Scheels in the neighborhood, Hicks says his prices are much lower.
And even with Scheels’ size and specialized departments, it is hard to imagine matching Hicks’ store for dart paraphernalia. I knew some darts came in two pieces, but apparently they actually have four parts: tip (the pointy part that sticks in the dart board), barrel (the part you should be holding if you throw it right), shaft (tiny part behind the barrel with slits in it) and the flight (the winged part that goes into the slits in the shaft). What’s more, each part can be purchased separately to create the perfect dart.
What is the perfect dart, you ask? Whatever feels right coming out of your hand and keeps you from putting more holes in my wall. Each part comes in a bunch of variations: the barrel has different weights, lengths and textures; the tip can have different lengths and can retract slightly when it hits the board to help if it hits the metal part; the flight can have different shapes and sizes; and the shaft can, well, hold the flight. Put all the pieces together and you can spend from $75 to $200 on your personalized projectiles. Like getting fitted for golf clubs, you can get fitted for darts.
Then there are the boards. Back when the ancient drunks first invented the game of darts, they threw arrows at the ends of barrels or cut-off tree trunks. Then about a hundred years ago they started making boards out of mashed up paper fibers so the darts weren’t actually making holes, they were just parting the fibers. Today, Hicks tells me, they have boards made of material that “heals,” so if you don’t throw any darts at it for a while the board will look brand new.
For those who don’t want the fun of pointy metal things flying around, there are many electronic boards that take plastic-tip darts and that take the work out of keeping score. Either way you go, a primo board is at least a $50 investment, more if you want top-of-the-line stuff. For those who want the traditional board but still don’t want to keep score, there is even a fancy gadget that for about $120 has all the games programmed in and a mini dart board with buttons on it. All you do is tell it what game you want and as you play, press the buttons that correspond to where your darts hit (there is no button for darts that hit my wall). It will tally up the points.
Whatever the weight of the dart or whether or not the board heals itself, I always have a good time playing. Hicks told me there are even leagues around town that play at pretty much every pub on Victorian Avenue and I could see myself joining one of those (check out precisiondarts.net). He said it is even a great family sport and I can get behind that, but here’s where I draw the line:
“It really should be the national pastime,” he said, “because more people in the country have played darts than have played baseball.”
I am currently preparing to submit Hicks’ name to the House Un-American Activities Committee. Or maybe I’ll just put his picture on the board and throw darts at it. I’ll have to ask him what kind of dart I should use.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go pick out a new shaft.
Nathan Orme is the editor of the Sparks Tribune. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.