The Pool Hall
by Art Cole
The Pool Hall
Dirt Roads Discussion in The
Remembering Friends And
Events From A Time Ago
He climbed on top of the pool
table—down at east end—particles of dust could be seen in the rays of
sunshine that came through the old torn faded curtain that covered the
window—and he sat down on a stool. He was getting ready to tell the rowdies
and ruffians a story that hopefully would have a positive impact on their
lives. All the rowdies and ruffians huddled around to listen. There were
Goat Eyes, Fish Eyed Fool, Purple Passion Girl, Secret of Victoria, Thunder
and Lightning, Gertie, Sweet and Sour, Louisville Slugger, William Wallace,
Jazz Girl, Fly Girl, Daisy Mae, The Parson, The Prof, Harley Davidson
Motorcycle Person, Beyond Basic Training—USA, Horsefly, and others. He
“The cloud of dust could be
seen in the western sky coming toward him on a windy March day in 1949—about
a half of mile away where the railroad tracks intersected the gravel road.
The lad thought that it is sure a big cloud of dust—the people are sure
traveling fast. As the truck got closer to the house by the ditch, it began
to slow down. The truck was loaded with furniture and two dust covered boys
sat on top of the furniture that had been loaded in the truck bed without
sideboards. In the front of the truck, there was a man, a woman and a
girl! Her red hair was so pretty and so bright. Bet Rhonda Fleming is
moving here from California thought the young boy! The truck turned north
and started down the dirt lane that ran between the house and ditch and kept
going toward the old share cropper shanty that was on the nearby farm.
The young boy dashed into the
house to tell his Mom about the news of neighbors moving into the house.
“Mom, we have neighbors!”
shouted the young boy.
“What makes you think that?”
asked his Mom.
“Just saw them turn down the
lane, and I am going to go to see who they are and where they are from—okay
“Okay, but do not wear out
The young boy started down
the dirt lane to meet the new neighbors. It was a walk of about half a
mile, and he ran and walked the distance because this was exciting news. He
did not tell his Mom that Rhonda Fleming was moving here from California.
It will really be something for a movie star to be living so close!
“Hello, my name is W.
A.—sometimes people call me W. I don’t like to be called that name because
it just doesn’t sound good to me!”
The beautiful girl with the
very red hair walked over and said “Hello, W. A.—my name is Sweet! We are
moving here from Arkansas. What time does the school bus stop?”
“Hi Sweet. The bus gets here
about 7 am.”
“What grade are you in W.
“I am in the third grade—what
grade are you in?”
“I am a junior in high
school—just one more year!”
“Well, I had better get
started home or Mom will be mad!”
“See you tomorrow.”
The young boy thought--Gosh,
what a let down. She is not Rhonda Fleming—she is Sweet from Arkansas!
She was so pretty and probably really smart, and there was a hope that they
would become good buddies. She is about as old my sister that lives far
away in another state that I do not know where it is located. He had never
been there and probably would never get there. Sweet’s Mom and Daddy and
her brothers were not very friendly—they were working hard to get the stuff
off of the truck.
After supper and before he
went to sleep, W. A. thought about his new friend—Sweet with the red hair,
the gravel road and the dirt lane!
About 6:30 am the next day,
W. A. went outside to talk with J. A., Joe and Harold about things. Harold
decided that it was the morning to continue the process of making W. A.
tough. "Hey, W, come here and hunker up your shoulder--I am going to hit
you as hard as I can to see if you can take it--you have got to be tough!"
W. A. walked over and prepared for the punch from Harold as J. A. and Joe
watched. As Harold hit W, Sweet and her brothers came walking down the dirt
"Hey, _______ ____________
___________ __ _________________, you stop hitting W. A.--he is a little
boy and you are as big as a horse." shouted Sweet at Harold.
"Mind your own business,
Red--this does not concern you!" replied Harold.
Soon, Sweet, Harold, Joe and
J. A. were in a shouting match. W. A. did not know what to think, but it
sure looked like Sweet was a tough girl that was not afraid of anyone or
anything! Suddenly, she stopped shouting, and motioned for W. A. to come to
her. He obeyed and as he approached Sweet, she put her arm around him and
took his hand. "W. A. being a man is not how hard a punch you can take
from bullys like Harold, Joe and J. A., but being a real man is based on
kindness, thoughtfulness and gentleness--don't you ever forget--remember
"I will remember forever and
forever," said W. A.--as red faced as a tomato--he had never had the arm of
a girl around his shoulder--he will be teased by Harold, J. A. and Joe. Bet
they will call me a sissy. He liked Sweet but he wanted Harold, J. A. and
Joe to make him tough! Being tough might be helpful later?
The bus came and everyone got
on the bus--away to school they went. The Spring and Summer went so
quickly. Sweet and a guy from a nearby town became best friends. He was a
senior in high school, and Sweet was a junior in high school. W. A. thought
they will probably get married because Sweet mentioned that she really loved
On a beautiful October Day,
Sweet and W. A. were sitting on the ditch bank with a fishing pole. Sweet
could really bait a hook. She had taught W. A. how to fish, but he could
not bait a hook. Sweet knew how to fix her reel when the fishing line got
twisted into knots. W. A. and Sweet had indeed became best buds.
The tall cottonwood trees
along the ditch bank reached to the sky and the autumn breeze rustled
through the brown leaves. The sunshine was so warm and pleasant. W. A.
was really happy today. He leaned back on the frost bitten grass of the
ditch bank and gazed up into the blue sky and saw a large cottonwood leaf
fall gently from the tree and float softly and gently toward the earth. W.
A. kinda felt like the leaf of the tree--he was moving toward a
destination, but he did not know where he would land! There had to be
something better than working on the farm. Picking cotton was tough—the
burrs would stick your fingers causing them to bleed and the weight of the
sack caused the back to hurt. It was often said that to be a cotton picker
a person had to have a strong back and a weak mind. W. A. knew that some
day, just some day—no more picking or chopping cotton! Probably even worse
than the burrs were the cold dews and frost on the chilly mornings. W. A.
just hated to get his clothes wet walking to the far end to get a row to
pick. The dew and frost would make the fingers look funny—cracks in the
skin would happen and sometimes they would bleed. W. A. ’s Mom would always
make a solemn promise that some day, some day he would never have to pick or
to chop cotton again. She would tell him to learn as much as he could at
school, then he could go to college and make something out of himself!
"W. A., I have something to
tell you," Sweet began on this wonderful fall day.
"Is it exciting," asked W.
"Yes and no--it is a problem
for me. I am going to go away—to live with my aunt."
"Noooooooo, you can't leave,
Sweet. I don't know what I will do without you as my friend."
"I am going to have a baby,
and my boyfriend does not want to get married. He wants to go to college,
and a wife and baby do not fit into his plans. His father gave me some
money to leave the county, have a baby and my aunt will help me find someone
to adopt the baby."
"He doesn't want to marry
you? Sweet, I will marry you! Okay!"
"No--you are too little and I
am too old for you!"
"Why do I have be so
little--I love you Sweet!"
"I love you too, W. A., and I
will write you letters. I will come back to see you, okay?"
Tears poured from the eyes of
W. A. as he thought of his fishing buddy leaving to go far, far, far away.
He might not ever see her again. The rest of the day was not nearly as
happy. W. A. was not sure what he would do after Sweet left. She was the
best friend that he had ever had.
In early November, with the
rain falling from the dark, cloud fill sky and the ground covered by dead
and decaying leaves, W. A. could hear the truck coming down the dirt lane.
He knew that Sweet was leaving to go far, far away, and he just had the
feeling that he would never see her again. He stood on the porch and held
on the porch post as the truck came to the gravel road that went west. W.
A. waved and Sweet waved--he watched the truck disappear down the gravel
road past where the railroad tracks went south.
W. A. never saw Sweet
again--all that he ever knew was that she died. Ever now and then, he would
hear his Mom and Dad talk in quiet tones about Sweet. He reached the
conclusion that probably the baby died too, but no one either knew or they
would not tell him.
Even to this day—more than 50
years later—after having personally traveled so many gravel roads, dirt
roads, dirt lanes, and paved freeways, the thoughts of Sweet linger and
echo in the memory—the dust cloud of arriving from Arkansas, the gravel
road, the dirt lane, the sharecropper shanty, the boys pounding the shoulder
to make one tough, the wisdom of the young woman about being a man, her
disappointment with love, the first encounter with the Angel of Death that
perched on the shoulder of Sweet to claim the spirit
of she and her baby, sitting on the ditch bank learning to bait a hook,
watching the leaves of the tall cottonwood trees fall to the earth, riding
the school bus with her, picking cotton, chopping cotton, watching blood
ooze from the finger tips after being stuck by a burr, seeing the final wave
from the front of the pick up truck while standing on a front porch on a
November day—never to be seen again. Indeed, life is not for weaklings!”
William Wallace shouted—“Let
us have a toast for Sweet!”
“Here, Here” shouted
W. A. climbed down from the
bar, walked out the rickety front door of The Pool Hall and got into the old
red pickup and drove away—everyone could hear the tires spinning in the muck
of the mud of the dirt road in front of The Pool—another muddy dirt road to
travel–so many traveled, so many to travel!
to "dirt roads"
By Art Cole
Music-Fly Swat Rag
was thinking about what should be done on Independence Day in The
Pool Hall. Possibilities included demonstrating for a worthwhile
cause on a Court House Lawn, ride The Moose from Parma to Gideon
with a flag flying from the window, shout encouragement to young
people setting off fireworks around The Pool Hall to celebrate
freedom, walk in a parade with a placard to proclaim love of
freedom, provide envelopes and postage for The Pool Hall
Regulars to write notes to their legislators, replace the tattered
flags in The Pool Hall as well as from The Flag Pole outside the
front door, join the American Legion or the VFW, attend Steak Night
at the local Legion Hall, free beverage of choice for everyone or at
least be sure to attend the Fourth of July Parade!
decision was made to invite Soldier Boy to come to The Pool Hall to
speak to everyone once again as he had done on Flag Day.
Boy agreed to come to make a few remarks on Independence Day because
it would give him an opportunity to challenge Combat Girl to a game
of pool. Horsefly knew that he would be arriving soon so an
announcement needed to be made to everyone of the program that would
be held today to honor Liberty in America!
listen up, Soldier Boy will soon be here to give our program on
Independence Day. Wind down your games of pool and make sure the
tables have been cleared of stakes in “the back room” and please
behave Gertie because I know that you have a crush on Soldier Boy
because of your love of uniforms–any uniform! Please remember he is
and Lightning hustled to “the back room” to make sure everyone knew
that Soldier Boy would soon be arriving! Exclamations could be
heard from Thunder–“Wow, the stakes would choke Whirl away”
was gathering around when Horsefly saw Soldier Boy coming down the
dirt road in front of The Pool Hall. He was coming in a cloud of
dust created by his Brown Derby Car! It roared to a stop in front
of The Pool Hall and Soldier Boy and Sugar got out of the car.
Sugar was driving which was a bit surprising–everyone thought
Soldier Boy was driving.
is sure good to be here today–always good to be in a place where
people know your name and like you regardless of what you have done
or what you have not done. Where Service to Country and belief in a
power greater than ourselves are more important than the value of
your stocks and bonds, your job title or the clothes you wear or the
car you drive!”
replies “it is good to see you too, and we are so glad that you
would come talk with us today–Independence Day in The Pool Hall!
The floor is yours until you have finished talking!”
Horsefly and thank you everyone--In times of war and peace, when
America asked 'Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?'–Americans
have always answered without hesitation–'America, here am I; send
me!' The answer came easy because we have a heritage of loving
liberty and freedom!
in our history as a freedom loving people, the great patriot,
Patrick Henry, arose in the House of Burgesses in Virginia and
asked the question:
'Is life so
dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains
and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course
others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!'
young Continental Army Officer, Nathan Hale, volunteered for a
spying mission behind enemy lines which resulted in his capture and
execution by hanging. His last words were 'I only regret that I
have but one life to lose for my country'!
Today, we come
to pay respect and to celebrate our love of liberty and to remember
Americans that have and always will exemplify the spirit, the
courage and the belief in the importance of liberty as demonstrated
in word and deed by the great patriots Patrick Henry and Nathan
today on Independence Day or perhaps later at another time and
place, let us resolve to pause perhaps by the dawn’s early light or
the gleaming of the twilight to give thanks for our liberty and to
appreciate the courage and the devotion of Americans to duty which
resulted in their giving the last full measure of their love of
America to insure the continuation of this land of the free and the
home of the brave!
celebrate Independence Day with fried chicken, barbecue, ice cream,
soda or perhaps another beverage of choice, please pledge that you
will never, never, never, never forget the
love and devotion of our fallen heroes, and they will be an
inspiration to you to make every day count–perhaps by a random act
of kindness, a flower garden for others to enjoy or to feel goose
bumps on goose bumps when Old Glory flutters in the Fourth of July
Parade, at a baseball game or a high school football game!
please never forget that there is a price to pay to be an
American–Patrick Henry knew this fact, Nathan Hale knew this to be
true and we here in The Pool Hall know that freedom and liberty do
not have a discount price!
Today, we are
able to celebrate and to enjoy freedom and to realize the importance
of the following song to our country and the devotion to duty that
has kept us free flying--
My country ‘tis
of thee, Sweet land of liberty, Of thee I sing: Land where my
fathers died, Land of the pilgrims’ pride, From every mountain side
Let Freedom ring!
ring forever and ever and ever!”
Soldier Boy! That was wonderful!” bubbled Jazz Girl!
stands up and utters “God Bless America! God Bless You!”
Soldier Boy and
Sugar depart in The Brown Derby Car with a honk of the horn and in a
cloud of dust from the Dirt Road!
muses–“There goes an American Hero!”
to "dirt roads"
Gideon Seniors 1959
Copyright © 2001 by [Gideon Seniors 1959].
All rights reserved.
"Fly Swat Rag"
Ron "Keeper" O'Dell