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The Pool Hall

by Art Cole

 

The Pool Hall

Dirt Roads Discussion in The Pool Hall

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 began--

 

“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 Mom?”

 

“Okay, but do not wear out your welcome!”

 

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. A.?”

 

“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 lane.

 

"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 this forever!"

 

"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 him. 

 

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. A.?

 

"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 everyone!

 

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!

 

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4th July at the Pool Hall

By Art Cole                                         Music-Fly Swat Rag

 Horsefly 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!

 The 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.

 Soldier 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!

 “Hey, 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 Sugar's guy!”

 Thunder 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”

 Everyone 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.

 “It 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!”

 Horsefly 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!”

 “Thank you, 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!

 Early 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!'

 A 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 Hale.

 Here 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!

 As you 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 courage, 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!

 Furthermore, 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!

 May freedom ring forever  and ever and ever!”

 “Wow, Soldier Boy!  That was wonderful!” bubbled Jazz Girl!

 The Parson 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!

 Horsefly muses–“There goes an American Hero!”

 Everyone cheers!

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Gideon Seniors 1959
Copyright © 2001 by [Gideon Seniors 1959].

All rights reserved.

 

"Fly Swat Rag"

Ron "Keeper" O'Dell