The Billiard Room

My biological mother left my older brother and I with my father when I just a few years old. My biological mother and father divorced shortly thereafter, and my dad went on to remarry my stepmother, Kay. My biological mother’s parents still lived in our small town in Kansas after my mother moved away and I had a relationship with them growing up even though my mother was not around. My grandfather’s name was Glenn Payne, and he was career Army. My first memory of Glenn was when I was around 8-9 and it was Christmas Eve when Glenn and Margret, my grandmother, came to our little farmhouse for a quick visit. Glenn had just returned from overseas; it was around 69-70 and I can’t remember if it was Vietnam or Japan. By this time Glen had served in WWII, Korea and had also been present at the Bimini Islands for Atomic testing. My grandfather Glenn had a very distinguished Army career and after spending time with him and listening to some of his stories about his life, I kinda wanted to be just like him. When they visited our little house on Christmas Eve, Glenn and Margret brought my older brother and I a kids sized pool table. It was small, around 4-5 feet in length, but big enough to look very odd in our little living room when we set it up. My brother and I were used to getting Christmas gifts like one of those glass race car cologne decanters from the Christmas edition Avon book but here comes my grandparents with this over-the-top pool table Christmas gift. Glenn didn’t care, Glenn pretty much did what Glenn wanted to do and if meant schlepping in a pool table on Christmas Eve, so be it.

Fast forward a few years, my dad and Kay divorced, and it was my old brother, my dad and I living in our little farmhouse. I wasn’t quite old enough to be left alone so I spent time bouncing around my different grandparents houses during the summer months and they would watch me while my dad worked. Glenn had retired from the Army and Margret was still working the evening shift at a nearby Armory. Margret would go to work in the early afternoon, and it was me and Glenn hanging out. Glenn and Margret were drinkers, and when I say drinkers, I mean they drank. I was just a kid and at the time I just figured that some people drank like that, so it wasn’t that big of a deal to me. Usually, Glenn would bust out a pint of Vodka he had stashed somewhere an off we would go to the town square where there was a small pool hall. Glenn would usually meet a few of his friends in the afternoon for a domino or card game and I would hang out in the dark, in the back, shooting pool on the big 9-foot leather pocket style tables, under the hanging lights. Every once in a while, Glenn would shoot pool with me or maybe one of his friends would come back and shoot pool with me. Everyone knew everyone in our town, and I shot pool with a lot of our older local veterans that would drop into the bar during the afternoon. After a couple years of these afternoon visits to the bar with Glenn, I got pretty good at pool. I gotta say also, we didn’t always hang out at the bar, Glenn also loved to fish, and we would go fishing every once in a while. Glenn and Margret like to bass and crappie fish with minnows so we would usually set out to a farm pond somewhere out in the country with a bucket of minnows and a cooler full of beer. Margret would tag along if she was off work at the Armory, and we would have a blast. They had some pretty good farm ponds to fish, and we were always bringing home bass and crappie to clean. I can remember one time in particular we caught a very large largemouth and I was amazed at how big those bass could get. Glenn was an excellent shot and at times I would bring my little Marlin model 60 semi-auto 22 along for us to shoot while we fished. Glenn could shoot the top off a cattail at 50 yards as he was an excellent marksman.

Once I was able to stay on my own at about 15 and got my learners permit to drive, I didn’t spend as much time with Glenn and Margret, I still visited them from time to time but with raging hormones and a license to drive I had very little time for grandparents. Glenn passed away in his sleep when I was 21 and I had moved to Oklahoma by this time. I continued to shoot pool just about everywhere I went. I played on pool leagues and shoot in tournaments throughout my Navy career, and I’ve even been known to hustle a few games here and there during my travels, but it all started with that little out of place pool table when I was a kid.

I now have my own 9-foot leather pocket table, still love to play the game and reminisce about past memories of my youth, shooting pool with Glenn and listening to his stories about his Army travels.

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