We had several New-Years Eve celebrations at the pool hall in the sixties. If you want to call it that! Nobody was all excited about seeing the year behind them gone for good, and the worst of winter …
We had several New-Years Eve celebrations at the pool hall in the sixties. If you want to call it that! Nobody was all excited about seeing the year behind them gone for good, and the worst of winter just ahead. Mom and Dad would be home with friends, playing cards, drinking coffee and soda pop and eating fudge and cookies.
My little sisters would be home playing with the children of my parent’s friends. Not me, I’d be at the pool hall with my friends, most of them older men who didn’t play snooker or pool, sixty years old or older who sat on the front bench telling hunting and fishing stories. I was just a kid, around 12 or 13 at first, and I kept getting older every year. But never quick enough. I stopped thinking that way 20 or 30 years later. I seems now that every month has fewer days in it.
There still were lots of family-aged men coming in the pool hall early on New Years Eve, keeping me busy racking balls and collecting money. Cigarettte smoke hung in the air all the way to the high ceiling above the big green light globes above each table. It was loud early in the evening, with one of those front bench regulars trying to tell a story about a snowstorm on New Years Eve back in the thirties or another excited about a wolf that broke in to his pig pen and carried off a choate just before Christmas. It was usually loud when all five tables were being used, the clacking of billiard balls, the whooping of some guy who had just won a game when his opponent scratched on the eight ball,
Ol’ Bill said more than once that if you asked some fellow what happens when you scratch on the eight ball and he don’t know, “he prob’ly never had a country upbringin’; likely never had to wear long johns in the winter nor never et poke greens in the spring”.
But happy-go-lucky Sherrill Campbell, a big raw-boned 35-year-old construction worker who had built half the new houses in town, laughingly said, as he stood holding a cue stick waiting his turn at the front snooker table, that if you found a woman who knew what scratching on the cue ball meant, she “probably wasn’t gonna make good wife material”.
On New Years Eve in the early sixties, most every one of the younger men left early to go to some celebration somewhere, and the older ones, Norman Salyer, Bill Hoyt, Jess Wolf, General Romines, Virgil Halstead and Ol” Jim and Ol’ Bill just ambled into the night one at a time to go home. None seemed all that happy about a New Year. I mentioned that to Doc Dykes, the chiropracter in town, who was likely the smartest man who ever sat on the front bench.
“It’s likely that they are all wondering if they will all see another New Year,” Doc said. “Last year old Karl Roberts was here, and he died halfway through the summer. I suppose some of them were thinking that sometime in the new year it might be them.”
I remembered how Ol’ Bill Stalder had solemnly told me, at the end of summer when I was was talking about how I couldn’t wait for duck season that I shouldn’t “wish my life away”.
“It’ll come and go too quick as you get older,” he said solemnly, “ an’ someday it’ll just be gone…like ever’thing in a man’s life, come an’gone an’ just a part of old memories.”
And now I remember his words so vividly. Why, I thought back then, would men be so happy about a passing good year and be looking forward to one coming which might not be so good. In the coming year, auto accidents would claim the lives of several boys who played pool with me, and in only a few years two of my high school friends would die in Viet Nam.
Doc Dykes told me a little about what I didn’t understand. “The celebration of a New Year is a thing for greedy people,” He said. “They are the folks who are hoping they will prosper, make more money, be happier in a year ahead. But if you are consumed with making more money, you may not be happier. Most don’t know that.”
Some of these old timers who come in here used to look forward to bigger fish, bigger bucks, better and bigger, better and bigger… “Doc told me. But when you get their age, bigger and better and richer and more seems less important. You start looking less toward the future and thinking more about the past.”
I’ll remember that this New Year’s eve. Anything can happen in an upcoming year when you get old. I have no New Years resolutions. Out here in the woods overlooking the river and a long way from civilization, modern times don’t affect us much. I’m just hopeful… trying to be ready for what comes next year. But brother what a great year 1963 was. Maybe we can have another one like that, if we keep praying that God will let His will be done instead of allowing greed and politicians to ruin our nation. And you know something, I am still looking forward to more ducks and bigger fish!!
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