Indian Summer
by: Mary Price, Headingoff

(September Issue 2002)

The changing of the guard is beginning. Summer, along with his gang of sports, is edging closer to the changing room, ready to do the Slip-out-the-Back-Jack Boogie when we are not looking.

This is a fun time of the year. Pool leagues are starting soon. New alliances, old friendships, new sponsors. Right now is the concert hall shuffling in preparation for the music sweet to our ears. Toeing the line for the 20-26 week race to Las Vegas. Checking the scores weekly - ARGH~! 10 points DOWN~! 2 wins UP~!

One of best parts of this process is watching the progress of all our cohorts as skills continue to escalate and everyone's honing gets razor sharp.

My favorite September pool-moment has been when Cheese's tournament magazine hit the street. The listings, now only in this paper, mean ROAD TRIP TIME!! Heading off here and there… playing friends, making new ones over the greens, finding great new places to shoot. The book was (& the paper now is) the "social calendar" of our time, complete with titles and phone numbers. It is such fun, holding a whole chunk of time and travels right in our hands! Hmm - if I go to THIS one, I can stay at ---'s. If I WIN this one, I can go THERE… The magazine was like a cross between diaries and wishbooks; between journals and tallysheets, of more than one kind; a compendium of first times, last times, no times, all backdropped by competition. Looking at the tournament lists with various friends produces a whole demographic stat log; who won last year; how many players usually show; how many of what calibre; what kind of cueball is used; whether or not the tables are maintained; what kind of food is served and how good it is (or not). Then, of course, opening that dialog pops the cap off the stories bin. Our pool culture is so verbal; more so, I think, than most sports. We are a kaleidoscope of colorful characters who play and unique individuals who own the rooms we love. This is a mixing cauldron for some pretty funny or, at the least, interesting incidents which only get better with time and telling! At that point, listening becomes nearly as fun as playing.

I have to admit that I loved having the tournament magazine available; the diary to be; the tourney year-at-a-glance, durable and fit nicely in the large pocket of my case. Yes, Virginia, there is still that old-fashioned little 6-yr old girl whose very first solo recreational excursion was to the library 2 blocks away.

So. Where are YOU shooting this weekend?

Big Game Season
by: Mary Price, huntress

(October Issue 2002)

October - transition month. Hunters with weapons and gear hitting the woods; other hunters, with their weapons and gear, hitting the pool halls. October is a huge month for tourneys. Coming off the hot days, through the dream days of Indian Summer and into tournament/money season is like jumping into the Gorge at runoff! Cues become compass and satellites guiding us through the rush and thrash of the season, as we each hunt the Boone & Crockett trophy among the herds of wild wins. We, too, wear camo for our hunt; sneaky petes, buck calls ("wanna play for a few bucks?") and bear bait complete the outfit. Another striking similarity is the amount of alcohol many non-serious hunters and many poolplayers consume, prior to and during their outings. Years ago, I lived deep in the mountains of the Idaho panhandle where some out-of-staters chose to "hunt". Opening day was about mid-point in their binge and the only game they "got" was one of their own, who fortunately lived through the experience. Happily, the partying gameroom has a lot more hunting allure for poolplayers than those pilgrim-populated mountains held for true, native hunters and woods workers on opening day!!

So, off we go in the annual pursuit of Big Games. They migrate through the seasons like caribou over Alaskan tundra; always around, just more numerous at times & in places. As in hunting the 4-leggeds, the awareness is always present that a bigger one is still out there. For each of us, the Big One has its own definition and parameter. All that really matters, in the long run, is that we know the face of our goal, even as it changes, and that we remain in the hunt as long as it gives us enough of that which we pursue.

Happy Hunting!

Turkey Talk
by: Mary Price, fearless in Helena

(November Issue 2002)

Let's talk turkey. I don't, of course, gobble gobble, mean it literally, gobble gobble…!! But really. Why would anyone want to talk turkey?? The domestic cousins have a brain the size of a hazelnut and are the only creature alive, I have heard that will eat themselves to death. The wild ones, at the minimum, fly well and at best are wily prey creatures with great eyesight. Is there a cultural fixture - Wily Turkey? NO! Do we say, "He/she has turkey eyes"? NO! Is there a song "Fly Like a Turkey"?? NO! Oh well ...

So anyway, back to talking turkey. There is a situation, which never ceases to amaze me. Imagine having a fashion show and not allowing any classy clothes; or having a whole bakery that sells only plain bagels; or a spelling bee with only one common 5-letter word; or holding a tournament and not letting Joe and Joey play, because they are too good, but letting Mikey shoot because some of the locals manage to beat him once in awhile. Selective discrimination is reflective of a Loser Mentality. Knowing your skills are outclassed by a strong opponent on the greens, yet facing him/her and trying anyway is the path of growth. I cannot help but feel that banning specific non-pro individuals only because of their level of skill is a cowardly action, which reflects poorly on the entire pool community. How can players truly gauge their skills or improve when specific, high-calibre players are banned from the event? How can any of the remaining players take any real pride in winning in an arena bounded as tightly as a corseted woman? Unfortunately, in this case, pride has no place in this picture. It is mounted and framed by the Money-is-Everything Company. Money controls so much of each of our lives, in various ways. I don't know about you, but it appalls me that we have allowed it to taint in this manner a sport loved by so many. Classify tournaments to give lesser-skilled players a venue; this promotes the sport. Do not participate in selective discrimination against the very thing we all spend thousands of hours striving for - excellence.

Spirit of Christmas
by: Mary Price

(December Issue 2002)

By now, & every year at this time, our thoughts have turned to what gifts we are going to give to our loved ones; we even, perhaps, have already thought about the little office exchanges that are traditional in many places. In the crush and bustle of shopping now, it is so easy to lose sight of all those who cannot participate or can barely cover small simple things for their children. You know - the working poor among us, who, try as they might, can barely make ends meet, with nothing left over.

Poolplayers are, by nature, a pretty generous & good-hearted group of people. We give time, knowledge, sometimes money, sometimes a place to stay and sometimes some of the equipment we have tired of or moved on from. In Helena, that generosity manifests each year in a great turnout (& it is growing!) for the Marine Corps League Toys for Tots pool tournament. The entry fees, the raffle proceeds and ½ of the 50-50 drawing all go to that cause. It is a really fun day and it makes us all happy to be able to donate to a wonderful cause and be able to play pool, too! This year, the tournament is being held December 14, at the Valley Hub here in Helena, who has been a generous sponsor. One great way to brighten someone's Christmas!

I have worked with several groups of individuals who annually "adopt a family". Local Human Services agencies are contacted for the ages, sizes and gender of the family members. The work-groups all pitch in to their ability and provide toys, clothing, food for the children & parents. The day of wrapping everything up is always such a fun day! The entire process is done anonymously. The group requesting sizes, etc, never know the names of the families/members. Those receiving never know who wanted to share the spirit of giving with them, encompassing the truest spirit of giving without worries about too little, too much, not just right - anything we can do will be appreciated. For at least this one day, we can help someone shouldering a burden too big for them. This year, our local poolplayers' generosity is enfolding 2 families with small children.

Can you imagine how many families could have a Christmas if all of us poolplayers gave just 1 gift each through this type of process? The cost of 1 night of league play. Wow.

Well, I wish you the Spirit of love, and the joy of simple things.

Being Human
by: Mary Price, amazee

(January Issue 2003)

I recently found myself in a situation I was unable to resolve without help. Being pretty independent, I was having a hard time thinking of someone to ask for assistance. A poolplayer I have never run into anywhere stepped up and remedied the situation. After I regained my crumpled composure, and thanked him, we talked. In his words, he is "a child of God, as we all are, and that means helping each other". It was such a jolting reality check. Living in Montana, surrounded, still, by most of the golden values like knowing & helping your neighbors & offering roadside assistance, I was nonetheless truly taken aback at the unqualified kindness of this stranger in my life. I do deeply believe in the basic goodness of human beings; however, somewhere along the line I became accustomed to all of us being human, and sloughing many of the "niceties" off in the hustle & bustle. I was trying to figure out which thing most surprised me - the random act of kindness or the fact it amazed me so much. It is so easy to focus on only 1/2 of the equation of living - do no intentional harm. Somehow, the other half, the quietness of kindness, too easily blends into the blur of being.

Years ago, a little story about committing random acts of kindness circulated through the email where I worked. We all thought it was a wonderful story and a great way of describing mindfulness. Priming the pump. What goes around comes around. We've all heard & used those terms, but often with negative connotations. This one man, with no fuss or fanfare, stepped up to the line enveloped in his love of God and quietly committed a random act of kindness. Thank you, Robert Coleman, for being a conduit for care and for reminding me that it is not enough to not do harm.

I hope we all commit many acts of random kindness & surprise others who are busy being human. I will.

Happy New Year, poolplayers.

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