'Kid' slays 'em at the Gold Cue

Don Wright

I grew up in Temple, but in summers we often would come to Waco to spend time at my grandparents' house in South Waco on 7th Street off of Clay Avenue.

My grandmother told me great stories of her past and her experiences, but something I experienced on my own will always be the most memorable.

It was the summer of 1967 and it occurred at a pool hall a few blocks from the campus of Baylor University on Dutton — these being the days before Interstate 35.

My cousin and I would often frequent this place because not only did I love to play pool, it had quite a few pinball machines. I probably loved to play pinball more than the pool.

This one particular day, a Saturday, the pool hall had its "closed" sign hung in the door. However, peering in the window I saw a group of young white guys standing around. Nearby was a long, lanky black kid who looked no older than 17 or 18. With him was a black older gentleman who looked to be somewhere in his 60s.

The Kid — I'll call him that since I never got his name — had a look of casualness about him. His elderly cohort had a look that was all business . I really didn't know what was going on exactly but it looked interesting.

As I peered in through the window to gather more about what was happening, the owner, who remembered me from the many times he had seen me before, came to the door. He told me they were closed for two hours, that I could come back later and he would open up to the public.

"What's going on in there?" I pointed.

A that time the elderly black gentleman saw me being nosy. He told the owner, "Ah, let him in. It's OK."

So I did. I was told that I could watch but not play any of the tables or the machines. They did not want any noise while they played pool.

The Kid never warmed up silently. He never said a word.

The old man was talkative. He was engaging everyone. Then he pulled out a round wad of bills that looked as big as a round hay bale to me. Some pool-sharking was about to begin: the Kid versus all comers, the old man as his handler.

What I saw next I'll never forget. The Kid put on a pool exhibition reminiscent of something you would see today on ESPN.

He must have shot 3-4 straight games of nine ball without missing a shot. He made shots around balls, a result of hitting other balls to hit the ball he was shooting, made the nine ball on breaks.

The owner of the pool hall was constantly handing winnings to the elderly gentleman while his artist performed. When it was all said and done, the look on the white boys' faces was that of having been beat down.

One of the contestants left, head down, voice cracking. "Good game," he said as his dejected friends followed. I don't remember seeing anyone shake hands afterwards.

There was no smiling or small talk after the last game. What I did see was the group of young white guys walk out of that hall having lost a lot of money. The young, lanky Kid sat coolly on the edge of a table, slowly unscrewing his pool cue, and placed it in a dark-colored case as if he had just gotten off the phone.

The elderly black gentleman counted out some bills and handed them to the the Kid, a wry smile on his face.

He then shook the hand of the owner and handed him some bills, before the two gathered their belongings and left.

I never knew either of their names, nor did I ever see them again, but I will always remember the way I felt after being privileged enough to have witnessed one of the greatest displays of billiard skills I have ever seen.

Don Wright, a manager at the Waco Center for Youth, is a board member of the Waco History Project.

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