Memorable Beginnings. ~ Mike Johnson

I remember it like it was yesterday, but it was actually 39 years ago.

I was five and we lived in Seattle, Washington. My dad had a pool table put in the basement, along with a bar for him and his friends. The table seemed huge, and I believe it was just a seven-footer. I began with just a shaft and a stool—I would crawl right up on the table for those shots where the cue ball wasn’t close enough to reach from my stool.

Before long I was pocketing balls regularly. My dad bought me a short cue. After just a few months, I was beating my dad and his friends (I think they let me at first.) After several more months, they struggled to beat me.

We soon moved to Northern Minnesota. My dad’s friend owned a bar, and we were there frequently. The old guys would give me pointers on the table. I played every day and couldn’t get enough. Didn’t take long before the old guys were struggling to win a game!

One night three strangers came into the bar and were playing pool. I put up my quarter, and when my turn came up they said I couldn’t play because they where playing for money. I asked how much, and they said a dollar a game. I had money, and said that I would play a dollar game.

They said, “No, you’re just a kid.”

As I was only eight at the time, they didn’t want to gamble with me. I pulled up a chair alongside my father, and he asked what was wrong. I told him the story, and he said “You have the money, go play.”

I came back shortly after being rejected yet again by the three men. Now my dad got involved. He walked over to the guys and asked why they wouldn’t let me play. Same story—didn’t want to gamble with a kid.

My dad asked which of the three was the best shooter. The other two agreed on who was their best, and my dad bet him $5 that I could beat him two out of three games. Reluctantly, the guy agreed.

I don’t recall any specifics of those three games, but I do remember I won the first two. My dad handed me the five dollars and the three guys left never to return.

I’ve been hooked as long as I can remember. I can play and play before I realize that four, five or even eight hours have passed.

Well, that’s the story of how I came to the great game of billiards. I only wish I could play more!

Photo: dominiqueb/Flickr Editor: Hannah Blue

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