Doc Dykes was a frequent visitor to the pool hall in 1963. He was quiet and good humored, plagued with petit-mal seizures on occasion. Doc Dykes was a chiropractor, and likely as educated a man as our pool hall ever seen. Well dressed, he always wore a long grey overcoat, and usually a dress shirt and tie beneath it. Occasionally he played a game of snooker and was fairly good at it.
He was likely in his forties, while most of the “front bench regulars” were over sixty. While the older men, some of them world war one veterans, were men of remarkable wisdom, Doc Dykes was highly intelligent and everyone knew it. On the last night of 1963, the eve of a new year 60 years ago, the pool hall was full, the front bench crowded and all five tables going with pool and snooker players. It was loud, with the clack of billiard balls and laughter throughout and cigarette smoke hanging above the lighted tables. Up front, as usual, the old timers were discussing important things, like trotlining, shotguns and coonhounds, chewing tobacco and acting like it was just another night and tomorrow just another day.
I loved that pool hall and the men in it. I believe I would be content to have never left it, to be the ‘House Man’ there until today. But Dad would sell the pool hall in just a month or so and at sixteen years of age, I would only visit from then on. Dad and Mom were home that night with the Hartmans and the Sheltons, about to see the New Year in with a card party, cake and coffee. In the pool hall, I was in charge, for the fourth year.
I would someday own a pool hall of my own, I figured, and then I would continue to be a Piney River hunting and fishing guide, as I had been for years. I really figured I would quit high school soon and get started early. After two tries at passing my drivers test in October I had finally succeeded in November. Roy Fisher was going to sell me my own car soon, a 1954 Chevy from his junkyard for 50 dollars. It was a lot of money but I had already saved 12 dollars.
Doc Dykes came in dug out his billfold to show me something I had never seen before… a crisp new 100-dollar-bill. The fellows playing snooker on the front table all came over to look at it, and most of the old men on the front bench did too. Doc said a client of his had given it to him for a Christmas gift. I stood there thinking what I could do with one of them; buy that car and two or three boxes of shotgun shells and maybe one of those new red Ambassador fishing reels everyone was talking about.
Doc held everyone’s attention when he told us that there were several places in the country where the government could print ten thousand of those hundred dollar bills in an hour. He said that if the government wanted to they could give every man and woman over 21 in America, a hundred and of them! That would be a hundred thousand dollars for every one in the pool hall, except me of course. Satch Hinkle, one of the snooker players who wasn’t often one not to give his opinion, piped up and said that if he got that much money he would spend all his time playing snooker or fishing on the Piney.
Smiling, Doc Dykes said the pool hall would be closed if Farrel Dablemont had a hundred thousand dollars and the Piney would be so over-ran with fishermen who had quit their jobs there would be no place for another boat. Ol Bill Stalder, a plumber, said Doc was right. “I’ll be dang if I’d be fixin’ the pipes under some ol’ ladies sink if I had that kind of money. And they’d have to close the feed mill. Who’d go work there for ol’ man Amelon if they had any money?”
It took a while for it to dawn on me but Doc was right. They could print enough of those hunnerd dollar billsfor everyone allright, but if they did it would destroy our country. “By dang, I would love to get all that money,” said Junior Blair, “But Doc is right; if we all got that much who would ever work again. There wouldn’t be a grocery store nor a hardware store open nowhere. My ol’ lady wouldn’t even sweep the floor… she’d just throw out the supper dishes ever’ night and go buy some new ones.” That brought a laugh but Doc pointed out that in little time there would be no dishes to buy, because who would be making new ones if they were too rich to work?
Churchill Hoyt said he sure as heck wouldn’t raise no more hogs, and Charlie Watson, with that high-pitched laugh of his, said if the gov’amint would give him just half of a hunnerd thousand he’d give his milk cows to anyone who wanted them.
The banter went on for awhile with several of the men going on about what they would do if they got that much government money each year. And what they wouldn’t have to do ever again. Doc pointed out that thousands of very rich people in the cities would starve and men would be killing each other not for money, which they had plenty of, but for a loaf of bread, which they couldn’t get unless they could make it.
I have more to say about the coming of 1924 in next week’s column. Please read more of my writings each week on the Internet at larrydablemontoutdoors.com.