Let's take a trip, you and I. A trip back, oh, something over a half-century.  We're headed to a small town, population under a thousand people. It looks a lot like most every other small town in America.  There's a cafe or two along main street, a grocery store, a hardware store filled with mowers and shovels, nuts and bolts, and most everything in between.

There's the place that sells farm machinery that is green and right across the street and down a bit, the place that sells farm machinery that is red. They both do pretty well.

There's a butcher shop owned by some brothers and a family car dealer that's working on its third generation. There's a small bank, all concrete and bricks. And there's a barber shop with the twirling peppermint barber pole outside right by the door. It's the place where corn and bean prices are complained about and the world's problems are solved, all while getting a nice clip.

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There are churches, it seems like everywhere. They'll all be full tomorrow morning. Filled with real good folks hoping to get forgiven for a small sin or two they had during the long work week in one of those little shops or out on one of the countless family farms that circle this little town.

But those churches are empty now, because it's Saturday night.

I was just a little fella and after dropping my Mom off at Grandma's house, I'd go with my Dad to a place that seemed to have faded from the fabric of those small towns all across America.

The Pool Hall.

It wasn't big, just two tables was all. The 'regular' pool table was in the front for 8-Ball or Rotation, and there in the back, that's where my Dad and the other old boys would congregate.  Why?

Because that's where the Snooker table was. And them old boys, back in them old days, they sure did love to play their Snooker.

I'd sit on a stool along the long, large wooden bar. There were only two kinds of beer back at that place, at that time.  There weren't a thousand choices like we have now.  There weren't hundreds of flavors, no limes or lemons, no dark or lite, no fancy labels with names you can't even pronounce.

Nope, the old boy's had their choice of two. You either wanted a cold Grain Belt...or you wanted what seemed to me to be the most popular.

The one from the Land Of Sky Blue Waters.

Most of the old boys enjoyed a Hamm's Beer.  And I can remember my Dad having that Hamm's, pouring it into a glass, and then sitting mesmerized as he (and just about all of them) would shake a little salt in that beer.  Why?  I don't know, but it was so cool to watch it drift, sift, and slowly fall to the bottom of the glass. And up there on the wall behind the long wooden bar was a sign. Long (or so it seemed), with a creek running through it, lit up with a blue light from behind that made the water flow, lazily flow below the Hamm's logo. It was magic, all of it.

Funny the things you recall, isn't it?

And over there, down the bar a bit, was a large jar filled with sausages or pickles or eggs. The old boys had to have a snack while engaging in that Snooker game. I can still see them like it was yesterday, raising their pool stick and pushing a washer along a wire strung high above the table.  It was how they kept score.

There are still pool tables around of course, and I'm sure they still have Snooker tables, too.  I'll bet there are still 'old boys' playing pool, swapping tall tales, and complaining about politics and corn price's just like they did in that small town pool hall more than a half-century ago.

Now that I think about it, it's not the pool or the Snooker I miss.  It's just the memory, bent so warm in my mind, of my Dad and his friends.  A glass or two of lightly salted Hamm's, a game of Snooker, and a little farm boy that didn't realize he'd remember it all well over 50 years later.

Randy's Minnesota Memories

Randy McDaniel grew up on a small farm near Leota, Minnesota during the classic baby-boomer years of the 1960s and 1970s. These are his stories of growing up in the idyllic world of southwest Minnesota.