Crime of Necessity?
Our reporter, Brent Green was not on assignment when he was trapped in a booth between two titans of local law enforcement at a local coffee shop. The debate is recorded here. Larry
What if I told you the number one problem on area Golf Courses over the last two years is number one? No, that's not a misprint, nor a conundrum. Number one is the number one problem. At least, it is if you look at police blotters over that time period. Yes, I'm talking about Golfers going number one - relieving themselves and their bladders - in semiprivate spots just off the official playing areas of our County's well-manicured Golfing facilities.
After receiving an anonymous tip, this reporter checked both the Persimmon Pines Police log and the Traylor County Sheriff Department's yellowed scratchpad of semiofficial entries. The result seems to indicate that both complaints and arrests for public urination on and around Golf properties is on the rise.
Persimmon Pines Police Chief Candy Stazniack says there's a problem. "Whipping it out in public is against several Town ordinances I can think of right off the top of my head," she said recently over coffee at Uruguay Cafe -- the new hot spot in Town recently opened by former undocumented Golf Course workers.
We had been discussing the issue for an hour as Isnelda Orchestrada, topped off our coffee cups - again. The Chief continued. "I've heard all the excuses, too." I could see the fire in Stazniack's eyes as she faced down vivid memories. "Some guys tell you their bladder's small - their prostate's enlarged - they've got some kind of kidney problem." She snorted and took another sip of coffee. "I don't want to get crude here. But, I understand that goin' pee pee is normal. We all do it. Right?" I nodded, but not too quickly -- so as not to put too much pressure on my coffee-filled bladder. "But, Brent, the problem is the Law don't make exceptions for guys who wanna find relief within eyeshot of some defenseless 80 year-old woman with a pair of binoculars. So, when the call comes in. Somebody's gotta hit the siren and lights and rundown whoever's floppin' that bad boy out in public. You know?"
Just then, Traylor County Sheriff Orville Wilburite walked in, spotted us in the booth and strolled over. "Brent...Chief. What's up?" I explained our discussion of the recent increase in reports of public urination on and around Golf Courses. The Sheriff pushed in beside me and motioned to Isnelda to bring over a cup of coffee.
"Yeah...big problem." Isnelda topped off my cup as she filled the Sheriff's. "But, I gotta admit, I got sympathy for guys who get caught two holes short of the next restroom."
The Chief cut in. "But, Sheriff. Face it. You don't see women squattin' behind a bush just off the tee."
It was the Chief who broke the awkward silence as she pulled a notepad out of her breast pocket and began reading. "Sheriff, we both know you have eye witnesses and even photographic evidence of public urination activity on our local courses." She closed her notepad and looked directly at Wilburite.
The "informal" meeting was taking a different tone. Wilburite looked at Stazniack and took a long draw from a steaming cup of coffee that would have seared the lips of less experienced men. Steam puffed from his mouth as he put down his coffee. "So, this is about your 'Pee Posse,' huh Chief?"
The Chief turned up her volume. "Most of this activity seems to happen on your watch, Orville."
"That's only because three of your four 'ladies' live in My County - and the one who lives in your jurisdiction has cataracts."
"They know what they've seen. And, so do I."
I was, obviously, caught in the middle of a long-standing disagreement between these two area law enforcement giants. I looked to Sheriff Wilburite for an explanation.
He shook his head and sighed. "I've chased down a lot of leads - listened to old ladies talk about just exactly where they saw some guy with a Golf club slinking behind a bush - or leanin' against a tree in a suspicious manner. But, I've never actually caught anybody in the act."
Chief Stazniack seemed to have heard this all before. Her face turned crimson as she leaned forward - talking in staccato bursts like an illegally modified semiautomatic. "You know who they are, Orville. You got witnesses. Good ones. They'll testify in Court."
The Sheriff exhaled a long, deep coffee-breath. "They ain't witnesses. They’re vigilantes. You recruited ‘em for your dirty little job, Chief.”
"I know who they are." Stazniack turned to me, pleading her case, "They've all called my office, too. I've tried to get officers out to the scene while the offense is still being committed but, we always seem to get there after the fly is up."
I nodded...appearing to understand the problem.
"It's very involved getting DNA evidence off tree bark and poison ivy. Last time we got a sample to the State Lab, it turned out to be dog wee."
Sheriff Wilburite leaned forward earnestly. "The only hard evidence I've ever gotten is from Crustacea Sputz. She's the only one with a telephoto lens on her camera. But, her hands shake too much for the pictures to let us see beyond a shadow of a doubt who the 'pee-patrator' is."
I couldn't help it. I snickered. If two of us found the Sheriff's word play humorous, there was one who didn't. "You can't poo-poo that evidence," said Stazniack.
The Sheriff kept smiling. "I'm not, Chief. With good police work, you should never 'poo-poo' something that's 'pee-pee.'"
Stazniack stood up and pounded her fist on the table. It landed hard enough to stop the snickering and knock the spoon out of my cup - flipping coffee on my t-shirt. She pointed at me. "That's why I sent you the anonymous note!" Then, she leveled both barrels at the Sheriff. "You're not doing anything about this problem.” The Chief squirted out of the booth and stood.
Isnelda strolled over. "More coffee?" The Chief waved at Stazniack’s cup. "Yeah! To the top. Him, too.” My bladder felt like the over-full, steaming cup in front of me. The Chief rearranged her mace, taser, cuffs and handgun and sat down again. "Well?"
Wilburite removed his hat; a sign of truce. "Candy, it's the same four women - all in their 80s - who have binoculars and a morbid curiosity about who’s peeing in the woods where no one can see them."
Chief Stazniack banged her forehead on the table in disgust. "Don't you see? That's why I bought them all binoculars and cell phones."
"So, based on an 80 year-old's shaky hands on 60 power binoculars - you drove your City Patrol Car into the County - my jurisdiction - where you ran down a Twosome on the 13th fairway at Hooking Hills?"
Stazniack took a sip of coffee to give herself time to ponder her answer. "They fit the description."
"What was the 'description?'"
"Two guys in a Golf cart wearing short sleeve shirts, shorts and baseball hats."
The Sheriff put his hat back on. Not a good sign. Who was on the defensive now? I wasn't sure. But, the Chief's tone changed. She put down her coffee cup. "I already paid the Golf Course for the cart. And, the guys who were in it jumped clear before I sideswiped 'em." The Chief thought a little more and added, "And, I took the police report on the whole thing - then buried it - so, it never made it into the press." There was a long pause as the three of us searched for the words that would bring this meeting to a close.
A tear trickled from Stazniack's good eye. "My witnesses want some legal action. They deserve it. We all do. The community needs closure - of all zippers on public property."
The Sheriff patted his counterpart's hand. "What you really want is for them four to stop callin' you. And, you think a few arrests is gonna do it."
The lack of a response seemed to satisfy Wilburite. He adjusted his sunglasses as he stood. "You shouldn't have given 'em binoculars, Candy. You created a monster." The Sheriff put a dollar on the table for Isnelda, started whistling a happy tune and walked out the door.
Chief Stazniack and I sat silently for a second. She took a sip of coffee, then tried to look me in the eye. But, I was sliding out of the booth and heading for the restroom at a gallop. She yelled after me: “I buried the report. There’s no way you’re gonna get the names of the guys I ran down!”
At least I think that’s how the sentence ended. Her last few words were obliterated by the squeak of the closing restroom door.
Editor's note: If you were one of the two men who were nearly killed by Chief Stazniack, please contact the Editor. Ed.
Linda Curdlesbeak, an accomplished 37 handicap, stabbed at a frank in a sea of brownish beans. "Last Thursday, I actually saw a fox on the third hole at Hooking Hills." She shuddered. Missy Merkle, the Waitress at The Hubbub Hut interrupted to see if anyone wanted more iced tea. Linda didn't - perhaps couldn't - answer. She was reliving the horror that gripped her for a week. "That thing was nearly as big as my cat. I'm lucky to be alive."
More and more Golfers in the greater Traylor County area are, apparently, feeling like Ms. Curdlesbeak. That's why, her Attorney Edgar Pillzucker recently helped her organize "Golfers Arming Against Golf Course Animals."
Pillzucker handed his client a tissue. "I believe," he said, "this is the first anti-animal activist organization of its kind - anywhere." Curdlesbeak blotted at her nose and continued, "Don't get me wrong, I love animals - as long as they're on a leash; or in a cage at the circus. That's why I'm so excited about the other three people who are joining me Wednesday night for our first meeting. I think it's a great beginning. It's time for those who love The Game to stand up against wildlife - put a gun in the Golf bag - and take back our Golf Courses!"
A note. Before meeting with Curdlesbeak, I called Jiggs Dilwick, Greenskeeper at the County-Owned Course to ask if he had ever had complaints about dangerous wildlife on his course. Dilwick pondered. "I've been here 30 years. Only wildlife problem I recollect people gettin' upset about is goose poop on their shoes. Sure, we got a fox. 'Fact is, most people like catching a glimpse of him. Pretty thing. I think he's eating mice."
When I told Curdlesbeak what the greenskeeper said about the fox. The activist spit her tea across the Diner. "My God! There are mice out there, too? So, let’s say I’m on the green - and I reach in to get my ball out of the hole. Am I going to get bit by a mouse?”
Her Attorney scribbled in his notebook and handed his client another tissue. While Missy Merkle dabbed at the tea dripping from the backs of other patrons, I pointed out that Golfers in the area often see everything from groundhogs to wild turkeys, deer, coyote, frogs...and even snakes.
Curdlesbeak sobbed, "Why are snakes allowed out there? Golf is a civilized game. Snakes are not civilized! They don’t even have arms or hair! After we nail that fox...snakes are next on the list."
I asked the anti-animal activist what she would like to see done with the critters who meander onto area Golf Courses. Curdlesbeak put down her fork, looked at her Attorney and considered the question carefully. "Let's be honest here. I'm paying greens fees so I can try to enjoy myself. I can't enjoy myself if I'm afraid of being attacked by some vicious creature with long yellow fangs and terrifying eyes. I think every wild, untrained or unlicensed animal on the property should be removed from public land." She paused, considering her words carefully. "If the Golf Course won't do it, then the rest of us need guns."
Attorney Pillzucker, leaned across the table and patted my shoulder. "We don't want to sue. My client, however, has suffered a tremendous emotional trauma. She's emotionally distraught. Putting a firearm in her hands will empower her. Who knows how many others have suffered the same problems which can result in depression, mood swings and bed-wetting."
Linda Curdlesbeak put down her tissue and quickly added, “I only wet the bed once." Pillzucker handed his client another tissue as the interview ended.
Soon after lunch, I was on the phone with Traylor County Community College Professor of Natural History, Proudfoot Dibbledick, Ph.D. Dr. Dibbledick, who traces his ancestry back to a particularly cold Winter in 1819 when English settlers sought shelter in a Chockasoutauk Indian Village and Nature took its course, was nonplussed by Curdlesbeak's proposal to eliminate wild animals from area Golf Courses.
"As a person with deep ancestral roots in this area, I can tell you, wildlife in Traylor County is facing a do or die squeeze play by Developers and other opportunists who, seemingly, will stop at nothing as they squander our resources and defile the countryside with their gaudy towers of glass and steel and their misuse of forest and field for games which were never intended."
I asked Professor Dibbledick if the opportunists he was talking about included those who were building the new 885-acre Chockasoutauk Indian Casino and Golf Resort near scenic Poking Buffalo Lake, just below Persimmon Spires Natural Monument.
There was a brief silence on the other end of the phone. When Dibbledick spoke, it was just above a whisper. "My brother Donny and me are an Indian Tribe - along with, you know, our blood brothers. The Government says so. Believe me, there's a lot of money involved here. So, if a few animals have to move next door to Wasco County - or fall into the Lake - so be it. But, let me make it clear that, as Nearly One-Eighth Native Americans, Donny and I revere all animal life. And, whatever survives the building of our Casino and Golf Resort will be allowed to live as The Great One intended. We will not allow armed Golfers on Chockasoutauk land. All wildlife, from turkeys to raccoons, will roam free and unfettered - as long as they stay off our fairways and greens especially during aeration."
Before hanging up, Dibbledick added, "Did you know Linda is dating her Husband's Brother, Vivian? He owns Curdlesbeak Exterminators."
I called Linda Curdlesbeak back to ask for confirmation. Most of her reply was unprintable. However, she did close our conversation with this pithy sentence: "Tell the 'Indians' they better put metal detectors on the first tee. Because, I'm teeing off with a gun in my bag - and the safety's gonna be off."
If you're a Golfer and a Gun Owner and interested in joining a new organization that's sure to get a fair amount of attention, be at Chamberpot Middle School on Hussey Blvd. Wednesday at 8 p.m. The first meeting of the Traylor County Golfers Arming Against Golf Course Animals will also include a raffle - with prizes including several handguns and a $100 certificate for Pest Extermination Services from Curdlesbeak Exterminators.
It was a couple stories ago, when we met Guy DeChamois - and learned of his penchant for collecting golf balls...some of them still moving on the fairways of Traylor County Golf Courses. Here's the follow-up direct from the courtroom! Larry
After a longish trial in Traylor County Court, Guy DeChamois, a 51-year-old Plunker Landing resident and owner of Le Chat en les Chapeaux was found guilty of multiple charges by a jury consisting mostly of his peers. The charges included: Aggravated Golf Ball Hawking, Establishing a Museum-Like Facility Without a Permit and Walking a Dog Without a Plastic Bag. Shortly after the verdict, DeChamois was sentenced by Judge Orson E. O’Hall.
The trial was held in the semi-temporary court room trailer behind the County Courthouse - which as been under repair since the mid 2000s. The proceeding was an emotional roller coaster that took at least 45 minutes of time that no one will ever get back.
Prosecuting Attorney, Jimmy Jimbo Hurtz called three witnesses to the stand: Persimmon Pines Police Chief, Candy Stazniack, longtime Valley Heights Country Club Member, Reggie Sputz and actual witness, Junefrieda Wobblash.
Stazniack testified the 79-year-old Wobblash who is a resident of the Traylor Park Luxury Condos - and, also her Aunt — called her on her cellphone and reported seeing a flamboyantly dressed man running in and out of the woods along the 7th fairway at the Slippery Meadows Golf Course. “She said he was doing this ‘in a suspicious manner,’” said Stazniak.
The Chief said she immediately left the Soft Serve Ice Cream window at the Chockasoutauk Casino and “high-tailed it to the 7th hole of the golf course” where she left deep ruts in the green and apprehended DeChamois as he attempted to “either swallow the evidence; or, hide it in his pants…or both. We never could figure out what he was up to. I mean…he’s definitely sort of guilty!”
The witness, Ms. Wobblash was also called to the stand. But, she sobbed uncontrollably while screaming she could not remember anything “because my niece says Mr. DeChamois will kill me if I do.”
The final Prosecution witness, Reggie Sputz testified he lost many balls along the fairways of the Valley Heights Country Club course and “often felt like he shouldn’t have lost all the balls he did.” However on cross examination, Sputz admitted he has a “terrible slice” and, quite possibly, simply lost the balls in the woods like everybody else does.
After DeChamois’ Court appointed defense attorney, Patricia Ulyee, poked holes in the testimony of the County’s two witnesses on cross examination, she proceeded to call a veritable army of character witnesses to stand up for her client.
First up was Judy Liverlung, General Manager of Traylor Park Natural Foods. Ms. Liverlung said she is a regular customer at Le Chat en les Chapeaux. “I feel Mr. DeChamois operates a very fair establishment with very little price gouging. I only had my credit card information stolen once. And, I don’t think Guy was in on it. Oh! And, the time he was accused of shoplifting at Traylor Park Natural Foods, it was totally a misunderstanding. He didn’t realize the pistachios were in his pants…you know, where he’s accused of hiding the golf balls. Hmmm.”
Following Ms. Liverlung, Eartha Scorch the former massage therapist at the Golfers Outcall Massage at Scubbins Quarry and current tattoo artist at Kat’s Tats (owned by Katerina Kornwholer) took the stand as a character witness and offered: “Guy always pays up front for his tattoos - unless he’s a little short - and that’s like always - right Guy? But, we love him at Kat’s Tats, cause he is always bringing us golf balls - and we sell ‘em in bags of two dozen and that pays off what he owes. He’s a really good dude.”
Another twelve witnesses followed - among them, DeChamois’ 82 year old Mother, who broke down on the stand and pleaded with anyone who would listen: “Can’t you all just leave my little boy alone? Wasn’t it bad enough he got a year of probation for stealing something - I can’t remember what. I mean it was in a garage. Nobody was using it!”
After witness testimony wrapped up, Judge O’Hall asked Prosecution and Defense attorneys if they had any closing arguments. Prosecutor Hurtz shook his head “no.” Defense Attorney Ulyee checked her watch. “I have a lunch appointment I don’t want to be late for…so, no.” The Judge nodded and turned to the Jury box. But, before he could send the case to the jury, the Jury Foreman, Julene Huffaton (Spokesperson for PACT - People Against Cool Things), stood. “We already voted, Your Honor.”
Judge O’Hall nodded. “It is getting close to lunchtime. So, what did you guys come up with?”
Huffaton didn’t dawdle. “Guilty…but, he’s not a bad guy…you know?”
The Judge thanked Huffaton and the rest of the Jury and turned back to the courtroom. “I’m hungry, too. So, I’m gonna pass sentence. I don’t believe I have ever been involved in a trial quite like this. On the one hand, the prosecution didn’t even come close to proving its case. It’s kind of like they didn’t even try.”
Prosecutor Hurtz rose to object: “Your honor, I was busy. My granddaughter was just starting pre-school and I didn’t have a lot of time for work.
The Judge banged his gavel. “Hold your water, Jimbo, I don’t plan to rain on your parade.”
That comment brought Defense Attorney Ulyee to her feet. “I object! Your Honor, no one told us about any kind of parade!”
The Defendant, DeChamois jumped up. “There’s a parade? When and where!?”
Another banging gavel quieted the courtroom. “If there’s another outburst like this, I’ll have to bang my gavel again.” Everyone sat quickly. Order returned to the stately doublewide courtroom as folding chairs and plastic lawn furniture scooted back into position.
“Now, like I said, the Prosecution didn’t do any kind of a job to prove nothin’.”
The Defendant, DeChamois stood up and stuck his tongue out at Mr. Hurtz. “Oh my god, I’m gonna beat this! Loser!”
The Judge raised his gavel, but DeChamois quickly sat down. “Sorry Judge.”
Judge O’Hall adjusted his glasses. “But, I also find that the Defense’s attempts to provide character witnesses who could completely exonerate the Defendant were - to say the least - not totally effective.” At this point, the judge took a long sip of water, leaving everyone in the courtroom to watch uncomfortably as some water trickled over his lower lip, down his chin and onto the verdict. Hall, blotted at the paper with his robe and continued.”
“Therefore, I find the defendant guilty of the charges - even though nobody even mentioned walking a dog without a plastic bag…which I thought was the worst of the three.” The Judge took another sloppy swig of water and didn’t bother wiping it up, this time. “But, here’s the cool part of all this. I’m sentencing you, Mr. DeChamois, to Community Service.” Another eruption of emotion flowed from both sides of the aisle. The Judge scowled and reached for his gavel. The courtroom quieted. “Before either side gets all excited, let me finish.”
A single golf ball slipped out of DeChamois’ pockets and bounced twice on the floor before he grabbed it and slid it out of view. Judge O’Hall returned to his sentencing notes. “As you know I work for the County. I’m on a committee that’s been looking for a Director for the Traylor County Natural History Museum for some time. We aren’t offering a lot of money. So, that’s probably why no one wants the job. But, here’s the deal, Mr. DeChamois - you are guilty of running an unlicensed stolen golf ball museum in your home - so, you’re a good fit to run the County Natural History Museum!”
“You’re offering me the job?” DeChamois half-rose - trying to avoid another round of gavel pounding.
“No, Guy, actually I’m sentencing you to 12 years of Community Service as the Director of the Museum. You don’t get paid. But, you don’t go to jail, either. Best of all, the County doesn’t have to waste time trying to fill this position! And I can quit going to worthless meetings. Bailiff, take this convict to his new offices at the Natural History Museum. Court adjourned. I’ll see ya’ll at the Food Truck with the juicy sliders. It’s parked one block over!”
While legal scholars argue over the fairness of the sentence, Guy DeChamois is now working for free at the Traylor County Museum of Natural History. We caught up with him, in his orange safety vest, as he was stuffing a rare, Blue Faced Warbler - for display in the endangered species display.
“I don’t have any hard feelings toward the Judge. I enjoy the work. And, I feel I’m really giving back to my community. Did that bird just wiggle?”
This reporter shakes his head “no.”
“Good, cause last time I had to chase him all over the room with a baseball bat. I really need this little guy to fill out the endangered species exhibit. It wasn’t easy to fine one - they’re almost extinct!”
It's a Daily Occurrence
Getting out on crowded golf course first thing in the morning can create quite a scene. Larry
On a recent Friday morning in June, I decided to get in a quick 18 holes at the area's most affordable spot to tee it up, Traylor Park Golf Course. The attractive, if somewhat short, flat and treeless, former logging site on Town land in Traylor Park, is run by Legolas Demott, heir to the Demott Persimmon Factory Fortune and PGA Professional.
I arrived shortly before sunrise and was shocked to see a full parking lot. Having a Press credential is always helpful when the need arises. I knocked at the back door, waving my credential - and scaring about a dozen employees who thought I was with INS. After a confusing few minutes, Quito, a restaurant cook, let me in, waving his card...a green one.
In the Pro Shop - where only the security light burned - Legolas Demott was counting the cash in the cash register. He looked tense. His normally friendly demeanor - wasn't. He eyed me suspiciously. "You here to work...or play?"
I almost told the truth. Luckily, my keen Reporter's sixth sense told me to say otherwise. I pulled the press credential from my pocket - again - and waved it in the air.
"Good." He went back to counting the cash in the drawer. "If you'd a said 'play,' you'd be outa' here on your Friday ass."
What? I couldn't believe what I was hearing. The usually gregarious, devil-may-care, first-born son of Hoary Demott seemed sour...or anxious. Maybe both.
"Here for a story on the nightmare of Golf on a weekday morning?" He cracked open a roll of quarters and dumped them in with a flourish. "About time somebody noticed!"
I put away thoughts of playing as I tried to figure out where to start on this story I had only just discovered. But, I didn't need to worry. The clock was approaching 6:15. There was a loud banging on the Pro Shop door. The Pro didn't look up. I guess he didn't have to. "You're early again...Mr. Fosgate." Demott, closed the cash drawer a little harder than mechanically necessary. He glanced my way with a world-weary look that said, "See?"
It was Jenks Fosgate, a retiree from the Persimmon plant run by this Pro's Father. He pressed his face against the glass door and pointed at his watch. "Hey Pro! I got a doctor's appointment at ten! Let's go. Let's go!"
It was 6:10. Legolas sliced open a shipment of Golf balls. "Jenks is part of our 'Dawn Patrol.' Every morning he's here with his..." the Pro searched for the right adjective as he slid a few new sleeves of Golf balls into place behind the counter and turned back toward the door..."posse." He looked at Fosgate and pointed to the Pro Shop clock which read 6:11. "We open at 6:15, Mr. Fosgate."
Fosgate pointed to his watch again and yelled through the glass, "Doctor's appointment, d-mn-t!"
Demott nearly smiled in the eerie half glow of the emergency light. "I made a mistake, once, of opening up a few minutes early so the 'Jenkster' could make a doctor's appointment. Now he's got one every day." The Pro flicked on the shop's lights.
I looked out the door, past Fosgate and his "posse" to a line of Golfers of all ages and descriptions. While some seemed to be taking the wait in line in stride, most fidgeted. Even though it appeared their place in line assured them an early tee time, things were not exactly as they appeared. This was especially true for any Golfer who did not heed the large signs posted on the Pro Shop wall behind the cash register, on the door outside and at the entrance to the parking lot: Golfers will not receive a tee-time until all members of their group are on the premises. Preference to Foursomes. No Twosomes.
6:13. The more or less single line in front of the door was a bit more ragged. The Dawn Patrol still held their highly prized position on the pole.
But, behind, from 4th to about number 30, exact positioning was unclear. After the Pro Shop lights went on, those who had seemed unconcerned, suddenly began looking for a way to ensure an early appearance on the first tee.
For instance, Pug Utley and his son Doug - both hoping to get in a round of Golf before heading home from third shift jobs at Traylor County Gas & Electric's Plunker River Dripping Nostril Dam - chatted amiably with each other. But, when Toucan "The Bird Man" Thomas seemed to be making an attempt to slide ahead in line, two pairs of meaty Father and Son hands quickly redirected the Pet Store Owner back to his original place in line. A smattering of applause cascaded from the Golfing throng. (The Bird Man, later, told this Reporter he wasn't cutting in line. He was trying to catch a glimpse of his van in the parking lot to see if he had remembered to close the rear doors, after he got his clubs, because he had a shipment of cats and rare birds, inside.)
6:14. Gundy Parkhurst, somewhere around 20th in line called out to all who could hear him. "Ya'll better have your whole group up there when ya'll check in - or ya'll don't bother." His warning was greeted by a series of catcalls and hoots. "I'm serious ya'll. Pro don't take no crap. Read the sign. Right there on the door." The catcalls subsided as those who didn't know already looked at the large, hand-lettered sign on the door. "By the way," said Parkhurst, "I'm a Single lookin' for a game if anybody wants a 3rd or 4th." Within seconds, Parkhurst had bargained his way from 20th to 3rd in line.
In the Pro Shop, Demott watched the final seconds to opening count down on his clock and I scribbled notes. "Watch this. Here's where everybody starts better dealin' each other. It can get ugly." He turned and called into the Bag Room. "Diego. Time to get outside and find the Singles." Diego saluted and hurried outside.
In the next few seconds, the somewhat straight line of Golfers suddenly turned into a milling mass of deal makers and deal breakers, disappointment, disgust and disbelief. In much the same way the Galaxies coalesced billions of years ago, Foursomes formed, fell apart and reformed in different ways. Twosomes linked up with a Single, disengaged and found other Twosomes, leaving Singles to either link up with other Singles or go home and come back some time after 10 when things settled down.
6:15. Legolas Demott opened the Pro Shop door. A smiling Jenks Fosgate was first through the door, driver's license in hand. "Senior discount," he said as he made a beeline toward the cash register and slapped down his greens fee. He reached into the jar on the counter and took out two 50-cent balls recently retrieved from the pond on the 3rd hole. "Senior Discount on these, too?"
Legolas Demott was ringing up the extra dollar. "You ask me that every day, Mr. Fosgate."
"It's a joke, Legs - lighten up. When I was Foreman for your Daddy at the Persimmon Plant - I joked with him all the time."
"Good joke, Mr. Fosgate. Sorry. Have a great day Gentlemen!" He motioned the Dawn Patrol forward. "You fellas are number one on the tee." Diego returned to The Shop, leading a small, dejected-looking troupe of Golfers. Demott nodded and pointed to an area by the putter display. "Wait there." The forlorn group shuffled into place as the Pro started running the cash register as if he was a concert pianist...never looking at the keyboard...always making eye contact with the customers - And, always asking the most important question of all: "Is all of your group here and ready to play?"
They were, until he got to the sixth group. “Ms. Slurry. You paying for your group?”
An uncomfortable pause. A half smile. "Oh my. No. They'll pay you when they get here."
Rules. Demott looked past the woman to the anxious eyes of the addicted behind her. "I can't give you a tee time unless you have your entire group here and ready to play."
"Legolas, I went to school with your Father's second wife." A pause for effect. "My girls will all be here within the hour. Gertrude had a thing and she picks up the other girls, after.”
Behind her, Pug Utley pushed into the conversation.
"She can play with us. We got three." Pug and his son, Doug, were now teaming with the man they had unceremoniously sent to the rear of the line only minutes earlier - Toucan Thomas. "Why that would be lovely," said Ms. Slurry.
"What about your friends?" asked Demott.
"Hey!" It was one of the Singles. He was wearing a red cap and plaid shorts. "I'm a Single. Your guy said I'd get the first Threesome that came up. She's gotta wait for her group."
Ms. Slurry's smile faded. She spun on her heel. "What pig said that?"
The man, who had started to walk toward the cash register stopped as if he'd been shot. There was a fire in Ms. Slurry's eyes. She clenched her fists. The man in the red hat sized her up. If he had to, he could take her. But, instead of fists, he went verbal. "Didn't take long to 'better-deal' your friends, did it?"
The sticks and stones rule didn't seem to apply to this set of words. They hurt. Ruth Slurry sagged. Demott stepped in. "All right. All right. Take it easy, guys. Ms. Slurry, it's the rules. The Singles fill in to make up Foursomes."
"But, what if I say I'm a Single?"
"Then, you join the pool over there." Demott wasn't finished but, Ruth had heard all she needed to hear. She left the line and headed for the "pool."
"I'm a Single. Put me in with the next group."
The man in the red cap howled. "I told my wife I'd be home early. You can't do that!"
The Pro nodded. "He's right, Ms. Slurry. You can't. You left the line - lost your place and now you're in the Single's pool - the last one in - and you'll be the last to get into a group."
"What if my girls show up?"
"Back of the line. That's the rules."
Color drained from Ms. Slurry's face. She turned toward the door. "I'm going to join a Country Club!" It sounded weak...not believable. Defeated, she walked out the door - to light applause from the Singles' Pool. It was brutal for her, sobering for me and a great opportunity for a few jokes from everybody else.
If I wasn't going to play Golf, I decided, I might as well go to work. I thanked Legolas for his time. "Leaving so soon? This was nothin'. You need to hang around for the 'Wanna get in 9 during lunch' crowd." I assured the Pro I had all I needed; and left.
As I walked back to my car, I saw Ruth Slurry in the parking lot trying to explain to her just-arrived, soon-to-be former friends why they weren't going to get to tee it up on this fine morning. Suddenly, I was glad I don't play much early-morning Golf - and that I don't rely on Ruth Slurry for anything really important.
Late last Friday evening, Persimmon Pines Police finally got a break in a case they'd been trying to solve for more than a decade. Persimmon Pines Police Chief Candy Stazniack, announced through her spokesman, Commander Tee Yun Kim, that Police had arrested Plunker Landing resident Guy DeChamois, 51. He was arrested on the 4th fairway at the Slippery Meadows Golf Course after witnesses saw him bolt from a hiding place behind a large rock and scoop up a Golf ball that had just been hit from the 7th tee by the Chief, herself. She later reported: "I saw this little Frenchy guy dart out and grab my ball while it was still rolling. So, I called for back-up and nailed him in the woods."
DeChamois, the Owner of Le Chat en les Chapeaux - Un Parisienne Haberdasherie, was booked on suspicion of aggravated ball-hawking and possession of Golf ball stealing equipment. Specifically, Police say, he was found to be in possession of several plastic shopping bags full of new and slightly used Golf balls.
DeChamois' Court-appointed Attorney, Patricia Ulyee, Daughter of longtime Hooking Hills Starter Nat Ulyee, said her client is "innocent, unless he hasn't told me everything - or, the Chief of Police is telling the truth." The Prosecution argued DeChamois was a flight risk and Judge Orson E. O'Hall agreed - ordering the Defendant held under house arrest until trial next January.
For Readers unfamiliar with the history of this case, it had its genesis in April, 1984 when a 911 call was answered by then Patrolman Candy Stazniack and her ride-along partner, Cadet Tee Yun Kim. The pair was parked in a secluded area of Valley Heights Country Club "staked out for perps." Valley Heights Head Pro Snoot Dockery reported members had lost several golf balls in the "Poor Man's Elbow" section of the course which borders the condo community known as Traylor Acres. Stazniack recalls the incident and said she and Tee "threw yellow crime scene tape all over that Golf Course and closed it down for days. But, forensics turned up nada." (That’s a foreign word meaning, “nothing.”)
Over all the years since the first report of lost golf balls, DeChamois has lived here in Traylor County. Plus, Police reports indicate several Golf Course sightings of "a flamboyantly dressed man in the woods."
Since this column is entitled "Golf Beat," this Reporter decided to pay a visit to the Defendant in the case at his home just off State Road TT, along the banks of the Plunker River.
Guy DeChamois, a short man, well known in this area for his wiglet and his extravagantly colorful clothing choices, readily invited me in. He is out on bail; and, views his house arrest ankle bracelet as a fashion accessory. We sat down in the Den of his home over glasses of imported wine and some unidentifiable cheese (definitely NOT American Cheese) and he told me his story.
"I have a sale going on right now at Le Chat in les Chapeaux. So, the day I was, how you say 'arrested,' I was wearing my merchandise - a bright yellow shirt covered in red flowers - and a very hip pair of purple pants we are selling for only $35.00, don't you know?"
I nodded. "Nice pants."
"Merci. So, after a hard day of selling the pants et. al., it was important for me to get the exercises. You see?"
"So, you're saying you were not at the Golf Course on any kind of nefarious mission?"
DeChamois nearly choked on the large sticky mass of cheese he had just bitten into. "Mais no!" He coughed and stood. "Excusé moi. I must get a, how you say, 'napkin.'"
He hurried out of the room. I relaxed, took a sip of wine and tried to swallow the piece of cheese in my mouth - which seemed to be growing larger all the time. At first, my eye went toward the window looking out over the dry bed of the Plunker River.
Of course, there's no water in the river bed right now. but, in the Spring, when the Traylor County Electric Authority releases water from the Persimmon Spires Dam on Buffalo Pelvis Lake, my guess is, it's probably much more wet looking.
As I pondered what the river with water in it might look like, my eye wandered away from the window and across the walls of the Den. It was then I realized every square inch of the walls in the room was covered with Golf balls.
What I had at first taken for wallpaper was, in fact, thousands upon thousands of golf balls. Inset in the "ballpaper" were framed collections of various balls from different periods of Golf History. I was sitting in a veritable Golf-Ball-Atorium.
By the time DeChamois came back into the room wiping his chin with a paper towel, I was on my feet examining the evidence. "Ah! My collection! You noticed!"
I backed away; not wanting to appear overly interested. "Nice. How did you stick your balls to the wall like that?"
"Epoxy," he offered.
"How long..." My voice trailed off, as I was struck by the enormity of the evidence in front of me.
DeChamois took another sip of wine. "Since 1984 - the year I move here from Toronto."
Was he toying with me? Was this some kind of sick game for a Serial Golf Ball Stealer? I had to get out of there - and quickly! I grabbed my notebook and stood. "I have to go. My Mother just sent me a text message."
"So quickly Mr. Green? You haven't had time to examine my balls!" He put his hand on my shoulder and pushed me back into my chair.
He handed me another glass of wine and explained his side of the story in a nutshell.
He told me he has an addiction to golf balls - a psychological need. The medical term for this condition is "Golfospherizoidinal Psychosis." He told me he could get a note from his doctor, if necessary.
The accused swears every ball he picked up was either lost or about to be - and he does not feel he did anything wrong. "Wrong-ish perhaps. But, not completely wrong," he asserts. He went on to say that he had friends in high places with several Golf Ball Manufacturers. They have offered to pay for his legal defense - because, his affliction "has resulted in a very large boost in sales in this area."
I guess my silence spoke volumes. Tears welled up in DeChamois' eyes. "I am not a criminal. I am a collector. I could not stand being in prison - surrounded by walls...and no balls!"
As I drove home, I realized one inevitable truth: For DeChamois to get into this mess - it took a lot of balls.
Editor's Note: Since this story was written, the Persimmon Pines Times was been contacted by Mr. DeChamois' Lawyer, Patricia Ulyee. She asked us to "cease and desist" from printing this article on the grounds that Mr. DeChamois could be construed to be "incriminating himself." Well, Of course he is. He's a crook and needs to be sent to prison for a long, long time. Ed.
At one Golf Club, they've found a way to keep golfers safe - while, at the same time, opening new revenue streams! Larry
Dr. Twill Wartner still shivers when he thinks of that day, last month. He was hitting his 5th shot on number 12 at Woodstone C.C. “Maybe it was my 6th or 7th shot. I’m not good with the rules,” he opines. “I’d hit two or three balls into Gator Lick Pond. So, of course, I went looking for them. But, between the reeds, mud and snakes, I gave up after about 15 minutes.” He takes a drag on his cigarette and thinks for a moment. The smoke rolls out of his mouth as he speaks. “Actually, I was playing with the Billswack Twins, G. Roy and Roy G. One of ‘em got impatient. I can’t tell ‘em apart. But, they were tired of me looking for balls. And, I think the three groups behind us were, too. So, out of courtesy, I teed up a ball on the edge of the pond and set up to swing.” He shivered - again - and took another pull on the remaining stub of a cigarette.
We are sitting in the Golden Rule Cafe, across the street from the Persimmon Pines Times. Dr. Wartner - most in the area know him simply as “Old Doc Wartner,” sees me glance at some crusty scabs on his arm. He pulls a flask from his back pocket, takes a sip. It seems to steady him. “Had some more lesions cut off. I probably should wear sunscreen - but, it makes my hands slippery. Not good for my handicap.” I make a note. Doc continues.
“So, as I was taking the club back, I hear a splashing sound. I thought the guys behind were hitting into us. So, I stopped my swing and was turning around to cuss ‘em out. That’s when I saw that big gaping maw -- and all those white teeth.” He pauses to light a new cigarette from the dying stub. Another shiver.
“The Twins were running in the opposite direction, screaming like babies. The groups behind me lit out for the club house. It was just me and my six iron -- and a 10-thousand pound gator.”
Doc Wartner’s story continues, of course with many twists and turns and colorful language. But, we only have so much room in the newspaper, so let’s cut to the chase. He survived.
Now, the question facing every Golfer at Woodstone CC is, “What is the Club doing to protect us from such dangerously huge and prehistoric creatures?”
Now, I’m sitting across from Wip Myazoff. We’re in the dining room at Woodstone CC, where the Assistant General Manager is sipping coffee and waiting for exterminators to arrive to deal with a vermin problem in the kitchen. “First off, it’s not a 10,000 pound gator. He’s barely 6,000 pounds...or a few hundred over.”
The coffee cup clatters as he puts it back on the cracked saucer and reaches for a danish. “Second, Mr. Gerbley is against removing ‘The Woodstone Creature.’ That’s what he wants us to call it. He says it’s a potential goldmine in tourism dollars.” We pause as the exterminators arrive. Mr. Myazoff runs his hands through his thinning hair. He nods to the team in hazmat suits and breathers from Curddlesbeak Exterminators. As the crew enters the kitchen, Wip takes another bite of his danish. He looks at me, “You want one? Fresh made this morning in our kitchen!”
“Had breakfast,” I say. “So, you were saying...about the tourist potential with this possibly deadly alligator?”
There’s a moment for thoughtful reflection, then another bite of danish. “Yeah. That’s why we’ve hired Everglades Champion Gator Wrestler, Ollie Flukephist, to watch over everyone who hits a ball near Gator Lick Pond.”
“An Alligator Wrestler? Why not just have the thing removed?”
“No need! Ollie is an expert when it comes to handling these things. He still has most of his left hand. And, the hook on his right wrist really helps him control something like a 6-thousand pound gator.”
I start to protest; but, Myazoff waves his hand to stop me. “When he gets that thing to roll over on its back -- then he strokes its belly until it falls asleep...” The Assistant GM’s voice trails off into silence.
Suddenly, piercing screams and crashing dishes, silverware and pans from the kitchen shatter the silence. “Pardon me, won’t you?” Myazoff takes a quick puff on his cigarette, stubs it out in the remaining piece of danish, stands and pulls a small gun from his back pocket. I guess I look surprised.
“I have a permit.” As he rushes into the kitchen, where the screaming and sounds of banging pots and pans has intensified, I hear him mutter, “Around here you better have a gun.”
Four gunshots and a few screams later, Myazoff emerges with the crew of exterminators who are carrying a large duffel bag that seems to be oozing a sticky, red liquid. He returns to the table and lights a fresh cigarette. “It’s all good. We’re pretty sure that was the Queen. At least, if rats have queens, that one was big enough.”
I sit there for another 45 minutes, but Mr. Myazoff doesn’t say anything else of import. “Said too much already, probably.”
So, to wrap up the story. If you’re planning to play a round at Woodstone CC at Horehound Landing, remember there’s a huge gator living in Gator Lick Pond, next to the 6th fairway. You don’t have to fear it, because the Club has hired a professional gator wrestler to wrangle the beast if he shows up.
As this goes to press
Late word from is that “The Woodstone Creature” will appear in three wrestling exhibition shows daily at noon, 2 and 4 p.m. in the 6th fairway. Golfers get to see the show for a small extra charge -- or, play through by way of the 7th fairway. Others, who are looking for a thrill, should arrive at the Country Club parking lot one half hour before show times. The charge is $30.00 per person and includes a Golf Cart ride to the 6th fairway.
Golf History is often told in terms of the Classics...like Homer's Odyssey. This story contains some of the same elements. Namely: Words and paragraphs. Larry
Occasionally, this Column takes a detour from the present day Golf Scene here in The Persimmon Kingdom onto the dusty side road of Golfing history that occurred in our special part of the world.
The Story of George William Kurrs
Traylor County Golf has attracted several famous names over the years. And, in the 1930s, the most famous of the Golf elite to tee it up in the shadows of the Persimmon Spires had to be George William Kurrs...better known to the Golfing world as "G. Willie."
It was September of 1937, Kurrs was coming off his best year, ever. He had been third alternate for the U.S. Open that year. And, had played well enough several times to get his name in the Box Score section of The Persimmon Pines Times. Plus, he was invited by local legend Turley Burd to play a charity exhibition match. Burd once challenged Gene Sarazen to a match, blindfolded. However, Sarazen declined to put on the blindfold, unless Burd did too, and the match never came about.
On this day, Kurrs and Burd teed it up at Valley Heights in front of at least 2,000 fans for a Handicap Match set up by Burd who teed off from the regular tees. Kurrs, a true trick shot artist, was forced to start each hole from unusually difficult spots - behind trees, out of streams, through drainage pipes and the like.
The front page story from that day describes how Burd and Kurrs played a tight match through 15 holes with Burd up one. At the par three 16th, Burd hit his tee shot beautifully onto the green, one-foot from the cup. Kurrs, by the rules of the match, had to tee it up from behind a tall stand of thick pine trees. There was only one way to make this shot - with a very high flop shot over the 40-foot trees.
The following is quoted from The Persimmons Pines Times of that day:
Our hero, Mr. Burd, was certainly in the catbird seat, as it were. One up with three holes to play. His barely creased Kro-Flite ball rested just 12-inches from the hole. One up with three to play - and Mr. Kurrs forced to tee from behind the stand of impossibly tall pines, the odds were heavily in favor of our local hero leaving number 16, dormie.
However, his opponent had shown great ability on previous holes in finding a way to make a match of it. On the fifth, he was forced to tee from under a bridge, off a partially submerged rock. At number eight, he was placed nearly out of bounds in a drainage ditch and nearly managed an eagle. So, no one, least of all Mr. Kurrs, seemed to think this match was over.
His Caddy handed him a highly lofted iron and Mr. Kurrs studied the obstacle in front of him. With very little hesitation, he swung the club and, quite literally, popped it straight up in the air. The crowd, in spite of their obvious desire to see their local favorite prevail, applauded in wonder as the ball floated high into the air and arched over the thick pines toward the green. But then, a gasp from the throng! Mr. Kurrs' balata had come to rest - very near the top of a huge pine.
According to the newspaper account, Kurrs, knowing he had only five-minutes to play his ball - or declare it lost - climbed into the tree with his niblick, "like a chimpanzee on his way to a banana."
And, with his Caddy calling out directions, the Golfer was soon in position, hanging by his knees from a branch, staring down at the ball resting on the pine needles.
In what has to be one of the most amazing shots of the time, Kurrs swung at the ball while hanging upside down - flipped it out of the tree and onto the green - where it hit Burd's ball and knocked it 20 feet from the hole. (Back then, the rules required Burd's ball to remain where Kurrs' ball had caused it to stop.) Burd, in exasperation, amazement and deep admiration, looked up into the huge pine and yelled: "G. Willie Kurrs, you're good!" G. Willie went on to win the hole. The match ended in a draw.
Afterwards, Persimmon Pines earned its place in the popular lexicon of the day when Persimmon Pines Times Reporter Otto Dobinsanski reported the story. Before long, people everywhere were using a new word, born of the match, which English speaking people around the World used to express awe and surprise: "Gee Willikers!"
We've all read - or at least own - some kind of Golf instruction book. Some are based in the experience of the author or deep research and physics. Some, are based in...magic. The book described here is definitely the latter. Larry
On most days, Conor Owen, who lives in Stuporville Junction, sits at his computer, with his thesaurus. "I'm a Writer," he says. "Freelance mostly. Right now, I'm working on an interior design article." He leans aside and invites me to squint at a picture on his computer. It's a cat sleeping by the fire in front of a floral sofa under a large window as snow flies outside. Under the picture, Owen has written:
A cozy nook for a warm cup of Earl Grey with a splash of milk and honey. Here is all you need to bring the joy of life to a cold winter day as your kitty purrs a heartfelt, homey tune.
"Interesting," I say, as I look for a clean sheet of note paper. The Writer fills in the dead air. “In the last month, I’ve also written 'To Glue Stick or Not' for Bingo Monthly, an uncredited piece for The Weekly Shopper entitled ‘Tag Sale, Yard Sale, Garage Sale: Which One is Best?’ and my favorite: 'A Visit to My Attic' for Lo-Cost Travel Adventure Magazine."
I turn my notebook upside down and begin writing on the back of previously used paper. "So, you've written a Golf book."
He takes a long, satisfied sip from his tea cup. "Yeah. Actually, I'm on the verge of having two Golf books. I just finished the first draft of Turley Burd - His Glory Year in Traylor County. But, it needs some tweaking." (Turley Burd, of course is the late local Golf legend who famously challenged Bobby Jones to a match - with both hands behind his back. (Jones refused to play with his hands behind his back, so the match never happened.) “But, here’s what I’m really proud of!” The Writer reaches into a desk drawer, pulls out at least a ream of paper and plops it on the desk. Its title is simple and straight forward: Instruction Manual for Golf - The Head Game You Play With Your Hands and Your Head…But, Mostly Your Hands.
Good title. So, I ask the obvious: "Are you a Golf Professional?"
"No. But, I'm a student of The Game...and the brain. It's your brain that plays Golf." Owen hands me the stack of papers, title page up. "Go on. Pick a chapter. Any chapter."
I do. It's good! So good, I thought it was worth giving you a little preview before what's sure to be a bestseller hits bookstores. Here, with Mr. Owen's permission, is an excerpt:
A Brief Medical Discussion
No matter which grip you choose to use during a round of Golf, one thing remains constant: The club connects to your hands. Medically speaking, and I think most M.D.'s will back me up on this, your hands connect to your forearms, which "hook-on" to your upper arms with an ingenious device known as the "elbow." Your upper arms connect to your shoulders, then your neck - and through a series of what I call "brain muscles" - to your mind. There, in your body's control center, all important Golfing decisions are made. Your hands simply carry out your brain's commands! If you ever wondered what the old Golfing axiom, "Its all between your ears," actually means, perhaps this will clear it up for you! This old saw refers to your "brain," which, in most cases, is located in your head! And that means, it's - between your ears!
Right away, I can see this guy had a grip on the basics. But, I have to ask: "Medical background?"
He takes the book out of my hands and flips purposely through the pages. "No. Common sense. Check this out." He flips more pages, looking for a favorite passage.
"Where do you play?" I ask.
He's still flipping...looking. "Traylor Park. I've had a few lessons from Legolas Demott. We went to High School together. Ah! Found it! Here. Read this." He plops the stack of paper back into my hands.
Plan Your Swing Keys
Your swing keys are the key to your round. Perhaps that's why they're called "keys." Of course, every individual who plays The Game must, and should, have different keys or "thoughts" that will help that person make a swing that's smooth and effortless every time. In this case, I have a hard and fast rule: Plan (and re-plan if necessary) your swing keys for the day - in the car as you approach the Golf Course parking lot.
Usually, I'll turn down the radio briefly, look into my eyes in the rearview mirror to get my attention, and say: "Okay, Conor. Let's get serious." As soon as I have my attention and I know I have something important to tell myself, I go through each swing key with precision.
"Hands ahead," I intone as I mentally put my hands ahead of the ball at address. Sometimes it helps me to close my eyes to visualize the ball. "Kick the right knee in." My right leg usually jerks, adding a burst of speed to my already-over-the-speed-limit trip. "Low and slow," I mutter firmly. My hands move imperceptibly to the right. "Turn!" I usually twist in the car seat, straining against the shoulder strap, my right foot drifting briefly off the accelerator, car gliding right toward the sidewalk. Pedestrians scatter. But, only because they don’t know I’m only practicing my golf swing - not driving dangerously! “Swing, as if you were pulling an overhanging light bulb chain!” My car almost always swerves back to the left - away from foot traffic - and pick ups speed as my right foot returns to the gas pedal. I have heard others say that you'll never play well unless you can play with one swing thought. I’m pretty sure, this example shoots that idea down in flames!
Now, as your car lurches into the parking lot of the appointed Golf Course, you will have the quiet confidence of knowing that you have completed all phases of Preplanning your Plan to Play. You will have used the checkoff list in the back of the book as a reassurance that you have covered all your bases. So, as you emerge from your vehicle, you will be ready to face anyone, except someone really good, in a winner-take-all match (up to and including $1.00)!
Shortly after I finish reading the excerpt - and, before I can formulate a response to it - Owen gets a call from the Home Furnishings and Decor Editor of SuperGood Home Decorating Magazine and has to excuse himself to rewrite some cut lines for the picture of the Birdcage near the Armoire. I get up to leave...impressed. Here is a local boy about to make good! As I reach the door, the Writer puts his Editor on hold. "If you know anybody who would publish this - let me know. I'm not sure how many more sofas I can write about."
I tell him I'm sure, if he self-publishes, he might get his book in a rack at the local Health Food Store, "Natural Nugget."
Editor's Note: A follow up call to Natural Nugget management revealed Mr. Owen's book is under consideration for a potential position in the self-published book kiosk at the back of the store near expired canned goods sale rack. Ed.
Golf is a game of tradition and hard rules. Recently the USGA has lightened up on some rules. But, in some parts of the country - a very old tradition lingers. Looks like that's true in Traylor County! Larry
Traylor County Pro Tempore Councilperson-at-Large Vivian Festerhump has seen a ton of controversy lately. "After Buck Rucklesbuck, the former eight-time Councilperson-at-Large was arrested for public indecency at the restroom at the Traylor County Spring Tractor Pull, it's just been downhill from there for me," she says.
Ms. Festerhump and I were sitting in the Golden Rule Cafe, having a cup of coffee. She took a quick drag on her Camel and explained: "Right after I took over, we had that problem with the septic system at the Library. Some books are still drying out from that." A long pause to reflect. "The Old Man and the Sea swelled up to twice its size." Another pause. Another sip. "After the Library mess, we had the County Jail fiasco."
For those who don't recall, two months ago, all 14 men and women in the Traylor County Jail were able to "escape" after Deputy Sheriff, Oscar LaMott forgot to lock up before going home for the evening. Festerhump shook her head. "Lucky for us, the most serious offender in the lock-up at the time was Lucy Schmuckel, who was in for failure to pay multiple parking tickets." That problem was resolved when all the "escapees" returned to jail the next morning - after getting a good night's sleep in their own beds. Viv waved Rez Nuggetman, Owner of the Golden Rule, over for a fill up and lighted a new cigarette. "Now this."
"This," is the new plan by the Board of Directors at the County-owned Hooking Hills Golf Course to change the way Golfers get weekend tee times. Hooking Hills, a direct competitor with the City-owned Persimmon Pines Slippery Meadows, has utilized a "racking system" to schedule tee-off times. However, Hooking Hills Pro, Bix Wilstrup says he began to see a drop-off in his business after Slippery Meadows eliminated their racking system and began taking telephone reservations. So, he proposed a change - one he says would be more fair and less onerous to most Golfers. The Hooking Hills Board of Directors quickly approved the plan. But, that's when angry, longtime Men's Club members, Mickey Dogslaw and Elmer Pittswheel appealed to the entire County Commission to review the plan.
Vivian stared across Broad Street to the County Courthouse. "27 Lawyers later, we still got a legal mess on our hands." She crushed out her Camel, blew a cloud of smoke over my head and pointed at me. "Don't quote me in your damned article. But, I'll tell you this: Golfers have got to be the most screwed up, backwards and self-centered idiots on the planet." Then, she stood and walked outside, coughing.
For the uninitiated, here's how the old (and still current) racking system worked (works): Basically, the racking system began with the simple democratic principle of "first come, first served." Originally, you arrived at the course, placed your ball in a rack on the first tee, then teed-off in the order in which the balls were "racked." That was back in the days when Golfers arrived just a few minutes before they intended to play. As more people began taking up The Game, it became important to arrive earlier and earlier to get into the rack for a prime tee time. These days at Hooking Hills, to get a weekend tee time, you must arrive at the Golf Course by the appointed time the night before you want to play. For a Saturday morning time, you must be in line by 8 p.m., Friday. Everyone in line by this time is allowed to draw a number from a hat. This number corresponds to the order of the line for the next morning. That's when the actual tee times will be made. After that, everyone in line arranges their car in order on the parking lot, according to their number. Then, they recline the seat and wait. This is because, anyone who has a number for the line - but leaves the premises - loses the right to snag a time. Several times during the night, Golf Course employee, Nat Ulyee walks by each car, shining a flashlight inside to make certain no one has slipped home.
Then, at dawn, the bent and twisted Golfers climb over gear shifts and stumble through the mist-shrouded parking lot to the Starter's Shack where they, once again, stand in line to watch as the numbers they've been assigned are drawn from a spinning Bingo Basket. Not until their number is called, do they get to name their tee time.
It's a simple enough arrangement. But, as I said, Wilstrup, the Hooking Hills Pro, thought he had a simpler plan: "Let 'em call in on Wednesday for the following Saturday. That way, they know in advance when they're going to play." The Pro couldn't say any more for this story because, as he said, "It's all up to the Courts to decide."
However, the two men who brought the lawsuit, Mickey Dogslaw and Elmer Pittswheel, weren't as reticent about speaking out.
I met them at their usual hangout…a table in the Grill Room at Hooking Hills. Both men are in their 60s with skin the color of tarnished copper cookware. I shook hands with them and sat down to a cold Budweiser. It was 9:30 a.m. I checked the clock on the wall. Elmer Pittswheel lifted his glass in a toast. "We've been members of the Men's Club long enough to have a little pull with Squirrelly back in the kitchen! Salud!" I watched the glass of beer disappear quickly down Pittswheel's stubbled throat. Mickey Dogslaw took the pause in the conversation to jump in.
"Look, we're doin' this to protect traditions...to keep those things alive that make Golf so enjoyable and magical to those of us who honor The Game and it's heritage."
"The racking system was good enough for us for the last 30 years. It oughta' be good enough for the rich kids with their smart phones - who want to destroy our way of life." Elmer seemed upset and a little distracted as he looked impatiently around for Squirrelly. But, Mickey nodded quickly. "Exactly. And, we don't say that just because we hate kids and don't know how to use a cell phone."
"Couldn't you guys just call from home to get your tee times?"
There was an icy pause - broken only by Squirrelly's arrival with the second round. Elmer took a long sip. Mickey leaned toward me. "Haven't you heard anything we said? This is about tradition." Elmer nodded. "We'll be damned if somebody's gonna have it easier than we did. Hell, I had to choose between dating women and racking."
I tried to get the quote written down in my notebook as Mickey stood and looked out the Grill Room window at the first tee. "That's a little harsh, Elmer. Truth is, you quit dating women when they all stopped saying ‘yes.’" He turned back to our table. "Look, I'll be the first to admit that my first wife hated to see me leave on Friday nights." Mickey sat back - reliving those magical moments.
Elmer put down his glass. "Your second wife loved them Friday nights!" They both laughed. Mickey nodded. "I went to the Golf course. She was always happy. I just thought she was understanding." Elmer chuckled. "It took him five years to catch on that she was havin' her Boss over every Friday night."
"I didn't catch on 'til I came home one Saturday afternoon and she wasn't there...and neither was most of the furniture - and my TV." More laughter.
Elmer looked up at me, earnestly. "If we lose the racking system, them Yuppies will lose their chance for experiences like that!" I couldn't argue with that. Mickey was deep into nostalgia.
"My third wife was the only one who knew how to keep me home on a Friday night."
Elmer winked at me. "She took his clubs to the Dump and had them crushed." He laughed.
Mickey didn't. "It was because of her I got those new clubs with the bigger sweet spot. She really saved my game."
I looked up from my note pad. "Are you still married to her?" Mickey looked down at the two beers in front of him...grabbed a glass, chugged it, got up and walked away with Elmer close behind.
I took it as a "no."
Depending on where you live, your local Assistant Golf Professional might not be as fully employed as you think. But, that doesn't mean he or she isn't busy. Larry
It's the dead of winter. The chill winds are blowing down the pants and up the skirts of Golfers of every stripe, color, religion and sexual orientation. So, when I dropped by Pricey Mart last Wednesday on a mission to pick up a high-end close-out indoor/outdoor electric fireplace, the last thing on my mind was our grand and glorious game of Golf. Even though our friends who flock here from the Northeast insist what we call Winter isn’t “Winter,” my top of mind priority for this Pricey Mart excursion was a simple one: Buy something cool to keep me warm this Winter - for cheap.
But, Golf is always lurking. So, I unzipped my hoodie and slipped inside "The Big Box Store where other Big Box Stores send the stuff they couldn't sell.” And, who did I spot wearing the familiar chartreuse and gold smock of a Pricey Mart employee? None other than Terp Seemley, Assistant Golf Professional at the Hooking Hills Golf Course, the County-owned gem on Route TT right next to Scubbins Quarry - now operated by a Taiwanese firm - Tai-Tech of Formosa...after Juney Scubbins' recent untimely arrest and subsequent incarceration for running an outcall Golfers Massage and Caddy Service from his office trailer.
I didn't actually see Terp's face, I spotted the unmistakable rhythm of his swing, as he hit balls into the net in the Pricey Mart Sporting Goods Department. As I got closer, I could see Terp was giving what I learned later was an impromptu lesson to Leeto Weiner, well-known Persimmon Pines socialite and wife of Attorney Jules Weiner, founding partner of the powerful law firm of Gaylock and Weiner. The Assistant Pro's arms were wrapped around his student's shoulders as he helped her get a grasp on the ins and outs of the Golf swing.
"Terp!" I called out over the din of screaming babies, canned music and blaring ads from ubiquitous flat screens. I guess I surprised him. He twisted around awkwardly as the club in his hand raked a table full of discount golf balls off a display and down an aisle. His suddenly white pallor betrayed that he was more than a little surprised. I lightened the mood. "Fore!"
He quickly smiled. "Hey, Brent! Brent Green from the newspaper!" I nodded to Mrs. Weiner as she hurried into the crowd. She didn't return the wave. I guess she didn't see me.
Color returned quickly to Seemley's face. "What brings you to Pricey Mart?" I explained my quest for the electric fireplace. And, true to his Pricey Mart training, Terp quickly attempted to point me toward the Home Furnishings Department in the center of the store.
"Not so fast!" I put on the brakes as he pushed me toward the shoppers flowing down the main aisle. "I didn't know you worked here. You do, right?"
It seemed like a "yes" or "no" reply, but Terp took time to consider his answer. "Uh. yeah - for fun. In the winter, it gets a little lonely at home waiting for Springtime. The Golf Course only needs me 9 months a year. Everybody needs a little entertainment...and income."
“Ah! So, you been doing this with Mrs. Weiner for a long time?” "What?! No!!"
A moment of silence passed, as I tried to reconcile what I'd seen with what I was hearing. "Uh, didn’t I see you giving her a golf lesson when I walked in."
"Oh, right. It definitely was just a golf lesson."
Sensing I was onto a story here, I pressed on. "Come on," I said. "What's going on here?"
It didn't seem overly warm, but Terp suddenly seemed flushed. He seemed to be having a problem understanding me. "Going on?"
I knew I had something. I went for it. "Come on. Don't play all innocent with me. When did all this start?”
Terp put the six iron back in the display bag. “I’d rather not say.”
“I can ask the Personnel Department. I mean, don’t you know when you started working here at Pricey Mart?” He didn’t answer right away. Was he embarrassed? I sought to relieve the tension. "I mean it's not like you're doing anything wrong. Right?"
The brief pause was filled with a P.A. announcement advertising open box specials in the Pharmacy. "No. Absolutely not!" He turned, grabbed the 6 iron again and whacked a ball effortlessly into the netting.
I tried to explain my surprise at seeing him, with Ms. Weiner. “I mean I see that chartreuse and gold smock of yours wrapped around her little body. You're a PGA Golf Professional!” Terp whacked another ball into the netting - time time his swing was faster; too fast, he topped the ball. I waited until he turned back toward me. “I guess us Amateurs just assume you've got a full-time job."
Terp carefully rested his club against the display bag. “So, you’re here about Golf?”
“No. I’m here for the indoor/outdoor fireplace special.” But, when I came in, I saw you and Mrs. Weiner...”Terp grabbed the six iron and wacked another ball into the netting. “...and, that’s when I realized I had a real story...” He topped another six iron into the netting. "...about Golf. I thought you only worked at Hooking Hills.”
Once again, he leaned the six iron against the display bag. “I was just giving Mrs. Weiner a little refresher Golf lesson, you know.”
“Of course you were,” I laughed.
“Okay then Here’s the deal. I love being a Golf Professional. And, believe me, it's more than a full-time job when I'm at the Club. But, they only give me a check nine months a year. When things slow down this time of year, I have to come up with some other way to make ends meet, just like Elsa.” He pointed to the main aisle; at the passing flow of bodies. There, in the midst of hundreds of anonymous faces, I caught a glimpse of Elsa Cracklow, Assistant Pro at Woodstone Country Club, wearing the distinctive Pricey Mart smock. I looked quickly back at Terp. He nodded: “Bunch of us are here. Ty Benderling (Valley Heights Assistant) and Hake Weed (Assistant at Slippery Meadows), too. They're on the late shift tonight."
As I was formulating my next question, Attorney Jules Weiner stepped out of the crowd and in between myself and Terp. "You been with my wife, lately?"
In an effort to be helpful, and perhaps speed up my interview with Terp so I could purchase my fireplace, I jumped in. "Hi, Mr. Weiner! Yeah! I just saw her. She was just here working with the Pro."
The Attorney turned and looked at me. I guess he hadn't seen me before because, it seemed as if I'd surprised him. "I bet she was," he said to me. Then, he turned back to Terp. "I bet she was."
Before he turned and headed back into the crowd. Mr. Weiner looked at me, “It’s Attorney Weiner...not Mister.” He stopped at the edge of the aisle, looked back over his shoulder at Seemley. "I'll be back." Then, he disappeared into the crowd of faceless bargain hunters.
The Assistant Pro pulled out his cell phone. "So, good for you! You have both Attorney Weiner AND his wife as students! Do you do a lot of extra lessons like this in the off-season?"
Terp nodded as he waited for an answer at the other end. "Yeah - Hake - it's Terp. Can you come in a little early this evening?"
The interview was pretty much over at that point. Seemley said he had to get going. I surmised he could be meeting one, or both, of the Weiners for a private lesson. But, I thought this article was a great reminder of the sacrifice our local Assistant Professionals make to serve us at our local Golf courses and clubs.
As I left Pricey Mart that afternoon, with my indoor/outdoor electric fireplace, I found myself thinking how strange it is that this Reporter can sometimes stumble onto the most interesting and intriguing Golf stories without actually knowing what he's about to step into!
Larry Caringer has been writing humor for broadcast for a long time. Now, he's writing it for you. The stories, here, are from a collection of short stories from his book "Golf Beat: A Year in the Life of Persimmon Pines."