Rim Country Ladies Crack Shots With Pool Cues

LIVING

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It's Tuesday night in the middle of nowhere and the muddy parking lot is packed with pick-up trucks -- Fords, Chevys.

So many walk, carrying pool cues, to the wooden bar with a wagon wheel out front, underneath a goldenrod yellow-lighted sign advertising good food and cold drinks.

Guys, it's Tuesday evening -- ladies night -- at the Double D in Tonto Village, and unless you're content to sit at the bar and mind your own business, stay home.

"It's girls night out," said Linda Stailey, a 23-year Tonto Village resident and frequenter of Tuesday nights out. "We play pool," she said.

The players start showing up around 6:15 p.m. to draw numbers, assemble and chalk up their sticks, buy drinks, and add their money to the kitty. Fifteen minutes later, they rack 'em up and the tournament begins.

When they're not chatting about that jerk baseball player Randy Johnson or arguing over who's lived in Arizona the longest or talking about politics and real estate, they're sharing cooking tips, complimenting each other on quilting skills and coifs, and cheering each other's shots and leaves.

Ladies pool night started six years ago when three women, wanting a night away from the kids, the cooking, the cleaning and the husbands, decided to meet at the Landmark Saloon in Christopher Creek for some pool.

Patti Boeschling, who lives down a 10-mile dirt road on a cattle ranch near Young, and drives about 30 miles one way for pool night, said she, Candy Hart and Willene Byrne, who have since moved away from the Rim country, played at the Landmark for several weeks before going to the Double D to recruit more players. Since then the tournament alternates every week between the Double D and the Landmark.

"I like the ladies, I like the companionship," said Boeschling. "We don't get mad if we lose. We just enjoy it."

There are no rules, rather the only real rule enforced is the "no men allowed" rule.

Phyllis Mullen, a regular, said that the fellows tried to put together their own league -- to no avail -- soon after the women's formed.

"The men couldn't seem to get along. It lasted six months.

"We're here to have fun," said Mullen. "They want to make a cut throat thing out of it."

The ladies play double elimination nine-ball billiards. In double elimination, the winningest player shoots against the biggest loser to win the tournament. The object of the game is to sink balls in numerical order, starting with the 1-ball. Whoever pockets the 9-ball wins the game.

Nine billiard balls are arranged in a diamond-shaped rack with the solid-yellow 1-ball out in front or in the foot spot, and the striped-yellow 9-ball in the middle.

If a higher numbered ball is pocketed on the break, the game starts by shooting at the lowest ball on the table.

Slop is the key to Tuesday night pool. Boeschling said to keep the game moving, they allow players to take another turn regardless of the ball they pocket.

"This is a friendly game," said Boeschling. "If we wanted to be pool sharks we'd play more."

Boeschling said that although players come and go, a core group of women -- about a half dozen between 19 and 70 years old -- are regulars.

There's Stailey, she breaks with a 21-ounce stick --the heaviest -- and takes the rest of her shots with a 19-ounce cue, which is mid-weight, 17 ounces being the lightest.

"A lot of people like a heavier stick to bam the ball," said Stailey. "I use a lighter stick to remind me not to hit it so hard."

Stailey started shooting pool with her first husband more than 30 years ago in her den.

"Back in the 50s we'd have a coffee klatsch and sit around and drink coffee and smoke cigarettes," said Stailey. "It was a release valve. Now we play pool."

Then there's Mullen whose pool career began four years ago.

"I showed up and didn't know how to play," said Mullen. "Two years after my husband died, friends convinced me to get out and I've been getting out ever since."

Although Mullen owns a $500 pool cue, given to her as a gift, she prefers the solid black 19-ounce stick she bought on sale for $89.

The owner of the Double D, Ethel Cain, or as she's known at the bar, ET, nicknamed for the first two letters of her first name, has been playing with the crew since the tournament came to her saloon.

"It's really fun," said Cain. "It's good for business and it's just fun getting together with the other women."

At the end of the night, after the loser plays the winner, trophies are handed out and the top three winners receive a cash prize.

Last week's winner, Kara Shaw, a loan processor by day, said the secret to playing pool is "L-U-C-K."

She walked away with the first-place trophy -- a miniature pool table hand-made by Mullen -- and 50 percent of the purse.

"I get antsy if I don't get to play," said Shaw, a diehard Tuesday player. "It's like I'm missing something."

The second-place trophy, the bronzed rear end of a horse, was given to Sheri Dashney, and as she received her award, the group serenaded her with their traditional runner-up song, "Hooray for Sheri. Hooray at last. Hooray for Sheri. She's a horse's ass."

Boeschling said all women are invited to play, regardless of experience, but if you're not a regular or if you're from out of town, you can't take home the traveling trophies.

Tuesday night ladies pool starts at 6:30 p.m. Players must put in $3 for the winners' purse. For more information or to get schedules, contact Phyllis Mullen at (928) 478-4842.

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