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The Last Pony Ride

Geno Lawrenzi 12:21 Sep 10th, 2021 Blackjack Land Based , Online Gambling

It was time to leave home. Time to grow up and take my

last pony ride on a star-lit night along a river in western


Sutersville, PA. is a scenic little town of less than 1,000 population.

It sits along the Monongahela River less than 20 miles south of Pittsburgh Pa. I was born in company housing owned by the corporation that ran the Warden Mine, the largest coal mine in the country. My father worked there before becoming a steel worker for U.S. Steel Corp. at the Irvin Works near Dravosburg, PA.

The town's main street was only about six blocks long. It contained a movie theater, two grocery stores, a bowling alley, drug store and a couple of bears. There was also a hardware store where I bought my first shotgun on credit. I was actually born in Douglas Hollow where half a dozen coal families lived. The hollow was located just across the Sutersville Bridge. We lived there until my father purchased a piece of land on Sutersville Hill and built a three-bedroom home out of insulbrick and lumber.

Before we moved, we got our water from a community pump that was shared by half a dozen families. Our rent of $60 a month was paid to a company employee named Mr. Peevee. We bought our groceries from a company-owned store and our bathroom was an outhouse.

Most of the men who lived in Sutersville and the nearby towns were either coal miners, steel workers or glass workers who were employed at the Jeannette Glass works which manufactured glass in the nearby town of Jeannette, PA. There wasn't much else to offer our young people, but I was determined from my childhood to be a newspaper reporter. The dream was instilled in me after reading a book in our school library called: I RING DOORBELLS, by Russel Birdwell, a journalist who worked in Chicago, New York and Los Angeles. I would later meet Birdwell after I got out of the U.S. Army (he had become a public relations man and his clients included Jane Russell and Rock Hudson).

Almost everybody in town knew about my ambition to become a reporter. Bill, the postman knew about it. He was the one who accepted the bulky envelopes I delivered to him week after week containing short stories and articles that I was sending off to magazines like THE SATURDAY EVENING POST and COLLIERS in a vain effort to get published. And of course, all the good-looking girls in town knew I wanted to be a writer. Just after turning 16, I won a national short story writing contest in Springfield, MO. when a high school classmate named Alvin Kearns and I submitted a short story titled GREATER THAN MOHAMMAD to a religious magazine called HICALL and it came in first.

I don't know how my family afforded it, but they covered my expenses for a year at Duquesne University where I studied journalism. That training was enough to get me a job as sports editor of a newspaper called THE TUCUCUMCARI DAILY NEWS in Tucumcari, NM. It meant leaving home, but I was ready for adventure and I knew I wouldn't find it in my home town.

I owned a car and I was dating a sexy blond named Christine who lived about two miles away from me. The annual firemen's fair staged by the Sutersville Volunteer Fire Department had opened and Christine had agreed to meet me that night at 9 p.m. at the midway. The rides had already been set up behind the Moose Club where my dad was a member. They made a colorful display -- the ferris wheel, crack-the-whip, racer, merry-go-round, the Dodger, the race cars, the pony rides and the midway which featured gambling games and an exotic dancer named Sheena who danced the seductive snake dance. I planned to get inside Sheena's tent and watch her writhe like a snake before I met Christine.

I arrived at the fair about 7 p.m. Popeye, Sutersville's only town cop, was already there making his rounds. He asked about my father. Dad was already in the Moose Club quaffing beer and playing bocci or Mora, an Italian gambling game.

"I heard about your Uncle Ott and his accident," Popeye said. "How's he doing?"

Uncle Ott lived alone in a house next to the river in West Newton, three miles down the road from Sutersville. He worked at the Ocean Mine about six miles away and had lived there ever since my Aunt Annie, my mother's older sister had died of leukemia. Uncle Ott had been caught in a cave-in at the mine. He had actually been buried by the rocks and if one of the other miners hadn't seen his hand protruding from the rocks, he would have died.

"Well, he suffered a broken back and his spleen was crushed, but the doctors say he'll live," I said. Popeye just shook his head.

"Mining accidents are rough," he said. "I heard your dad gave up his job at Warden and he's working for a steel mill. How's he doing?"

"He's making money," I said.

"That's always good," said Popeye. "Tell him I said hello."

I walked down the midway and came by Sheena's tent. Her show was about to begin. I paid my .50 cents to a red-faced barker in a Homberg hat at the entrance to the tent. He stuck a cigar in his mouth and relieved me of my .50 cents while snarling out of the corner of his mouth:

"You're 18, ain't ya kid?"

"I sure am. Pretty good show?"

"Sheena's the best, kid. The best."

There were about 20 customers in the tent, most of them men. In a couple of minutes Sheena came out onto the dance floor. She wore a leopard skin and growled at the customers. I growled back. She smiled.

The dance took about 10 minutes. When she finished, I applauded and Sheena blew a kiss at me. The barker removed the cigar from his mouth and said, "She likes you."

I walked down the midway looking for Christine. Foggy was standing near the merry-go-round. He was carrying a couple of burlap sacks. Foggy was a sweet guy who had two jobs in Sutersville. He collected bottles and exchanged them for deposits at either the grocery store or the service station in Douglas Hollow. I bought a Coke, drained it and gave it to him. He rewarded me with a smile.

"Hey, I'm leaving town Saturday," I said. "I have a job in New Mexico."

"Doing what?"

"Sports editor on a newspaper."

"Ooh, that's good," Foggy said, "I like sports."

"Hey, it's my last night in town. Let me treat you to a pony ride," I said.

Foggy gave me a nervous look. "I never been on a pony before," he said uncertainly.

"Nothing to it," I said. "Just relax and show the horse who's boss."

The bored owner of the pony ride helped Foggy mount. Foggy started getting on from the right side. The owner led him to the left side and he swung into the saddle. We rode around the track at a lumbering trot. Foggy almost fell off. He laughed. He enjoyed the ride.

"Ride 'em, cowboy," a feminine voice said. It was Christine.

The ride was over. I slid out of the saddle. Foggy had to be helped to dismount.

"That was nice," he said, nodding. "I never been on a pony before."

I glanced at Christine. She looked hot in skin-tight jeans and a low-cut vest. In a low voice I said, "You've never ridden a wild mare."

"Nope, never did," said Foggy, missing the joke.

Christine laughed. It was a dirty laugh.

"Well, there's always the first time," she said.

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