Pepsi and Peanuts

When we were sharecroppers in Missouri, Dad would take the wagon of cotton to the cotton gin. When he finished his business, he would drop my brother Dick and me off at the pool hall and head to have a few drinks with his friends. We slipped unnoticed through the door and slid down against the wall to watch.

The men chalked their cues, broke the rack, and called the number of the ball they intended to pocket. Dick and I thought the numbers on the balls were the number of points the men got, so we tried to tally up which player racked up the most points!

One of the players, an old man with a bald head and a full tobacco-stained beard, cupped both hands on his cue, leaned on it, and said,“You little cotton pickers, you ain’t no bother. So what’ll ya say to a cold drink?”

Neither of us looked up. Just sat there with eyes squinched shut.

Finally we heard, “So, don’t ya want ’em? They’re freezing my hands.” I opened my eyes and saw two muddy boots, wrinkled pants, and two sweating Pepsi Colas in his hands. We hopped up, grabbed them, and as we slid down, we both mumbled a weak, “Thank you.”

What a treat! We each had our own bottle. We took small sips to make it last longer. Then one of the men came over with a bowl of nuts. “Take a handful of peanuts to eat with yer Pepsi.”

We each grabbed a handful and emptied them into our shirt pockets. I cupped my hand around the neck of the Pepsi, slid some nuts into it, put my thumb on the bottle opening, shook it hard, jerked away my thumb, and quickly stuck the top into my mouth. The peanuts bulleted the roof of my mouth.

“They sound just like pistol shots,” I told Dick. He did the same.

“Leon, you’re right. Just like the six-shooters in the Lone Ranger matinees!”

And the pool shooters, sucking on their cigarettes, flipping ashes onto the floor, laying down their bets, and swigging their beer, made me giggle and laugh so much I almost choked on the peanuts.

Just then, Dad pushed open the pool hall door. “Hit’s time to go.” We jumped up and ran after him.

Exposed to the pool hall and its entertainment for several years as a youngster, three spiritual truths have formed in my mind.

I’m thankful that the Lord guarded my heart from absorbing the world’s lifestyle. “Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without thinking (Romans 12:2, The Message).

As I think back to the days we slid down the walls, the Lord has graciously also shown me how to use the time he has given me. Sure, we all need recreation, but day after day to knock a cue ball around on a table, hoping with each shot to win the “pot.” The Lord has written in my heart Psalm 39:4, “Show me O Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days, let me know how fleeting is my life.”

The third spiritual truth is to clarify the purpose of life. Our pool hall players seemed to be self-absorbed in hedonism as 1 Peter 4:3 characterizes; and modern psychology, “Self-indulgent pursuit of pleasure as a way of life.” The opposite to hedonism is the Spirit-indulgent pursuit of holiness. 1 Tim 2:2 describes it as “living life peaceful and quiet in all godliness and holiness.”

*Adapted from my memoir Naked With Clothe.s On

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