The Hustle

Social IssuesCulture

  • Author Larry Farmer
  • Published July 6, 2022
  • Word count 794

The Hustle

Over my life I’ve met some interesting characters. I encountered several of them during my freshman year at Western Kentucky University. I was living in a boarding house, and two of the individuals living there were Chuck Gary from Central City and Bill Knight (my roommate) from Beechcreek. A few of Chuck’s friends from Muhlenberg County would often come over, and we would all hangout. Two of the ones I got to know well were Denny Slinker and Jerry Young. Most of our conversations revolved around basketball, booze, and girls.

Chuck and Denny had played basketball in high school. Chuck was a starting guard for Central City, and Denny was a starting forward for Muhlenberg Central. Jerry never played at the high school level, but he knew more sports trivia than all of us combined. One particular story Chuck related was about the time he and a basketball buddy had a big beer blast the night before an important game. His buddy had a fantastic game, scoring from most everywhere on the court. Chuck, on the other hand, could hardly get up and down the court due to the excessive amount of alcohol consumed the night before. He went up to his friend and said, “How can you do it, I can’t even see the basket.” The friend replied, “I see two baskets; I’m shooting between them.”

“Joe Cool” is the best way to describe Chuck. With a cigarette dangling from the side of his mouth, he often talked about his many sexual exploits. To hear him tell it, he had relations with numerous women in Central City. If that were true, it would have been truly impressive since the town was known for attractive ladies. The reputation of the town was best summed up by a National Guard friend of mine when we were traveling through it. He turned to me and said, “This town has a lot of leg in it.” Chuck’s stories, however, may have been a bit overrated as one of his friends (I forgot which one) once said, “All those women Chuck brags about having are actually just street walkers.”

Chuck was pretty negative about the basketball players who had opposed him on the court. He would label them as snow birders, prima donnas, show boaters, etc. One person for which he did not show much respect was Billy Warren of Butler County. In high school Warren was considered one of the better guards in western Kentucky. As a junior and senior, he led his team to runner-up finishes in the Fourth Region. He was awarded a scholarship to Western and was on the same team as Clem Haskins and Dwight Smith, two of the school’s all time greats. Billy was expected to be the guard who would guide them to great heights, but it was not to be. Haskins, Smith, and company did achieve great things, but Billy Warren was not a part of it.

There were some tragic rumors about Billy. His high school team was coached by his father who was known as a tough and fierce disciplinarian. The rumor was that the father put an unprecedented amount of pressure on his son. According to the way the story was told, Billy became withdrawn and maybe even hit the bottle a bit too much. Many questioned whether he had what it took to be a successful college athlete. Whatever the facts, he left the Western team after his freshman year.

One thing my buddies and I liked to do was play pool. Chuck fancied himself an expert at billiards, and I must confess he was pretty good. One day in 1964 when Billy Warren was still a Western Hilltopper, Chuck and I encountered him in one of the better pool halls in Bowling Green. We sat and watched as Billy came out on the losing end in a series of games. Chuck saw a chance to expose Billy further and immediately challenged him to a quarter a game. They played game after game; I’ve forgotten how many it was. Chuck lost every one, and eventually he quit after running out of cash. Billy never ran the table, but he was very methodical and efficient in the way he played. He never bragged; in fact, I can’t remember him saying anything. All he did was win. Afterwards, Chuck was embarrassed and at a loss to explain what just happened. As we were leaving he said to me, “I don’t get it; in the earlier games he was missing easy, straight-in shots.” What Chuck didn’t realize, but should have, is that is the way ‘the hustle’ works. Billy Warren gained my utmost respect on that particular day.

I received a bachelors degree in 1967 and a masters degree in 1971 from Western Kentucky University. I taught school for 44 years. One year was spent at Fordsville High School, 17 at Ohio County High School, and 26 at Trinity High School in Whitesville. The subjects I taught were government, history, and English. At Trinity I also served as coach, athletic director, and dean of students. I fancy myself a fairly good writer, and my main interests are sports and politics.

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