In “Paint Your Wagon” Lee Marvin sings “I was born under a wanderin’ star” as he is leaving town. The town was destroyed when he and Clint Eastwood’s tunnel plan collapsed representing another dream “which with any luck will never come true”.
Most of my adult life I have been zig zagging like a wanderin’ star in an infinite universe of hope and dreams. Before one dream would have time to come true I would be roaming on down the road reaching for the next.
Until recently risk was my life and somehow interwoven into every dream. I spent most of my time seeking the thrill of victory and gambling with the agony of defeat. Money games provided an easy fix for my gambling addiction.
It all began at a small home poker game in 1983. We played every week . . . “just for fun”. When football season kicked off I decided I would start taking small wagers on game outcomes from my poker game friends . . . “just for fun”. Our poker group broke up after about a year, but I continued to take bets on sporting events.
Ten Years Later
In March 1993 what started out “just for fun” was only hours away from a surprise visit by government authorities possessing interstate gambling and racketeering search warrants.
I received a tip via a third party the planned raid would take place the next day . . . the day of the NCAA national basketball championship game. Ironically, the person who delivered the tip to me was a member of our original home poker game whom I hadn’t seen in a long time.
After 10 years “just for fun” had become a very profitable full time business and the NCAA Championship game was second only to the Super Bowl in sports wagering action. Shutting down would mean an end to the easy money. I had no choice. It was time to roam.
When I returned the next week I was a retired bookie with no pension plan. I was very lucky to have avoided the front page of the Pampa News and embarrassing my parents and other family members . . .not to mention the possibility of spending time in a place where”roaming” would not be allowed.
I stopped gambling for six years and built a respectable health insurance business, but after a divorce, deaths of 3 family members (a daughter and both my parents), and a business failure I started roaming and found myself again playing games with money. This time it was a card game called Texas Hold’em.
Pampa High School Class of 1969 – 40 Year Reunion
I started playing “just for fun”, but stakes soon escalated to provide the needed fix for my addiction. By the time I attended our Pampa High School Class of 1969 Reunion in June 2009 I was spending 12 or more hours a day playing online as well as traveling to play in live games. Nothing else was important. My life was controlled by an addiction to taking risk.
My 40th reunion was an awesome experience. Over half of our living graduating class returned. I was forced to stop and smell the roses (actually hamburgers and steaks). Some returning classmates went all the way back to first grade. I had a shot of Patron with the girl I had my first Saturday afternoon coke date with half a century ago. We were just kids and our grandmother’s took us to a movie. She had forgotten about it until I reminded her.
A Classmate Passes Away
The last day of the reunion one of our classmates who was not at the reunion passed away of a heart attack. I knew him in 1983 as a man of integrity. He was a member of our original home poker game. My “just for fun” business began the night he and I made a small private bet on a televised football game. I hadn’t talked to Ronnie Parsley in over 25 years, but the memories were as vivid as if we had talked yesterday.
The timing of Ronnie’s death (the exact time as our reunion) had a stunning impact on me. I came home and emptied my online poker accounts. I sold a $2,100 seat I already owned in a scheduled live tournament for a $500 discount because I no longer wanted to play money games. It was an amazing spiritual experience that not only stopped me in my tracks, but set me moving in a new direction.
Today I am committed to creating and developing websites as places to share touching stories about people we love in common. Researching and writing content keeps my thoughts away from my addiction and at the same time helps me discover secrets I have been hiding from myself. Remembering friends I have said “goodbye forever” to like Phillip Long and Rickey Marson helps me see how very fortunate I am to have lived this long . . . all things considered. Reflecting on things that influenced us growing up helps me know now what I didn’t know then. Sometimes I write “just for fun”. (I try to be careful with that one.)
Today I am roaming again. I never know what story will weave itself onto these pages.
Three days mingling with classmates at the 40 year reunion of Pampa High School Class of 1969 was a joyful event, but stories can take a lifetime to live . . . a long time to remember . . . and sometimes a shot of Patron.