There will be a steady parade of people through your life. Let’s hope that some of them are characters. Characters will add something to life…kind of like putting Tabasco sauce on your eggs in the morning. They are refreshing and cause you to wake up and enjoy what’s going on around you. The character I’m going to tell you about is a man that I haven’t seen for almost 60 years. Yet, when I think of him I still get a smile on my face.
Shorty Miller was a character. No, Miller isn’t his real last name but its close enough. If you just saw Shorty from the waist, up, you’d think you were looking at a giant of a man. His broad shoulders, a deep chest, and powerful arms were impressive. The problem though was short legs. Shorty was somewhere between 5’2” and 5’6” tall. When I first knew him, he was probably in his late 50’s. He had a wife and 4 or 5 kids. The kids were all at least 5 years older than me but I knew a couple of them well enough to say “hi”. Shorty worked for one of the local oil companies. I think he was involved in working on pipelines.
Now, to get serious about this, I’d have to say that Shorty loved his beer and a good time. Come Friday night and/or Saturday, he was generally down at the pool hall shooting pool and drinking beer and having a good time. I think everyone pretty much liked him. He always had time to share a laugh or a wink with everyone, kids included. I was told that since he and his wife both knew how he was about a good time, his paychecks went to her and she gave him an allowance. If he used up his money too early in the evening it became a serious problem for Shorty and good entertainment for everyone else. It was said that he had been a circus performer in his early days and could do a lot of strength tricks. Beer was only 10 cents a glass so Shorty would try to involve the other patrons in betting that he could or couldn’t do certain tricks. The locals all knew what he could do so if they bet against him it was just a nice way of buying him a beer. If there was an out-of-towner in the pool hall then the betting might get serious.
After I turned 18 and could be in the pool hall legally I was able to see Shorty in action. I only got to see two of his tricks so they are the ones I’ll tell about.
The first trick was pretty simple. Shorty would bet that he could go out in front of the pool hall, stand on the curb, there on State Street, bend over and place his palms flat in the gutter. Seems impossible, doesn’t it? Most people can’t bend over far enough to touch their toes but Shorty could go way beyond that. His big torso and long arms took care of that.
The other trick that I got to witness three or four times was more a matter of strength and endurance. Shorty would bet that he could shinny up a light pole backwards! This trick usually attracted bigger bets (more beers). Once all the bets were in, Shorty would lead the crowd out onto the sidewalk and to the nearest street lamp. He would walk over to the light pole, lock his arms around it, swing his legs up into position, and commence going up that pole upside down. It was actually easy for him but he would make a show of it. Then, when he reached the top he just turned around and slid back down and collected his money. With any luck, he would have enough to keep him in beer for the evening.
Keep your eyes open for these characters and remember what you see. It may be good for a chuckle 50 years from now, when you need one.
November 10, 2013