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  • “You the lady from New York?”

    A loaded question if ever there was one. It’s drenched in the expectation that I’m some sort of big city snob out to prove that life outside NYC is no life at all.

    But, once again, the question. This time it came in the Monroe County Marble Super Dome in Tompkinsville, Kentucky. I was there to spend four days with a group of guys who, daily, play game after game of Rolley-Hole marbles on the Super Dome’s dirt floor. Most of the Rolley-Hole crew has been shooting it out for 50 years or more. It's what kids in Tompkinsville used to do. But, like kids in other towns, Tompkinsville's youth now favor Wii and X-Box over traditional games. Rolley-Hole has an expiration date on it.

    Though some quiet chatting and talk of my ex—a Kentucky guy himself—seemed to put most of the marble men at ease, Colonel Bowman was a holdout. One of the Marble Dome’s elder statesmen, he usually stayed about 20 feet away from me. He pretty much left my questions about the game and life in Tompkinsville and the county’s best barbecue spot to everybody else. He always spoke loudly enough so I could hear him to quote him for the magazine article I was writing but he never spoke directly to me. When I finally got up the nerve to try playing Rolley-Hole myself, his color commentary came through loud and clear.

    Like the hard-to-please boss I’d worked for years ago, I knew the only way to win Mr. Bowman over was to let him decide when I was OK. Throughout my sessions at the Marble Dome, I made sure he knew I was listening to him, but I didn’t chase him. I would have to wait for Colonel Bowman.

    Then, the final morning, it happened. Colonel Bowman spoke to me.

    “Anybody show you how to shoot one of these things?”

    And, with that question, I knew I would always be welcome back at the Marble Dome. It seemed the lady from New York was OK after all.

    I first posted this story to a travel blog I used to write--but that site has gone quiet and cowbird is very much alive so figured I might as well post it here, too.

    (Photos by Jenna Schnuer. In case you're wondering: Colonel Bowman is on the left, wearing a blue jacket.)
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