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So they have hardly forgotten Hot Rod in Morgantown. He came down Route 19 from Wheeling through Star City on his recent tour, and there, over the next mountain, was his motel, its billboard announcing: WELCOME HOT ROD HUNDLEY. The West Virginia football team came by in its bus on the way to practice and spotted Rod there, admiring his sign. "Hey, Hot Rod," they screamed out of the windows. "How sweet it is," he said. ("Maybe you can end the story with that," Hot Rod suggested.) Later men hanging around outside United Miners Lodge 589 saw him and came shuffling over just to shake his hand. Everywhere a lot of Cutty and water was on the house.
Hot Rod dropped into Freddie's, his favorite hangout. "Hang out, hang in, hang up," Freddie Cavallaro said. "He was here every night." Pickles Hines said, "The four years he was here I never saw my wife. Got a dime, Freddie? I've got to call home. Jane will never believe who is here."
Freddie fished for the dime. "He got through four years on one pack of cigarettes," Pickles said at the phone. "Hello, honey. You'll never believe who's here. [Pause] Rod Hundley. [Quickly.] No, really. [Quickly again.] No, no. I won't be too long." Hot Rod leered. "Hey, he's exaggerating about the cigarettes," Rod said. "They always kid me about that."
Pickles sat down, and the group that had gathered started reminiscing about Hot Rod. Hot Rod led the reminiscing. As it does among West Virginians, talk soon shifted to the rest of the state. Hot Rod brought the news from all over. He said he was going down to Charleston the next night, with sporting goods stops along the way in Fairmont and Clarksburg. That reminded Pickles: "Remember the time you brought the All-Stars into Clarksburg?"
"Hey," Hot Rod said, "listen to this."
"A guy is hurt," Pickles went on, "and they need an extra. Hell, I haven't played in five years, but Rod insists. So now I'm all dressed up in this uniform—and remember, this is just down the road in Clarksburg—and all of a sudden—"
("Hey, listen to this," Hot Rod said.)
"—here are the introductions, and the announcer says: 'And now for the Hundley All-Stars. At forward, a two-time All-America from Villanova, the fabulous Pickles Hines.' The place went wild!" ("Maybe you can end the story with that," Hot Rod said.) Hundley bummed a cigarette from Pickles. The house picked up the check. "Home away from home," Hot Rod said.
Home itself was Charleston or, as Hundley identifies it offhand, "The chemical capital of the world, where the Kanaiwha River meets the muddy Elk." Rod grew up there, an only child, virtually orphaned by his parents' separation. Mostly he played basketball and pool—at the YMCA and The Strand. As he walked into The Strand the old-timers saw him and put their cues down and came over to say hello, POSITIVELY NO DRINKING OF ANY INTOXICANTS ALLOWED ON PREMISES was stenciled on most of the walls. Hot Rod had on a one-button Cesar Romero suit without pockets. It did not have cuffs, of course. "Once you go without cuffs, you can never wear them again," Hot Rod says, as if it is a matter of war and peace. The shirt was white-on-white, without pockets but with extra-long points and French cuffs, though Hot Rod says he understands French cuffs are on the way out. Obviously everyone in The Strand was enthralled by the sight.
"My father worked here," Hot Rod said, fondling a cue. "Butch Hundley. Everyone called him Butch. I mean, even I called him Butch. A lot of people thought he was the best pool player in West Virginia, and this was tough pool territory. Remember Butch, Mose?"