Conversation with … C.W. (Skip) McClellund
Some may know him as a surveyor, a former county employee, a sheep herder, or a Granby citizen whose daily ritual includes coffee at the Columbine Cafe and lunch at Remingtons. But perhaps few are aware of 82-year-old C.W. (Skip) McClellunds affinity for the game of billiards. At the Lariat Saloon in Grand Lake, McClellund has been the sovereign of one pool table since the early 1980s, keeping track of participants on a chalk board each Friday and Saturday night (and some holidays) without fail. Why? For the sheer enjoyment of the game, he said. He doesnt drink, nor does he smoke. He drinks coffee with ice as he makes sure no doubles are played and no hustlers take over. Even on the most crowded Lariat nights, Skip is known to find players whose names are up on the list to let them know its their turn as any good host would do.In short, its Skips table he said. It keeps arguments down, keeps the fights down. It keeps everything in order.Q. When did you move here, Skip?A. I came here in 1953, working for the Denver Water Board. We were building Williams Fork and Meadow Creek, and then the tunnels, such as Vasquez. I was an engineer on those projects. Q. Howd you get into sheep ranching?A. Our kids (two girls, one boy) were in 4-H, and I bought some sheep for them to show. I just had them and kept adding to them.Q. Tell me about your ranch.A. We lived at the west end of the (Granby) airport on the Pickering Ranch, about 300 acres. Then in 1961, we moved to the east end of the airport on about 100 and some odd acres. Q. How many sheep do you have?A. I dont know, I just sold all the lambs about 15-20 or so.Q. What do you like about sheep ranching?A. Keeps me busy.Q. Whered you grow up, Skip?A. In Ohio, until I was about 17, then I went into the service.Q. What part?A. The Navy, from 1942 to 1946. I wasnt going to sleep in the mud. I was either going to be wet-as-all-hell or dry one of the two.Q. Whatd you do in the Navy?A. I was on an enterprise (aircraft) carrier in the Pacific. There was always a pool game going on somewhere. After the Navy in 46, I went to Arkansas to build the Bull Shoals Dam, a huge lake down there in the Ozarks. From there, I came to Denver and worked in the engineering department building dams and tunnels for the Water Board. I came here to the Williams Fork where we tore the old dam down and built a new one. Then I decided I didnt want to travel that much, so I bought this place out here. I decided I wanted to run a private surveying outfit; I had my own business from 57 to 92. In that time, from 72 to 92, I was the county surveyor. Then in 92, I retired. I was tired of it.Q. So, what would you say your passion or hobby is?A. Billiards.Q. What got you interested in that?A. When I was 8 years old, I started playing pool. My dad was a pool player. Hed take us along, my brother and me, and hed make money playing back then. During the depression back in the 30s, in those days if you won $2 in a pool game that was big, big money! Heck, people were working for 10 cents an hour. Anyway, wed watch there, and wed always get into the back of the pool hall, and wed get to playin. That was primarily how we got started.I coached pool for a company back in the 70s. For 20-some years I did that. Id leave here on Friday and Id go play for the company on the weekends. The county, they just paid me by the hour and I just did my work in time, but some of the commissioners didnt really care for my outside activities.Q. Tell me about your competitions.A. I traveled pretty well all over playing in tournaments. In the contracts, it said that you couldnt hustle anybody, so I never played for money on the side. Those tournaments were wicked tournaments. Some of them ran up to 1,500 to 2,000 players. It was an absolute job.Q. Did you win a lot?A. Win some, lose some. On Dec. 15, 1989, I won the Quetopia Open in Vegas. That was everything west of the Mississippi, you had to qualify to get in through 40-some odd tournaments around. The top 10 percent were named for the Quetopia Open 240 players started out, and theyd just eliminate them down to one.Q. How did you do, exactly?A. I won it.Q. How much did you win?A. Thats not here nor there. But the Quetopia was the biggest tournament I won. I never played for money (on the side), never did I hustle or be hustled.Q. Not even in the Navy?A. No. You just cant make any money hustling.Q. Why do you always play at the Lariat?A. I got along real good with Gene (Stover, Lariat owner) and DW (Schlosser, former Lariat partner). Its a real good place to go. If you come back there, youve never seen anyone hustle anybody there, and youre not going to as long as Im around. I know everybody who comes in, I know the sharks. I just love to play pool, I love to play. If someone comes in and beats me, thats fine. Like Bobby Anderson and I, weve played there for 25 years. I just know I can go there and play and no one is going to get on my case; I just like the class of players that come in there. I bet I can tell you the weaknesses of every player who comes in. I can watch the players and figure out what their weak points are and how they play. I enjoy the place. Personally, its the only place you can be yourself, relax, have a good time and nobodys giving you a bunch of bull about it.Q. Do you own the table?A. Lets just say, Its Skips table.Q. Whats with the chalkboard?A. Its how I keep the games straight and keep the players in order. The chalkboard is a very important thing to know whats going on. It keeps arguments down, keeps fights down and keeps everything in order. You make the rules and you play the rules, that way, you dont have any problems.Q. Why dont you allow doubles?A. It takes too long and its a proposition that when people play like that, theres more conversation than there is playing. It drags on and on.Q. What does your wife think about your pool playing?A. Ive been married to Rossel 50-some odd years she knows I go play. You never, never see me pick anybody up there and bring them home, thats for sure. Q. Whats her night out?A. She was a bowler and she understands why anybody would be that intense.-Tonya Bina can be reached at 887-3334 ext 19603 or e-mail email@example.com.
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