Houston, Texas

When Cyberdarts guru Rick Osgood suggested I visit him in Houston recently it was for two reasons that I simply couldn't pass on the invitation. First, it was Osgood and his wife Loretta who originally posed the idea, some five years ago, that I create the Dartoid's World column. Although we'd corresponded regularly by e-mail during that period our several attempts to meet up at tournaments had never worked out. A first face-to-face meeting was long overdue. Second -- and this was the clincher actually -- was that Osgood promised me a night on the town and the spanking of my life. Knowing that Dallas and Debbie and her friends were just up the road made accepting Osgood's invitation a flat out no-brainer. I threw on a darts shirt, slapped on some Paco Rabanne and took to the skies immediately. Spank me baby. Spank me good!

As the sun set a half day later I strolled through the front door of Rick's Darts and Games (10236 Westheimer) and into what's got to be the Mecca of darts supply shops in America. Forget the many fine darts pubs in the Houston metropolitan area. Forget the Houston Open and the Bluebonnet Classic. Forget doin' Dallas with Debbie. If darts is your game and Houston is on your route, a stop at Osgood's immaculate little shop of goodies is an experience worth every minute of your visit.

Extending some thirty yards from the front door to the back of the shop is a display of flights that puts the best of London's accessory shops to shame. Osgood's stock of Ribtex alone is better than most truck stop men's rooms. Three practice boards line the right side of the back wall. To the left is an array of cases brimming with everything from 40 gram heavyweights to woodies to those remarkable links of ballbearing-like little balls that you use to measure off the oche.

Shafts, points, patches, pins, rosin bags, key rings, stones, cases, cabinets, books, videos. There are shelves crammed with wooden boards, soft-tip boards, Champion's Choice boards, backboards and scoreboards. There is even a display of antique boards prominently centered above the cavalcade of flights.

Osgood simply has everything, in every size, color, weight and brand that one could possibly ever imagine or need. He even carries exotic dominos (though I couldn't quite figure out how to get them to stick in a bristle board). I was overwhelmed, so completely caught up in Osgood's candy store of darts paraphernalia, that I opened up my wallet and peeled off a bill for a set of 95 cent flights with a revealing pose of some cutie on them. As it turned out, stuffing them into my pocket (ah!) was about as close to my definition of a spanking as I was to get this night.

It was at about 7:00 p.m. that Daryl Montgomery -- three time Houston City Champion and top four Cricket finisher at the 1998 North American Open -- arrived to spank me Texas-style. Compliments of the Houston Darts Association (HDA), who graciously footed our bill, Montgomery and I headed into the Houston night.

We stopped first at a cozy British sort of pub called Ron's (1826 Fountain View) on the southwest fringe of the city. A nine-mark and a handful of 140's were hardly enough for me to remain competitive as Daryl pounded in six and seven marks and closed out ton plus game shots seemingly at will. Welts raised on my posterior about as quickly as on one similarly painful day back in 1966 when, to impress my buddies, I flicked the bird at Billy G. Thompson, my junior high school principal. In retrospect, that act was no less senseless than thinking I could take Montgomery at the line. Wisely, I submitted early and suggested we team up to take on others in doubles.

For the next two hours, thanks little to my efforts, Montgomery and I raised our own share of welts on the backsides of two local shooters -- Mark Musatto and David Dowling. Dowling, a retired tennis professional who used to play the circuit, and who once threw darts with John McEnroe, hung in strong until he was distracted by a brunette who closely resembled the girl on the flights in my pocket.

We headed next, and last, to a joint called the Sunrise Pub (formerly Liars) at 9819 Bissonett. A big, square place (nothing more, nothing less) with a dozen or more boards covering three of the walls, the Sunrise this night was bustling with league play. Montgomery was quickly wooed into substituting for a missing player while I headed to the bar in the rear. As midnight approached and as the evening's competition (and our bottles of Budweiser) neared their end, Montgomery and I headed back into the night. Rest was a priority. The $15,000 Houston Bluebonnet Classic was to begin early the next evening.

I arrived at the tournament site late the next afternoon as the darters began to gather in front of the some 40 boards setup up for the weekend's competition. I plunked down $15 to throw the Luck of the Draw, grabbed a hotdog and a beer and settled in front of the number seven board. I was pleased to see an advertisement for Ron's posted below my board and a similar placard for the Sunrise adorning the board to my left. Clearly Osgood, Montgomery and the HDA had steered me to two of the better, and most supportive of the sport, of the darts establishments in the city.

For a while I chatted with Indiana's Dan "Cujo" Lauby, who sought me out to inquire about the status of an order of flights he recently placed with my team captain, Thumper Galloway, back in Virginia Beach. I surveyed the female contingent carefully with New Orleans' eagle-eyed Cajun, Scott Wallaston. And I warmed up and exchanged jokes with Stacy Bromberg and Lori Verrier. I think they got a kick out of the one about the darter nicknamed after a dog who orders supplies, long distance, from some guy named after a friend of Bambi's.

Around about 8:00 p.m. I stepped up with my partner to be quickly squashed in the Luck of the Draw. Admittedly, this was primarily my fault as I, thinking we'd won our second round, left the arena to celebrate briefly in the bar. I returned some twenty minutes later to be greeted by my harried partner and two entirely perplexed opponents, to learn that my addition skills left much to be desired -- that the match was actually tied up a leg a piece. Suffice it to say I returned to the bar soon thereafter, this time to seek condolences.

It was an hour or so later that I came upon Walleston again, this time as I was heading for my car. I'm not certain of it but I think I heard him mumble: "Mais me, I don't know 'bout no dogs 'n rabbits but dat gal over dere is purtier den a mudboat in de swamps. I guarantee dat."

So much for darts in Osgood's town!

From the Field,

Dartoid

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