Words by Alan Snagg
Photo by Layth Taylor
They just want to bowl, man.
And, just like The Dude in the movie, “The Big Lebowski,” when it comes to living and letting live, well, they are glad to abide.
Gaylon Griffin, 47; Trey Fisher, 48; and Cleta Mims, 80, are not your average bowlers. First of all, they are a lot better than many others who play the game. Second, while they love the game, they love life a lot more, and the more laid back it all is, the happier they are.
“I used to get mad at myself when I was younger, and I do still want to win, but mostly I just love to bowl and have fun,” Trey said. “My wife likes to bowl also, so it gives us a day to spend together.”
Gaylon, who is also one of the managers at PINS Bowling Alley in Granbury, admits he’s “Not that serious about bowling.”
“If I get a 300 game, that’s fantastic, but either way, I’m going to be back because it’s just fun, man,” he said. “If it stops being fun, I’ll stop playing, but I can’t imagine it’ll ever stop being fun.”
Gaylon is still looking for that first perfect 300 game since he started bowling about two decades ago. Trey has rolled two since he started bowling around the same time.
And Cleta, who is also looking for her first 300, is proof that as long as the game is fun, folks will return. She started playing in Fort Worth in 1974 with her late husband Bob, took a break when they moved to Granbury, then started again in 1984 when Granbury Lanes (now PINS) opened.
“I used to try and beat the boys all the time,” Cleta said with a laugh.
To which Gaylon chimed in, “And she was good at it.”
And she wants nothing to do with the serious “game face” some folks put on. She’s out to enjoy herself, no matter what others are doing around her.
“I ignore it,” she said. “I won’t let it ruin my having fun. Most people are like me, just here enjoying themselves, but sometimes there’s someone who takes it too serious.”
Those are the times, Trey said, when you order another drink. His favorite, while not the White Russian The Dude loved, is still not what one would call mainstream.
“I love a Buttery Nipple Shot,” he said. “It’s Bailey’s Irish Cream and Butterscotch Schnapps.”
Gaylon’s favorite drink is “Anything free.”
Cleta doesn’t drink, but she does have a shot glass collection that is now over 8,000 accumulated.
“Every time we go somewhere new, if she doesn’t have one, we get her one,” Trey said.
“I’ve even got one in the shape of a moose with some horns,” she said.
Unlike The Dude, they do each have jobs. Gaylon is the head mechanic at PINS. Trey works in the body shop parts department at Classic Chevrolet, and Cleta drove a school bus for 21 years.
They also have family that either is currently bowling or has bowled with them in the past. Bob would join Cleta regularly. Trey and his wife often make it a Sunday afternoon outing, and Gaylon’s oldest son is in the same league with him.
They also consider their fellow bowlers at PINS as family. But when it’s league time, they are ready with a freshly polished ball and even a heckle or two.
“Oh yeah, we heckle all the time. That’s part of what makes it fun,” Trey said. “It’s more fun when you’re bowling down on this end and there’s somebody on the other end you can wave to or even go down and talk with. But again, it’s all in fun.”
None have experienced anything as crazy as being mistaken for a millionaire by gangsters seeking payment, resulting in the ruining of a favorite rug that The Dude simply wants replaced (the plot of “The Big Lebowski”). However, they each have their most memorable moments from the many years they’ve been rolling.
Cleta once inexplicably dropped a ball backwards. She was preparing to roll it, as she’s done many, many times, and instead it went the opposite direction.
“It just rolled backwards. People picked it up and gave it back. It was very embarrassing,” she said with a laugh. “I don’t remember what I rolled on that ball, but it sure wasn’t a strike.”
Gaylon even got married in a bowling alley, PINS, in fact, in 2006 when it was still known as Granbury Lanes.
“She liked to bowl I liked to bowl. We didn’t have to have everybody at my house or have to clean it up afterwards, so it made sense,” he said.
They’ve also seen their share of off-the-wall incidents over the years.
Gaylon and Trey, for example, saw someone hit the ceiling with a bowling ball. The bowler didn’t do it out of anger (though he wasn’t happy after it happened), the ball was just misguided through no fault of his.
“It just stuck on his fingers,” Gaylon said. “It was the craziest thing. It was funny, a little scary, but funny.”
Cleta has also seen someone lose control of a ball and it fly over into the lane next to them.
“No, it wasn’t me,” she said with a chuckle. “But it did stop everything down, and people were all stunned. It was pretty funny then, and still is when I think about it.
“And he was sober.”
Trey remembers the time a fellow bowler split his pants.
“He threw his ball, came back and said, ‘I split my pants, but I don’t have another pair like the last time,'” Trey said, adding with a laugh, “The last time? How often does this happen to him?”
When they’re not bowling, they do each have other hobbies (though each would argue that bowling is more than a hobby, it’s a part of life). Cleta quilts, for example.
“It’s relaxing,” she said. “And I like to stay busy.”
Trey likes dirt track racing, often helping a friend at such events on Saturday nights.
Gaylon loves creating with woodwork.
“I piddle around,” he said, showing a picture of a dresser he recently finished that could likely bring a good price at any outlet. “My dad was a carpenter, so it runs in the family.”
And bowling has brought them lifelong friendships, relationships they share in the best of times and the worst. Cleta remembered how her bowling friends stood by her side when she lost Bob and her sister in the same year.
“I turned to my friends here, and I have a bunch of them,” she said. “They really helped me.”
Mostly what brings them back week after week is the atmosphere. As long as it’s to their laid-back tastes, they’ll show up again and again.
“Nobody gets stupid,” Gaylon said with a grin, pausing, then adding, “Well, some do, but we still love them.”
To which Trey added, “As long as they keep the bowling alley open, we’ll keep coming.”
Cleta said she has no intention of quitting.
“As long as I can pick up a bowling ball, I’ll be here,” she said. “And I’ve still got a lot of strength in these arms.”