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|Snooker champion pocketed life one
tricky shot at a time
By COLIN McDONALD of the Missoulian
She grew up on a ranch outside of Wibaux, shooting coyotes, breaking Shetland ponies and playing pool on a granite table in the barn. In the evenings, her father would sneak her out of the house and into a local bar where the patrons would sometimes cover up the carvings of naked women behind the bar while their favorite little pool shark would play and take their money.
She loved it; her mother hated it and thought it was utterly unladylike.
But Shirley Mae Barrow lived life under her own set of rules. She knew how to have a good time and saw no reason to do otherwise.
More than six decades later when Barrow won the snooker championship at the Canadian Senior Games, Barrow's mother was completely turned around on the idea of her daughter hanging out in pool halls. She couldn't have been more proud.
Barrow had a philosophy for life. "She used to say there were three ways to do things: the right way, the wrong way and Shirley's way," Barrow's daughter Deyanne Davies said. "If you did it her way, it always worked out."
As her family moved around Montana, Barrow taught her three children how to fish, hunt and play pool. It was tough love but all three of them said they were thankful.
She would put rocks in their backpacks during spring training hikes so that by summer the kids would be in shape for the hiking season. To teach them to drive smoothly, she would put a cup of coffee on the dashboard and let them drive until the coffee spilled.
If they missed a shot during a game of pool, she would take the advantage and win the game, and then show them how to make the shot.
"She loved and lived life to the fullest," her son Dennis Barrow said. "She would take advantage of any situation. ... Whatever she decided to do, she did it to the max and enjoyed the heck out of everything,"
Once, while on a winter hunting trip with his mother, Dennis shot a four-point white-tailed deer. It was Dennis's job to get the deer down the road and back to the car. Fortunately, the car was downhill and there was snow on the ground, so it should have been an easy haul.
But it wasn't.
Dennis could not figure out why the animal was so heavy. He was young and strong, so he just pulled harder until finally it got to be too much. He turned around and there was his mother sitting on the back haunches of the deer, smoking a cigarette and enjoying the ride.
"She just told me 'keep pulling,' " Dennis said.
For her independence and devotion to life, her children loved her. She made a point of telling them they had to choose their own path and then led by example.
In 1990, Barrow moved to Canada to be close to her daughter.
In July at the age of 74, Barrow was diagnosed with cancer and given two to three weeks to live. Her youngest son Curtis Barrow said she was not ready to go and had too much to do. She lived another two and a half months.
Not wanting to leave her children with the job of sorting out her house, Barrow spent her last days organizing all of her belongings, arranging for donations and leaving directions for what she wanted done.
Via e-mail, she tracked down and contacted 23 of the 25 students who graduated from high school with her and sent messages to the scores of friends she had made across the United States and in Canada. She received hundreds of replies before dying on Sept. 22 in Trail, B.C., Canada.
"You did not meet Mom and then forget her," Curtis said. "Not everyone liked her, but no one forgot her."