by Sandra Mizumoto Posey

Haintsville is not what you’d call an inhospitable place. Oh, sure, there are ghosts staring out at you at every turn, but the path is an easy one. I attempt to swing my putter with a sure but graceful motion reminiscent of Tiger Woods. In the 90 plus degree temperature sweat trickles down my temples, a product of heat and concentration. I hit the ball, it skips and skitters in every direction but the hole. I take my putter and scoot the ball toward its destination, pausing to pick it up now and again and toss it through the tunnels. This is my first time playing miniature golf. I couldn’t care less about the rules but I am having about the best time a person could have in this kind of weather.

I quickly realize that Betty Hall, the woman who handed me my putting iron through a small window, is a miniature golf pro. There is no question in my mind that she knows all the rules and plays by them. She’s been coming to the Goofy Golf course in Pensacola, Florida since she was a tyke and says "I was probably one of the first 25 customers." Back then, one round of golf cost just 35 cents. Even as a teen, Betty came up every Friday night when the place practically hopped as a local hangout. As I talk to her, Joel is dropping quarters into the RoadBlasters machine, navigating his way through static-ridden highways, his deft fingers overwhelmed with eighties nostalgia. The game room was much smaller when she was a regular, Betty says, and there were no video games. Pinball bells rang out instead of rockets, and the pool table was a later addition.

Goofy Golf, Betty recalls, was built thirty-nine years ago by a pair of carnival veterans. The redhead and the bald man were a visionary pair who lived in a trailer on the back of the property until they could build the small brick home that still stands there. One by one, the colorful concrete structures came to life: a monstrously large snake set to receive golf balls along its long tongue, the purple people eater, the wooden ant with wire legs dangling above its golf hole anthill, and the princess captive in her castle.

The statues have taken some damage in the last four decades: paint is peeling on some figures and the Frog Man is missing an eye, but the place still runs a steady business in the summer months. Betty had worked in retail management, most recently at a gift shop twenty-five miles away in Perdido Key, but she tired of the drive and now works the counter at Goofy Golf. She lives only a mile away, as she always has, and remembers how she "used to walk up here when I was young." Unlike the painted princess, Betty Hall is far from captive in her air-conditioned booth; the Goonysaurus stares back at her and the two probably share a lifetime of memories. "I enjoy it," she explains, "that’s why I do it. I like the people and the surroundings. It’s just a fun job." I hand back my putter and agree with her that it must be, the dangers of Haintsville notwithstanding.

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