The sun shone down with clouds of white fluffy puffs on a background of deep azul. Wind blew swiftly through the car windows as my hand was cutting imaginary paths through the air. – There was a feeling of quiet in the car, as the radio played a George Jones song in the background. It could’ve been any day at any time but it was a beautiful afternoon following a soaking rain. The fresh smell washed away the old, and the day was a start of something new. – It was the start of a love affair that would last a lifetime.
It seems like yesterday when my Mom was packing and crying. The day was still early and the skies opened up watering the earth. – I was normally in bed but something made me get up. It was the sound of bustling and movement in the house and even a teenager could feel the energy. She was leaving my Dad this morning. They never seemed to fit, but our family was intact. She was asking my brother and I if we wanted to go with her. We were going to live with my grandparents and it was only going to be temporary. – He was three years younger, and agreed to go with his voice quivering. – The door swung open and a large burly construction worker walked in the house as it was pouring rain this morning. Funny how the things come together as he would have been working long hours in the elements. – He asked in a calming voice for her to slow and talk, but her mind was made up. As she was packing and crying he was trying to be the voice of reason. – In a little over a half an hour I spoke five words that would change my life. – I said “I’ll stay here with Dad.” – He was my hero and I wasn’t going anywhere. – As I watched my Mother leave with my brother, we stood there for a few minutes until he broke the deafening silence. ” You wanna’ go to River Downs today ? – Go grab a shower, we’ll get something to eat and head over.”
That was my official start of falling in love. – When I was sad I would head to the track. If I made some extra money cutting grass, it was off to catch the Harness races at night. Most of my first dates were at the races, as I figured if they could enjoy the evening we had a real shot together. – The races were my first love and one that would always be there for me good or bad. – I’m not sure what took me back so long ago; maybe it was the pouring rain as I was getting my son ready for school, or possibly the lack of sleep. Either way I was transported to the time when I fell in love.
Seldom is something everything for every need. But racing filled the shoes. It was time well spent with my Dad, the place I was allowed to drive when I was 16-years-old on my own, and the beauty and pageantry that would captivate my soul. – It was a place where I made a few bucks as a parking lot kid; a job that helped me through college, and eventually the work that would call me in many capacities over the years. – It’s fair to say my love has never let me down, and even on the bad days they left with me with eternal optimism to return and experience the joy.
I used to go to the paddock as a kid watching every move of the trainers and owners. To me they were giants and captains of industry. There could have been no higher job in the world. – I dreamed of owning a horse, but that would never come true for a young man with no connections to the game. That was for the people in the know and I couldn’t have been farther away if I tried. – When I met folks over the years who would become lifelong friends, we ventured in and claimed a few cheap geldings. – The first was a beauty who couldn’t run a lick, but that chestnut was the beginning of a new chapter. The next cost a bit more and when we traveled to Churchill Downs to drop in a claim, I was walking on cloud nine. – As I pulled all of my money to buy into 1/3rd, and borrowed every dime I could get my hands on. I was now in the business of being a horse owner. – As I plunked down my borrowed money and watched as State Budget drew off down the lane. I found a new level of love. – As the nasty gelding was bucking and kicking back to the test barn; My Old Kentucky Home played in the background at the conclusion of the day. I was as close to heaven on earth as a young man could get.
I’ve had the greatest opportunities in the world. – It started as a job in the parking lot from the kind words of a family friend who would get me started. I made my way slowly up the ladder, and with no connections to the sport, that is the blue-collar way to finding yourself in the game. – Radio shows, on-air handicapping, and writing about the game have brought joy to my life. To date my favorite job is calling the races and setting the morning line at Belterra Park as I ready to start my fourth year. – Just reading the words made me smile.
Looking back I’ve had one heck of a good time. I won’t be rich and there won’t be a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. But that was never part of the dream for this kid driving in that car with his Dad many years ago. – I was supposed to meet a girl that rainy day so long ago, but the events of the morning would forever change my life. – I did meet my muse and she and I have had a love affair for many years. It’s the kind of love that lasts a lifetime and only the lucky will ever know.