Little Places, Big Memories

by Ed Meyer

posted on December 8, 2009 in General Discussion, News | No Comments >>

My dad used to take me long before I was able to drive; usually on Derby Day, when we would go to a VFW and bet with a local bookmaker in the basement. These were simple times. The time that I was introduced to a small harness track in Lebanon, Ohio.

A half mile oval, and a stretch that was so short, that the runners had to make a move at the 1/2 mark. It was quaint, and had the best roast beef sandwiches in the world. This was the Warren County Fairgrounds, which leased the time to the Lebanon Raceway; a small farmer’s oval that was entrenched deep in family tradition. When you rode through the town, you would have swore you took a ride back fifty years ago. This was Lebanon.

When there was a fire in an old barn,┬áit ravaged many families’ lives to the toll of 43 horses lost. The small community will feel this for quite awhile. Things run deep here, and this may lose front page news, but this will hurt many for the rest of their lives.

Inside the track later that day, you would have walked in to see a handful of patrons watching races from around the country. Even non-racing folks knew this was a blow.

In barn 16, Kayne Kauffman had his twelve runners. The night before, five of them were winners. Now, in the early morning before daybreak, two grooms were gone and many horses. The little track that had prided itself on hard work and family values, was hurting. This was the track that dated back to the 1940’s. There is even talk of racing coming to halt on December 19th due to a stalled Supreme Court decision not to allow slot machines at tracks. For some, even if the game survived, how could they pick themselves up and make a comeback? How can the people who lost friends in this tragic heap of molten metal and burnt wood find themselves again in the game?

Racing is a world within the world. The rules that apply to the rest of humanity get left at the stable gate. There are so many that care for each other. They reach out, and pull their neighbor back to hope. This has been racing. They compete like hell on the track, and have a special love for their own on the backside. This is the magic. This is what makes racing special. I have no doubt, it will take time. But, the others in this family will not see one of their own stay down. A code of sorts if you wish. Never in my life have I seen anything like this, and I doubt I ever will.