One More for the Good Guys!

I finished another day and stopped by the race book. The usual suspects were in the same places, and if there was ever a place that felt like groundhog day, this was it. Stopped by to make one or two bets, and maybe a little talk depending on who is in the house. I was watching Santa Anita, and the horses had just crossed the line. In the quiet of the early evening, I heard a weakened voice start yelling as loud as his age would allow. it made me smile, and I started thinking that would be me someday. As the older gent made his way to windows to collect, I saw he was walking with a cane. He was having trouble, but he was determined to make it. As he reached the clerk, he extended a handful of tickets with a smile that could light up the room. I was just about to leave when the gent with all the money caught a glimpse of my face, and shouted “Hey, Ed. come over here!”


At first glance I saw an older face smiling, but after a minute or two. I realized I’ve known this man for years. Bill used to be a regular at Turfway Park years ago. A railroad man by trade and family man by the love in his heart. When he told me his boys used to play ball at a local high school, not only was I happy to hear the story, I remember what great athletes they were. “They put a whooping on this player many games.” – Good family, and played by the rules. I guess that’s what makes it the toughest to take. You can’t complain when the other team beats your butt fair and square. Bill had left the area and went down to southern Kentucky. He had moved in with his mother to take care of her in her final years. “My wife passed on, and the boys are married and moved all around the country. She was all alone, and I’m the last of her boys.” I can still here the words as the extra large man with a heart twice his size was left the place he loved.


He was now in Franklin, Kentucky. His Mother had a nice three bedroom ranch that was close to everything. Even a little track with a one-of-a-kind OTB, Kentucky Downs. Named for the famous duels that took place in history,  it was smack dab on the Kentucky / Tennessee border and was illegal to duel with pistols in Tennessee. The most famous gent who drew pistols at thirty steps was General Sam Houston. Bill would step out and make some bets, run errands, and take care of his Mother. I met up with him over the years as Turfway, Churchill, and Keeneland owned the track called Dueling Grounds. They renamed the facility, and I was sent down by Turfway to oversee operations Friday – Sunday for almost a year. Every time I saw Bill, he would come up and give me a big bear hug. Some men aren’t just satisfied with a handshake. “Ed, what are you doing now?” I told him I called the races and set the morning line. He was almost as happy when he hit the big winner at Santa Anita! “Billy, what brings you back this way?”


He took off his glasses and sat back. I noticed he lost at least 100 pounds, and was a much smaller man. “I’m sick, Ed. I have stomach cancer. I came back this way to be close to one of my boys who transferred to Cincinnati. You know I love my boys, and now they make trips to see the old man!” He was as honest as the day is long and didn’t dilly-dally about his condition. He was not a complainer, and he wasn’t about to start now. Just get it out there and move on as he said. I’m trying to see some of the new tracks and casinos within driving distance. “You know I have always loved to bet, and some things aren’t ever going to go away!”. He was building his bankroll, and had won quite a bit of money over the past month. “I just won $1,800, and it’s all going into the pick-four, and on American Pharoah in exotics. He won’t pay much, Ed. But I think he may be the next Triple Crown winner.” I would sure like to see one more.


He reached for my hand and told me he was ready to leave, but the walk to meet his ride would take some time. “Getting old is hell, Ed!” I slowly walked with the man, and waited in the valet area where his daughter-in-law picked him up. “She’s a winner, Ed. My boy is one of the luckiest guys in the world. I told him he better treat her like a queen, or I would kick his butt!” He reached out and hugged me. It was not the bear hug I was accustomed to over the years, but this one was filled with more feeling. “Great to see you, Eddie. I’ll be up Saturday, and be sure to stop down after work. I’ll be listening to you, and can’t wait to watch the big horse roll.” I watched as the truck pulled away and my thoughts took me back. One of the good guys for sure, and the places we met over the years were filled with a big bear hugs and enjoyable conversation. I sure hope your pony rolls this weekend, Bill. I would love for you to see another Triple Crown winner.