They’re Always With You

by Ed Meyer

posted on July 26, 2016 in Blogroll, General Discussion, Horse Racing, WinningPonies.com | No Comments >>

If you had the opportunity to go to any track in the country and spend it with anyone you wish, who would it be ? The idea started one evening where I just got home after a day at the races and my friend called on his drive home from work. – He is always upbeat and pretty happy but in this day he didn’t have that enthusiastic voice. He was still my buddy talking horses but something was different. As the conversation took a break he told me this was the anniversary of his dad’s passing. – “He’s been gone three years and I still remember our last day together. – Man, what I wouldn’t give to have that day back again.” 

I got to thinking what their day was like. – Did they have a good day ? – Was there a memorable moment that made the day ?- Did they have a beer together and kick back and play the races as friends ? – He really didn’t say any farther than that, and out of respect for my man I wouldn’t dare ask a question about his final time with his father. There are just some things that don’t need to be shared, and that’s what makes them special. – But after we hung up and continued on with the day, his words stuck in my head in a haunting voice. If you could spend the day with one of your track friends who are no longer with us. – Who would you choose to spend the day ?

For me, I have a few that ring loudly. – My first would be my grandpa. – Norman Edward Bruce was a small town guy who loved the races. He was a plumber by trade and horse player by heart. He wasn’t a big player, but still loved to jump in the “machine” and drive out to catch the last three or four races. – My dad would ask if I wanted to drive out and bet the last three races with him and papaw. – There were no sweeter words ever spoken, and I would sit in the backseat as we pulled up to papaw’s house. He had a Dutch Master cigar in his mouth and would have the newspaper rolled up with his selections. – Dad would slip him a $20 and the guys were off to the races. – He would talk about who he liked and these were the few times he would talk like he was with the guys and not with his young grandson. Bawdy jokes, goofy stories, and the anticipation that filled the car all the way til’ we pulled in the parking lot. – The last time I saw him at the races he drove out by himself and bet the early double. – I was working in the parking lot as a young man and he walked about a 1/4 mile over to see me. His gait was slow and deliberate and was never in a hurry. “ Hey, number one boy.” – I was the first grandson and that was my nick-name. We talked about nothing much and he was happy just to see me working at the track. – Every job I’ve ever had at the track I think of Papaw. – He would have thought you were the best no matter what anyone thought. What they said didn’t matter and he was sure he was right. – I thought of him when I pulled into the parking lot to work in the lot. The day I started inside the track as a manager would have been a highlight. – When I did radio shows about racing he would have tuned in to every minute. – The first day you saw my face on TV talking horses he would have watched the screen with quiet joy smoking his cigar. – I thought of him when I stood under the Sycamore tree at Keeneland when I had the opportunity to work at the most beautiful track in the world. – When I started making the morning line odds and announced the races, I knew he was with me. – He’s with me when I win, and in my heart with the tough beats. – Sure miss talking with Papaw.

 

Dad would pick up his Uncle Don which made him my great-uncle. – Those were just words as he treated my brother and I like we were his only nephews and he had about 12. – A quiet man would be an understatement as he never really had much to say. More of a cerebral man who enjoyed reading and fit the rule of ” The ones that know don’t say, and the ones who don’t just talk.” – He would pack away mad money and wait for that call from my dad to head out to the races. When the wait was too long, he would quietly let him know he was ready to go out. – He loved to fish, cook, and tend to his garden. He lived in a modest small cottage with Aunt Millie, and they worked together and the house was always perfect. – When I owned a few cheap claimers he was always on hand to watch them run. Never a bad word when he lost, and wished he would have bet more when he won. – Don was the last of the good guys. – During the month of December, he would make a trip out to the races. There was more than just betting the races as he always gave my brother and I a few hundred bucks each. – Pretty big gift for a guy who saved all his life and wasn’t a man of endless means. I think the money was for my Dad, but he told him to give it to the kids. That started a yearly venture as he would pull in and quietly ask you to stop in later. You knew what was coming, and seeing him was more than just about accepting a gift of money. – “Don’t tell Aunt Millie,  make yourself a couple bets.” – We were the great-nephews and he treated us like his own. His quiet ways and gentle smile were always a welcome sight. With cigarette in hand and flannel shirt and work pants were a reminder of a simple man who was anything but. He read about ancient Chinese herbs, nature, and knew how to fix about anything.  He was a super athlete but would never talk about his days in the sun. That was just fine because every older gent who ever knew him told of his great days on the gridiron. –  He would just sit there and listen with cigarette in hand. – I sure miss Uncle Don, as men like this you meet once in a lifetime.

 

I understand what my friend was telling me. – He missed his dad and it was a void that would never be filled. Thank you for the call on your way home. It took me back to simpler days when things were easier. – Pick up the phone and make that call to the special someone you lost contact with. – Time is a tricky monster. You think you have all the time you want until you reach out to touch them they’re not there anymore. – What I wouldn’t give to take a trip back for a short while. They say the past isn’t a good place to live, but if the memories are sweet. Taking a trip back to the past is a good journey as long as you don’t stay too long. – When I walk into work this week and you see that smile on my face. I may be taking a short journey back to visit a few good folks. I haven’t seen them in quite sometime and I love just thinking they are with me dong what we loved.

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