Small Town Secrets

by Ed Meyer

posted on November 14, 2017 in Blogroll, General Discussion, Horse Racing, | No Comments >>



Small towns hold mystique and magic of a long-ago novel. They have small gatherings and friendships that last a lifetime. Kids played until the street lights came on and as you drove down any street you could see the inhabitants sitting on the porch listening to the ball game. – I guess it sounds like the place many of us grew up. But with every small town, there are secrets. Some were filled with gossip as others had another side completely.

I was talking to a jockey one day this summer. He was from Boston and grew up about 40 miles outside the historic town. One that was filled with good and bad elements which led his parents to relocate the kids to the country. Close enough for convenience and far enough not to find the streets. – We started talking about races and his career, and eventually, it led to the under-belly sort who imposed their will on how the races would finish.

” We all watched the mob shows about jockeys being paid or intimidated. Some even took quite a beating if they didn’t listen up. We were allowed to make bets on the riders we knew who was going to win. It was the 70’s and pretty much it was still the wild-wild-west. – We pretty much came to our senses and just played ball. It was in our best interest to listen. We were young, dumb and wanted to make more money than we would if we won?”

I’ve watched plenty of movies about the big fix or The Sting. I guess it had a romantic side and appealed to the inner-gambler in me. – My friend is in his middle 50’s and still rides there on occasion throughout the year. “It’s all gone now, Ed. There are plenty of watchful eyes who make it impossible to get by with any shenanigans. Oh, you might pull one off but they have you on a watch list and when you’re caught you’re done. It’s just not worth it anymore. – Anyway, I can still ride and make enough on the square.” – I walked away that day and couldn’t wait until our next conversation. During the summer he would be the first person I saw when I walked in as he had just finished jogging in the morning. It was at varied times we would pick up our conversation and my mob movie watching side was kept on the edge of my seat.

During one of our summer chats, he told me about his hometown. – ” It had a large VFW hall. It held about 2,000 people and was bigger than the three churches all in one place. They had bingo, slot machines and took sports bets from three towns that were local. It was kinda like a small Vegas without leaving home. They had dances for kids and sponsored all of the local ball teams with uniforms and equipment. This little town outside of Boston was a grandma’s heaven for gambling. Pull-tabs and keno and all before the state lottery was legal. – You didn’t have to worry about the cops in the town as they kept watch for outside license plates and strangers looking for fun. – It was the best-kept secret that I’ve ever seen.”

Once the lottery and casinos came within 100 miles of the little Vegas it just withered away. – The town was safe and it had the charm of Mayberry with a secret. – ” Small town folks can keep a secret, and you can bet dollars to donuts it would still be going on if there wasn’t  a bevy of other options within driving distance.”

I always loved the story of the sleepy little town with a secret. It had a charm all of its own and didn’t have the big town problems. – Anytime I see him I always enjoy a chat. Sometimes it’s just about racing and sometimes the story continues.