Three Days

by Ed Meyer

posted on May 28, 2010 in General Discussion | No Comments >>

The people that we meet along the journey of life are what makes it all worthwhile. I have spent most of my life working in racing. I have done every job except scoop the leftovers in the paddock, but I have not been to work in the morning yet. This has allowed me a great opportunity to meet some of the best people in the game. They will not be in the Hall of Fame, but they should be… At least in my heart…

I started my first job running the parking lot. It was a neat job, and I had the best fellas in the world to work with. Most of them were coming from jobs in plumbing, IRS, and a VP at a major bank…. They did it to make extra money, and they loved to bet the ponies.

One job was held by a man I call Carlo…. He collected the $2 from each car as they entered the lot. He greeted them with a “hey-hiddee-ho.” He loved to talk Tennessee politics, and even though he lived in Kentucky, it didn’t matter to Carlo… He smoked one right after another, and would keep a thermos full of bourbon. He told me it was his coffee, and I always knew what he had in that bottle. The more coffee he would drink, the more he would talk. He was as nice as a man could be…He would come in early, and clean up all of the collecting sheds. He would make sure they were all filled up with kerosene for the heaters, as it gets cold in Northern Kentucky. He was a carpenter, and w0uld even do fix-it work without being asked. It wasn’t his job, but it was his love to help people. He loved to call me “big boss man.” I guess because I was younger, and Carlo liked to give me hell… He didn’t mean anything by this, and would always be there hell or high water. He would stay late, or come early. He didn’t care, as he came from a different time, when men didn’t complain. He was a good man… I liked Carlo….It was the saddest day of my life when I had to tell the guys we were going to offer free parking in the lot. No longer would people be greeted by the happy face of this bearded giant. The customer friendly price would have far reaching effects of entering to an empty place, where men used to gather. They finally tore that shed down one day. I think if Carl would have had his way, he would have taken it home and kept it in his basement, and hung out talking to himself, drinking (coffee) and smoking cheap cigarettes…and of course talking Tennessee politics.

I used to work three jobs when I went to college. I would work in a parking lot at another summer track during the day, and was a bouncer/security worker at a music theatre. I would be sweaty and hot, and would have to go next door and work until late in the night. There was a valet who saw me in the parking lot one day. A valet takes care of jockeys’ gear before the races. Dickie asked me if I would like to stop by after work and take a shower in the jockeys’ quarters before going to my other job. I worked with his son John, and he said his old man didn’t want me to smell like hell before I went to my second job. That may have been true, but Dickie just was a nice man who extended his friendship. When I would come in, I would have a towel, shampoo and soap laid out for me. He never cared what time, and would never complain, as I would cause him to stay a little later. There would be a bottle of Gatorade, and plenty of the riders’ deodorant to smell good… Hell, I was just a kid, and Dickie was helping me out…. I advanced in my security job, and Dickie made his way through the ranks at the track. I met him again five years ago, and now he was a placing judge. He heard me call races, and always told me I did great, even if I sounded like crap. He was a good guy, and moved to the cool wave of his own theme song. It was like he had a groove going on. He never got mad, and that is an effort at the track….Dickie moved along at his pace, not yours… He never would say a bad word, and had a smile etched into his face… He was cool. Dickie is the kind of guy who leaves the room a better place than before he came in….

Well, these two men have something in common. In these past three days, they both passed away. Richard Burge passed away at age 75, and Carl Williamson went on to that big parking lot in the sky in his sleep, at age 75 as well….. They were two very different men who passed into my life at the track. They loved what they did, and were men who left the world a better place. I guess if there is racing in heaven, Carl will be collecting at St. Peter’s Downs, and Dickie will be taking care of Willie Shoemaker, Johnny Longden, and Issac Murphy before they leg up in the irons.

I will miss these two men. The sport is a better place for having the likes of these guys. They were real men who didn’t complain, and wouldn’t know what a manicure, tailored suit, or a night at the ballet was about… They were a throwback to the days long gone. You will go to the races and never think a beat had been missed. This is how they would have wanted it. They didn’t care about the hoopla that surrounds big events. They had a job to do, and they did it well….