Talking Turkey

by Ed Meyer

posted on November 23, 2021 in Blogroll, General Discussion, Horse Racing, | Comments Off on Talking Turkey

During my years of working in racing, you could always count on every holiday being a day at work. – No bitching, like many folks in the entertainment industry, dining, get the same plan. It’s just part of the job. We get to ensure you enjoy yourself with everything in place, and miss out on getting to sit in a Norman Rockwell painting with family and friends.

For me, it worked out great. My family used to wait the few extra hours and we would all eat together. – Still plenty of football to watch and seconds were a plenty at my mother’s table. – Naps are optional, but once I hit 40, they became part of the day. Family celebrations, but just a little later. Not much of a problem, I suppose, and you still had the opportunity to watch the quality racing action.

On the backside folks who tend to the horses stay and finish work. – Over the years, I would stop back at a barn or two and take part in a wonderful Thanksgiving feast. Workers far from home and some without family near would belly up to the makeshift tables complete with all of the goodies of the season. Talk and laughter filled the air while many enjoyed great food and even better company. This time was special. – If you traveled and just followed your nose you would smell the culinary delights of many countries. Specialties and celebratory foods mixed in with a little traditional food from their new adopted home. If you enjoy a cocktail or two, there was never a shortage of punch and sweet tequila to get that inner-festive spirit going.

Father Frank Niehaus had a heart of gold. Father could put the squeeze on local merchants for donations, clothing, and toys for the kids like a mafia hit man with a halo. Father Frank’s Backside Works of Mercy tended to the workers who raised families, and lived on the backside. – Father would always speak to what they needed. “Do you need a coat? Sox? How about some soaps and shampoos?”- Father not only tended to their spiritual needs, he was a “bulldog” who feverishly gathered items all year long. – If he were a salesman he could have sold ice to an Eskimo. Great man wouldn’t begin to scratch the surface. – From the first time I met this wonderful man I was in charge of the parking areas. That being said, there were always five to six huge winter coats, windbreakers, gloves, and one year an extra kerosene heater was ordered by mistake and Father took it off my hands with a hearty laugh and a shared cigar together.  – He would stop by my office from time to time and just talk. He wanted to know how I was doing and what was going in my life. With cigar in hand and a love of betting the ponies, I doubt I’ll meet another like him. Giant of a man with a soft side that could melt your heart. God Bless, Father Niehaus.

Working at the track in many capacities over the years gave me the opportunity to see many wonderful acts of kindness. – There is so much more going on than the just taking care of horses. It was an extended family of travelling souls trying to make a living while enjoying the beauty of life. – There are many backstretch programs in place, and if you contact your local racetrack, they will gladly accept a donation of many kinds to care for those who could use a helping hand. – If you love the races and the sport of kings, make a donation that is sure to warm your heart and help others in a time of need.

As we approach the “turkey day” celebration, take moment and think of those who are less fortunate. A little goes a long way, and the smiles of the children as they get to unwrap a toy will allow you to share in the joy of the season. From our family to yours, Happy Thanksgiving from your friends at Winning Ponies!