Where I write

Where I write

October 31, 2013

Take me Out to the Race Track

When I was a kid, I always thought of a horse race track as a mysterious  and scary place where men drank and smoked cigars and gambled. (No this photo wasn't taken when I was a kid. I'm not THAT old).

If women went to the horse race track, I assumed they were tough broads, who wore red lipstick and drank bourbon.  The closest race track to my childhood home was Arlington Park, and once or twice my friend's dad took us there.  I remember it was very a big place, with a lot of old men. At the time I felt intimidated just thinking about all that money being spent by grownups on, of all things, horses.

I was fascinated, though, by the horses. They were so beautiful, with silky and shiny coats. They ran as if they had wings on their hooves.
Still, I was just a kid. I didn't have money to bet. I was not interested in ordering a yucky cocktail or puffing on a cigarette.

As I got older, and started wearing red lipstick and cocktails tasted pretty darn good,  I maybe went to a horse race track once or twice. There remained an aura about them that didn't appeal to me. I  didn't understand how to bet on horses, and I didn't like losing money. Yet, when I did go those few times, I loved seeing the horses.

I had this book when I was a little girl, and I never tired of flipping through the pages. We all have a childhood picture book like that, don't we?  I would stare at the gorgeous paintings and try to decide which was my favorite, one day it would be The Arabian, the next the Appaloosa, and the next the Shetland pony. In the book, along with each portrait of a horse, was a story written by Marguerite Henry, a Newberry Award winner and author of such books like Brighty of the Grand Canyon.

I could have cared less about Album of Horses when I left home. I was 20, too mature for such childish stuff like horses. Oh but in later years I would remember the book and so wish I had saved it. And then at a yard sale last Saturday there it was. I bought Album of Horses for twenty five cents. My name wasn't in the cover page, but I felt as if I had found a piece of my childhood again.

But back to the race track. Not only am I not afraid of the race track anymore, I work at one as a bartender...just now and then for special events. Yes there are a lot of men there, but they don't seem so old anymore, and some do smoke, but not inside, and now I'm there pouring the beer and mixing the drinks.  And the women at the race track are in flip flops, t-shirts and drink beer. Not real glamorous. And for the kids there is a playground outside. The race track aura is no longer so mysterious or dangerous to me. I still don't know how to bet, though, so I don't.

The race track in Phoenix was built in 1956, and for the most part, except for technology upgrades, the place has remained the same. Some may say shabby. Others could say retro. I tell myself as I am pouring a Coors Light or mixing a gin and tonic, that I am getting plenty of material for a novel. All types of people like to bet on horses. I waited on three young men who were traveling around the United States going to different race tracks. It was a guy trip. They were happily drinking beer and staring at the television sets.

I asked them, "do you ever invite your girlfriends with you on your race track trips?" The one guy said, "Nope. They'd want to talk." Right.  Conversation. Why would women think that talking might be fun. Anyway....

This is more what gambling on horses looks like today. I can work an entire shift and not see one horse, even if they are racing on the track right outside. Some people just stay inside and watch the screens.

I think it's more fun to be outside and watch the horses run. Here's the view of the track from where I work. Because of the heat, the horses don't run in the summer in Phoenix. It's  pretty in the winter. This is what winter looks like in Phoenix.

In my Album of Horses book there is a painting of the Thoroughbred horse. When I look at it now, I think of the race track. Marguerite Henry wrote, "thoroughbreds are big in heart, high in courage, and they go on to finish the race." I hope I can be like a Thoroughbred, even if I get too old to physically race.

Finally, when I was a kid, this is the kind of woman I pictured went to a horse race track. Perhaps this is the kind of woman, a man hoped went to the race track, too, especially if she didn't like to talk.


Sheila Storm said...

Love the ending.

Rita A. said...

Great post. I'm so glad you found the horse book. It's wonderful to have a piece of your childhood, even if it's just a replacement.
I've never been to a horse race. I'd surely be outside cheering on the prettiest horse even if he isn't the fastest.

SunsetCindi said...

I love the horse track even tho I'm not good at betting. I just bet a few dollars on the names of the horses, whichever one sings out to me. And I love to have a beer and pretzel and sit in the sun and watch the people. Need to get out there again soon. Have fun and love your post.