March 30, 2011
Each of us has days which are of particular importance to us. Sometimes they are birthdays or anniversaries. For me the day is March 31. It signifies the birthday of the most moving force of my life and it also happens to be the day I hit a big pick-six at Aqueduct, which enabled me to buy a home in Hot Springs just when I needed one. Yes, this is my most important day.
In saying this I do not intend to denegrate such days as my own birthday, the birthdays of my children, the day Kennedy was shot, 9/11 or any other significant day during the past 66 years I've been alive. But guys tend to forget days of importance. Girls remember birthdays of everyone. And don't even think of forgetting your wedding anniversary if you're married.
But for me March 31 is the one day I never overlook. My father gave me the best advice once upon a time. It's not that he took me aside and was being a teacher. My father just spouted off his philosophies to whoever would listen. He is the one who said to me "If you show up for work everyday and get the job done, it's pretty hard to fire you." He also said what others have been quoted as saying, "The harder I work, the luckier I get."
Now don't get the idea that my father was perfect. Far from it. When he was behind the wheel of a car every other person was his enemy. He never flipped anyone off in my presence, but it's a good thing they couldn't hear the names he called them. He was also the one who, when he was holding me up while teaching me to ride a bicycle, turned and ran when my Mother said someone wanted him on the phone. I prodeeded to crash into a telephone pole and was some time getting back on that bike. We disagreed on lots of things, religious, economic and political. He was a closet discriminator. But he also was a great caregiver to my Mother in her time of need and I really felt for him, suffering from depression late in life when the car keys were taken from him. I learned many lessons from my Father. Most of them were good. They all served to shape my life and give me a great sense of customer service.
On March 31, 1995, I hit a pick-six at Aqueduct which provided me with more than enouigh funds to purchase the house I now live in on West Mountain in Hot Springs, just one mile from downtown and five minutes drive from Oaklawn Park. Julie Krone rode the sixth winner that day and she will always be important to me just because of that. My friends all said "too bad" when they heard that I had Julie's mount in that race at Aqueduct and not the solid favorite, being ridden by a good friend, Chris McCarron.
But Julie went to the front and never looked back. I was able to cash the biggest ticket of my life and it was just after Oaklawn had offered me full-time employment. I had been on the road, including seasonal employment at Oaklawn for 20 years. Simulcasting had grown to such a point that there was full-time employment for a guy with my abilities. I signed on immediately. Then came the pick-six. The house came with some furniture, but I was able to go out and buy more. I've been able to host many great folks at my home and that might never have happened had I not invest $16 in the pick-six at Aqueduct on that Saturday afternoon.
This year, on March 31, I'll call my sister and we'll sing a long distance "Happy Birthday" to our deceased Dad and laugh about it and some of the funnier incidents of his life. Then I'll go to work and root for a horse named Jenny's Touch to win the 7th race. That's because every week at Oaklawn, on Thursdays, Oaklawn and Little Rock tv station KATV allow me to wager $100 to win on the horse of my choosing. Any winnings go to the American Cancer Society, a source close to my heart. My Dad died from lung cancer and my sister is a longtime breast cancer survivor. Since I've been the local chairman of the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life in our town since its inception in 1999 and Oaklawn has hosted the event since 2004 (missing one year while we constructed the Gaming Center), taking whatever means I can to raise funds for cancer research and education has been how I've spent my time away from the track.
It's also how I've managed to dig my roots into Hot Springs society. With the combination of my Dad's inspiring words and my chance to become a citizen of Hot Springs, I've been able to put meaning into my life and work that many have not had the opportunity to enjoy. So I'll be celebrating on Thursday, March 31, more than most. If I can only make a winner of Jenny's Touch in the seventh race, it will be just about perfect.