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Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Material Things

By Clifford Rothband

One of my favorite ditties is Dolly Parton singing Coat of Many Colors. It is about how proud a little girl felt was about a handmade coat made of different scraps and colors and how she handled the ridicule of other kids.

They belittled and called her names but she knew where it came from and often times the labor of love is enough to put the naysayers in there place, if only in our own personal pride.

When I was a kid, our folks put on there best for Shabbus, Friday night dinner, with whoever showed up with or without invitations. Who cared how the interloper dressed even the out of work, hungry cousin with cardboard shoe inserts. There was always another chair, another plate even if Bubby didn't eat.

In my army days, walking in a parade presented a sense of authority. A smile, spit-shined shoes and a clean, ironed uniform meant more than a chest full of colored ribbons.

Thinking back to the era when my Dad, brother and I had race horses, colors, names, breeding meant something. Sitting square and proud on a sulky, the pride of a horse going into a gate – yes, they looked for the gate and seemed to know when it was time to race.

Our stable was built on potential - horses sold off because of injuries or bad training habits. Understanding that a bright star might be there, the track stewards evened out races by setting conditions in categories such as speed, earnings or other traits.

One must remember that, as the saying goes, "every nag has her day.” If there are nine horses in a race, one will win. Whose time to win is what handicapping is all about and is a science, or mathematical algorithm. Let's not forget to extrapolate or dream in exponential terms.

Now, what does my tale have to do with a coat or jacket?

We'd had a winner at Pompano Park race track the night before. I had some extra money and wanted to show off. The next day I go to Grif's Feed and Western Wear where I bought the most expensive, reddish-brown color, white pearl buttons, white stitched suede jacket. The most I ever spent on a single clothing article.

That night we had another entry, a five-year-old mare, Goldie Raider. You never heard of her? She was a qualified pacer, had the breeding. Not a show horse; just enough to get by and earn her oats. Somehow we could read her or persuade her and she brought home the check that night.

Military lesson: supporting the second in command, I have found, is more important than the head person. In this case, walking off and cooling down a horse after a hard-run race are as important as the trainer or person at the reins.

I checked for injuries, hosed and washed her off. Talked her down. So here I am walking through the stall or paddock area. Nine hundred-pound Goldie in a steaming horse blanket, little 150-pound me with a lead and chain attached through a bridle with a small chain over her nostrils.

Out of nowhere dashes a loose horse, a danger to everyone near, including itself. As the intruder passes, by instinct I reach out and grab the bridle, still holding Goldie's lead chain.

I managed to get my left leg over the frightened galloper, now we're headed toward a area of dumpsters. In an instant, an abrupt stop. I fly forward into the manure bin - the acme of dumpster diving.

A crowd forms laughing. The two horses are a smelling me and I swear smiling out loud. Like shoot me! Phew! I was covered. Head to new blue suedeboots. My new jacket.

Needless to say, I had it dry cleaned. It hung in our closet until I found someone who didn't remember the incident. But since then I never bought into showing off again.

So that is another lesson in life that I leave to kids; yours, mine, theirs. Children, they are our immortality.

Material things mean little. I once believed that memories were all we could take with us yet I've learned that like time, they do get lost. So I continue to laugh and smile. I write about what I believe is most important to me including this little poem from somewhere.

To live without pretending
To love without pretending
To listen without defending
To speak without offending.

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


I liked your story very much. Quite a hard way to learn that lesson. And bravo for saving that horse from damage.

I enjoyed your story. Great lesson learned for life. Good to remember!

Great story!

I liked Shabbus most!

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