The Farm Dog
Every day, Gus becomes a bit more and more of a farm dog. He goes out into the pasture, hangs out with the donkeys, follows Maria around as she does her chores, and sits in when she has her chats with her beloved donkeys. Maria is the center of a love circle that defines and inspires our farm.
Gus has joined the circle. Today, Dr. Jack from Hoof N'Paws is coming by the farm to give the donkeys their rabies and tetanus shots. Tonight, Maria and I are going to see "The Clean House," a comedy at the Williamstown, Mass., Theater Festival. I often miss the things New York City offers, yet we sit in the middle of some remarkable communities – Williamstown, Mass., Bennington, Vt., Dorset and Manchester, Vt., Saratoga Springs, and Glens Falls, N.Y. and the Adirondacks.
There is plenty to see and do.
Almost everything is 30-45 minutes away, but that no longer seems like much of an inconvenience, and it takes longer than that to take the subway around Manhattan sometimes. I'm getting an itch to go to the race track in Saratoga soon. The season opened July 21.
I haven't much written about it, but for a time in my young life, I made a living betting at racetracks up and down the East Coast, from Hialeah outside of Miami to Saratoga Springs, which is close to our farm. I never won a lot of money or lost a lot of money, a good record for a betting person. I always made enough, and a little more. The trick was to do your homework, be restrained and willing to quit the second you made enough money for dinner and a hotel.
Last night, I had a beautiful dream about going to the track. I I must have been at Hialeah, there were palm trees and a sunny sky, and waiters in tuxedos and gorgeous women with their binoculars, pink flamingos flying overhead, gangsters and the tanned rich from all over the world. I was drinking a rum punch, my favorite drink down there (I had a favorite drink at each different track). I had just come from the paddock where I always sent to look at the horses and see who looked spirited and who was too skittish to bet on.
I remember in the dream that I bet $100 on a horse named Golden Arrow to win in the fourth race
I must have won something, because the crowd was on its feet cheering and I was yelling and clapping and holding up my ticket. I could go crazy cheering the horses on. My best friend at the time, Al, an award winning reporter and gambling addict was standing next to me, he had lost again, owed a lot of money to his bookies and looked like crying. Then I woke up.
The beautiful park, once considered the most beautiful track in the world, has had a sad and difficult history recently, it was closed, then re-opened as a casino and quarter horse track. The stables were demolished and of the complex is in disrepair. There are no flamingos any more.
It was my favorite place in the world for a few years, I used to drive through the night to get there, and I miss it still. I was startled, my eyes got moist as I was writing this. I dislike nostalgia, I see it as a trap, often an illusion. We always think the past is better than the present, but I love the now, and that is where I live.
I don't go often enough to the track now to bet too much, but Maria has had a string of good luck when we have gone. When I get the itch, I need to scratch it. I love the life I had playing the tracks, hanging out in bars, the stables, the paddock, the clubhouse, meeting some amazing men (and women.) At some point, I settled down to my career as a newspaper reporter, and then got married and had a child.
The track had no place in that life, I thought, so I gave it up. And I loved reporting as much or more. There was a broader acceptance of what the truth was, then, and we always thought we were truth seekers.
I have had a lucky life in many ways, I've always loved my work, for all of the inevitable bumps. In life, danger is always at the threshold. The goal is to open up to the mystery of your own life.
I smile whenever I think about the friends I made and the beautiful horses I saw during my track years. I suppose it was my first introduction into the animal world. I want to always have a rich life I look back on fondly.