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Character Comedy in the Backstretch
Bill Bryan
April 12, 1965
Goofy Gamble, Old Tom and other racetrack eccentrics flourish in a closed and unpredictable society
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April 12, 1965

Character Comedy In The Backstretch

Goofy Gamble, Old Tom and other racetrack eccentrics flourish in a closed and unpredictable society

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"Not too bad," he said. "Only you gotta watch him—he lugs in a little."

That is what I call real racetrack detachment, the kind that puts the outside world in its place. You see it manifested in many ways. Take geography, for instance. The usual kind of map is useless around a racetrack because its reference points are state capitals or populous cities unrecognized along the backstretch.

One warm sunny morning at Sunshine Park in Florida, I was leaning lazily against my car, which was parked near a barn on the backstretch. Under the shed a tall Negro hot-walker was slowly cooling out a horse. Each time they came past me, the groom's eyes would stray to my license plate, and he would read aloud, " Vermont."

Finally on one trip around he gave a small tug on the halter shank, stopped the horse and spoke directly to me.

"Just whereabouts is this here Vermont?" he inquired.

We stared at each other blankly for a moment. I was not at all sure I could explain where Vermont was.

"Were you ever at Rockingham?" I asked.

"Yeah. I worked there for Mr. Don McCoy one time," he said.

"Were you ever at Saratoga?" I continued.

"Was there lots of times when I worked for Dixiana," he told me.

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