The mean little
man gave me a mean little look. "So this is what they send to cover racing
nowadays," he said, and walked off without answering any more of my
The stable was
shadowy and cool. A dozen stalls lined one side and, halfway down, a horse's
head leaned out, swiveling, brightly interested in his limited little world. A
stablehand walked by, and the horse lunged playfully, trying to nuzzle his
shoulder. The man ducked aside but was still smiling as he passed me. "Ol
Kelly," he muttered fondly, shaking his head.
Kelso?" I asked.
him—the only one still up and around this time of day."
The stablehand was
right. On my way to the great horse's stall, I looked into all the others and
saw only lounging, oat-munching slobs. I stopped at his stall, and he stuck his
head out amiably. I kept my distance, and we looked at each other for several
moments. His eyes were warm and brown with a certain sadness lurking in them,
as if acknowledging the random ironies of life that turn animals into
entertainers and novelists into sportswriters. I felt closer to Kelso than to
anyone I'd met since becoming a journalist. It was the best private interview
I'd ever had. I wished he could have been a former President. I wished he could
hit the inside pitch, thigh high. I stepped closer. He bit me.
It hurt, and not
just psychologically. If I hadn't been wearing a jacket, my arm would have
bled. But there was no time for reproaches. The mean old man was suddenly by my
side, furious, accusing. "You been feeding this horse?" he demanded.
"You think this is some zoo? You think this is some hippopotamus? You git
Back at the
office, I began reading up on Kelso's background and discovered a fact
apparently quite well known to millions but profoundly shocking to me. Kelso
was a gelding! Now I understood the sadness in those warm brown eyes. I forgave
But I didn't
forgive the owner; I decided to phone her. One butler and a private secretary
later a mature and cultured voice greeted me with well-concealed enthusiasm.
Simultaneously, I realized the absurdity of my position, and my outrage over
Kelso's misfortune began to drain away. It would not be easy to ask this
highborn lady why she had gelded this proud and exceptional thoroughbred.
question somehow got asked, to be followed by a silence that would have chilled
an Eskimo skin diver. Then: "I fail to see how that matter could possibly
be of interest to anyone," she said. "And I don't understand why you
had to take my time to have me explain it."
I felt squelched.
I also felt tested. Clearly this was a turning point, and I knew exactly what
had to be done. Glimmering in my mind's eye were the echoes of a hundred
hard-eyed interviewers whose refusal to back away from such moments had stamped
them as tough and unscrupulous. I had only to drop in my polite little piece of
blackmail: "I just want to hear your side of it, ma'am. Otherwise I'll have
to write my own version, and you might not like it." That's what I should
have said. What I really said, in a plaintive, rather squeaky voice, was,
"I'm sorry. I guess I just wasn't thinking."