The Black Cloud
They took no notice, at first, of the $500 black Taurus and the dented pickup with the rusted trailer rumbling out of the rolling green distance. Not the ladies in flowered hats chatting in the big white party tent, nor the sportsmen gathering their helmets and whips. Not the tanned elderly men tethered to tiny purebred dogs, nor the white-jacketed waiters preparing pâté and tumblers of vodka, crushed ice and pink lemonade. ¶ Faintly, at first, came the boom-cha-boom-boom ... boom-cha-boom-boom. The $500 black Taurus and the dented pickup turned off the country road and cut through pastures framed by white fences--rolling thunder drawing nearer and louder until even the party boys on the picnic blankets near the playing field turned to see what was coming. ¶ The rap music stopped. The two vehicles halted. Out tumbled a couple of black teenagers wearing 'do-rags, cornrows and gold stud earrings, a swarm of small black children, four yelping dogs, four hand-me-down horses, two iguanas, a boa constrictor ... and a white woman. ¶ The black kids sprayed in all directions, the horses clattered off the trailer and the dogs darted among them all, playing nip and chase. The white woman rubbed out a cigarette, raised two fingers to her mouth and emitted a whistle that froze every creature in her caravan. "Get your boots and whites on!" she barked. "Where's the hose, where are the buckets?... Son of a biscuit-eater, who's tacking this horse?... Tuck your shirts in!... Freakin' ragtag!"
The spectators peered from behind their sunglasses, their beers and their laced lemonades, their expressions no more strained than that of anyone watching a cloud of flies land upon his bowl of whipped cream.
America's only black polo team took the field.
The White Woman
The umpire rolled a wooden ball among them, and suddenly a posse of black kids from Philadelphia's worst streets, wielding mallets and riding 1,000-pound beasts, were going hell-bent-for-leather against a team of white millionaires.
There must've been at least one good reason why the white woman was obligated to advise opposing clubs before she arrived that her players were African-Americans. It just never occurred to her. Lezlie Hiner simply showed up with her kids, organized them with that foghorn bark and that ear-shredding whistle, relaxed them with a wisecrack and that laugh, that crusty eruption of who-gives-a-rat's-ass merriment over the mischief she was making in the world. "Play the man, not the ball!" she bellowed as her players roared past, 'do-rags flapping in the wind. "Push, push, don't be a wuss! Get the lead outta your ass!"
Don't be a wuss? Get the lead outta your ass? How did it come to this? How did a white woman end up yelling that to a tattooed, bearded, cornrowed, 6'1", 220pound black teenager named Lonnie Fields, from a neighborhood called the Bottom, who actually had two lead bullets in his ass?