Sam Lacy 11

Sam Lacy

As I continue my journey through the life of Hall of Fame sportswriter Sam Lacy, I find myself taking nostalgic looks at my own life. I was visiting with my deceased cousin’s wife, Sheila and her brother, Doug when a topic popped out of the conversation.  Doug had quite a colorful life which led him to a choice between the military or a visit to the house of slamming doors.  However, his indiscretions were more on side of mischief than crime.

The story that prompted this memory took place when Doug was a young teen.  After school he joined a huckster (vendor with a horse drawn wagon) and worked with him to make a little cash.  After their day’s work, Doug was tasked with taking the horse back to the barn. Shirley and their older sister Amelia were often embarrassed when they emerged from school to the sight of Doug holding court from the back of this flea-bitten horse.

One of Sam’s escapades immediately came to mind.  Sam had an after school job with a huckster with a horse.  Sam kept the fruits and veggies rotated, and helped the customers with their selections.  It was customary at the end of the day to return the wagon to a shed and take the horse to the barn.  This was the job of the huckster, and Sam would sometimes ride along on the back of the horse.  Came the day when after putting the wagon away, the boss told Sam he had business elsewhere and Sam would have to return the horse.  This was supposedly no big deal, but as soon as the horse realized that his rider was inexperienced, he broke into a full tilt gallop heading home.  Sam described this as a white knuckle moment, and had to resist the urge to check his shorts to make sure all was well.  The next encounter Sam had with horses was behind the rail at the race track.

As did quite a few of his stories, this story tickled my memory of an episode with a horse.  During the summer I would go away to camp.  A lot of kids would get homesick at this experience, but I took to it like a duck to water.  I gained “junior counsellor” status and enjoyed some privileges other campers could only envy.  I was a junior lifeguard at the pool, a supervisor at the boating facility and a road guard (who insured the safety of campers crossing the road that ran through the middle of the camp).  I even had a short stint as bugler.  This turned out to be a nightmare, so I moved on.

The one thing I needed to round out my résumé was that of being a  pony boy.  We had a stable of ponies and a JC was assigned to each horse.  Mouse (one of the pony boys) was feeling a little poorly and asked me if I would take his horse for the day.  “Yes sir, buddy,” I enthusiastically replied.

I went to the stable with an ear-to-ear grin on my face.  As I was saddling the horse there was a clue staring me in the face which I either ignored or didn’t notice: the horse’s name was Dynamite.  He had the name and the personality to match.  We got along quite well for most of the morning, and then I decided to take a page from my favorite TV cowboy’s book.  As I was about to mount the horse to take him to the next station, I grabbed the saddle horn and tried to do a swing up mount like they do in the movies.  The horse sidestepped, and as I lay in the dirt gazing up, the horse was looking down at me as if to say, “What the hell is wrong with you?”

From that day on, I joined Sam at the rail at the track.