Tales From the South: A Trailer Win



Horses racing at Oaklawn

Photo courtesy of Arkansas.com

Dad and I loved horses. He liked to read up on the Thoroughbred lines and racing forms. I worked with my horses in hunter/jumper and dressage, showing now and then. Every once in a while Dad would get the urge — usually on a Friday — and take off work and ask me to go with him to the races. I always jumped at the chance. My dad had a knack for picking winners.

I remember one such trip vividly. On the drive to Hot Springs, Ark., in his van I glanced over at Dad. His standard cap was cocked back on his head, exposing a part of the bald dome. Fringes of fine black hair curled up from the back beneath the cap. Far as I can remember, he had the pencil-thin black mustache, and his WWII photos included that even back then. Standing at 5’9”, he was barrel-chested with a slight paunch and fine-boned wrists. Being of Cherokee and some Scotch-Irish descendent, he was as dark as my mother was fair. We talked about horses the entire trip. 

He never knew a stranger and nearly everyone was a friend. He treated everyone like he wanted to know them. Once we arrived at the Oaklawn racetrack, knowing of his hours of studying the race forms in his office at work, I wondered what horses he’d picked out already. I was soon to find out.

We got to the betting windows, and sure enough, he won the first race, placed second in the second race and won again with the third, not doing too bad at all. After throwing my tickets away, I watched as he cashed in at the window, my eyes widening as the stack of hundreds grew in his hand. He looked at me, flashing a pleased grin. 

I told him I hope one day to win enough money to buy a horse trailer. But I never had much luck at the races and figured I would get one within a year or so. I was tired of asking for a ride to the shows. We walked out of the gates of Oaklawn amid the crowd and headed down the highway in the sunset.  

It was not until we got back to Little Rock and he stopped at his business —where I also worked — and I got out to switch to my car that he told me to come on by the house for dinner. I followed him to my parents’ house and walked in where he stood with my mother, holding the roll of cash in his large hands. She started to reach for it, and he looked at me and said, “Son, think this will be enough to get you that horse trailer you want?” 

I got my horse trailer a few days later. I wish I had a picture of us standing by it, but I do have another reminder sitting on my table. 

I have a photo of Dad standing at the sideline, displaying a roll of cash and with a pleased smile on his face, wearing the black leather jacket and the orange cap — and of course, a red flannel shirt. It was one of the last photos of him. 

Hewie F. Walker died suddenly at home on Easter. A few days later, my mother found a roll of cash in one of his trouser pockets, a silent testimony to a recent win at the races.

 


 

As an official sponsor, along with Argenta Arts Foundation, of "Tales from the South," a radio program taped each Tuesday at Starving Artist Cafe in North Little Rock, Ark., featuring southerners telling their own true stories, AY brings you this monthly feature of highlights from "Tales from the South." The program is broadcast Thursdays at 7 p.m. on KUAR (FM89.1) in central Arkansas. You can find it streaming online at kuar.org; or listen along with 140 million European listeners on World Radio Network Sundays at 9 a.m. at wrn.org. For more information, log onto talesfromthesouth.com

RF (Rob) Walker is a fifth generation Arkansan. Walker was born deaf — art was his first mode of communication with his family to “voice” his needs and wants. A graduate of Gallaudet University, he continues to pursue his studio work and writings while living in Little Rock with Bailey, a Boston terrier and Mackie, a Bengal cat.

 



 

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