A Day at the Races (and at the Card Table)

I feel like maybe I should lighten up the level of discourse a little bit for a change of pace. So I am gonna try to tell you about a day at the races yesterday with my beloved family.

A helpful hint to racegoers attending Keeneland. If you want to secure one of the free tables on the second or third floor of the Keeneland grandstand, you best get there when the gates open, at eleven sharp, or a little earlier even. My Dear Ole Dad (DOD, John), Darling Sister (DS, Jan), and I discovered that last spring.

We adjusted our strategy accordingly yesterday. I went ahead of them and claimed us a table. Even though I was admitted to the grounds at about 10:57 AM, even so I was lucky to get one of the last tables available.

I should point out that DOD is 88 years old now and does not walk very swiftly anymore. That is another reason I dashed ahead to claim a table, because he cannot move that fast anymore. Except of course when he wins a game of cribbage. On the rare occasion when that happens, he is still as SWIFT as ever at SNATCHING up the MONEY.

Now most people who show up at Keeneland more than two hours before the first race spend those two hours handicapping the card. Not this family. Once we all reconvened at the table, we spent maybe fifteen minutes looking over the program and making selections for the day. The rest of the time we played some cribbage, three-handed cribbage, about three games before the first race and one game between each of the races.

DOD has a very scientific method of determining his wagers. He likes the dime superfectas that you can box four horses with for $2.40. There were nine horses in the first race. So he took a deck of cards and extracted the ace through nine, shuffled those nine cards, and dealt himself combinations of four numbers. He wrote the combinations down and bet a dime superfecta box on each of ten such combinations ($24). Needless to say, none of his ten combinations came in. He also played the eight-eight (his age) daily double and a few other things. None of them came in either.

DOD repeated this procedure for the second race. Same result. Zilch. For races three and four he consulted the program and tried combinations of the morning-line favorites. Same result. Zilch. After four races he had wagered $123 and collected zilch.

DS wagered a bit more conservatively and was actually up 60 cents after four races. I wagered nothing at all. On the races anyway. Cribbage was the standard $2 a game. We kept the money off the table so as not to annoy security. No need for them to perceive that we were GAMBLING on something other than the races, which would have been ILLEGAL.

We departed Keeneland after four races. That is pretty much standard operating procedure. Four races is about all the family can stand. We repaired from there to the hotel, where we resumed cribbage. The day got better for me at that point, but only because I began the consumption of adult beverages.

A certain amount of foul language is par for the course around the cribbage table. At one point yesterday I said to DOD, “Father Dearest, can you believe the CURSE words emanating from your Darling Daughter’s mouth???? Surely, she never heard such language at 3019 Mickey Avenue (the old homestead where we  grew up)????”

“Not from me at least,” he readily agreed.

A certain amount of reminiscence is also par for the course around the cribbage table. I recalled how Mom, when agitated over card results, would start to exclaim, “Well, shhhhh. . . .” Then catch herself in time and finish up, “Shhhhhhhugar.” The foul language we learned in our youth did NOT come from her . . . usually anyway.

Some more reminiscing occurred over a meal last night at one of Lexington’s fine dining establishments. We recalled Mom’s mother, our grandmother, DOD’s mother-in-law. Maud was her name. We called her Miz Maudie or Mammaw. She was a fierce card player.

She also produced 14 foals and raised 12 of them (twins died at birth), of which Mom was the oldest and the first to marry. Yes, it was a very CATHOLIC family. So DOD was her favorite son-in-law at first . . . if only because he was her ONLY son-in-law at first. That favored status did not last very long.

“Trump that, and I’ll spit in your eye!!!!!” was one of Miz Maudie’s favorite expressions over the card table. You had to think twice before trumping that, which we usually did anyway, albeit with some trepidation. Actually, DOD said yesterday, “Trump that, and I’ll spit in you eye!!!!” originally came from one of his bridge opponents. DOD played a lot of bridge in his time and made life master in 1975. He used the expression once or twice, and Miz Maudie picked it up from him and used it with a vengeance. It became her trademark.

“Blood is thicker than water,” is another expression around the card table. DOD recalled the origin of that yesterday. We were playing Ole Heck around the family mansion. DOD could not win the game himself, but he held the cards that would decide who DID win, Miz Maudie or one of his own progeny. “Blood is thicker than water,” he announced and chose the latter. Yet another reason he was NOT exactly Miz Maudie’s favorite son-in-law.

Miz Maudie enjoyed adult beverages, bourbon usually. Not surprising, since her family owned a liquor store in Meade County, Kentucky. One time when I was about 15, DS about 13, and our youngest brother Johnny about ten (older brother Mike must have been off to college at that point), Mom, DOD, and Miz Maudie (who resided with us at that time) went away for a night or two. They must have thought we were old enough then to be trusted and not require a babysitter (omitting another story from DS yesterday about a babysitter).

Anyway, Miz Maudie had a pint of bourbon in the refrigerator, my eagle eyes noticed. It was about half full. So I poured myself four of the eight ounces and refilled her bottle with Coke and water. I thought I did a pretty good job of achieving the right coloring. She’ll never notice the difference, I decided.

The following weekend when we were gathered around the kitchen table playing some cards, Miz Maudie decided to have a drink. She fixed herself one, took a sip, and immediately exclaimed, “This drink don’t taste right. Somebody’s been watering my booze.” I was never directly accused of this crime, but she was probably smart enough to finger out who was the most likely perpetrator.

Miz Maudie died in 1979. By that time I had graduated from college and was working my first full-time job and living in my first apartment. So I did not hear this story at the time it happened. I heard it for the first time about a year ago.

Miz Maudie was getting old and feeble. DOD and Mom had to take her to the hospital. The hospital recommended that she be put in a nursing home. She needed a lot of nursing attention. DOD and Mom made the arrangements. They informed Miz Maudie of this decision at the hospital one night.

“I ain’t going to no !@#$%^&*(*&^%$#@!!!!!!! nursing home, and you cain’t make me,” was Miz Maudie’s predictable reaction. And she was as good as her word. She died that night, before they could transfer her to the nursing home the next day. Evidently she died of her own volition.

“Are we going to eat and drink or play cards?????” was another expression frequently heard in my youth. One person would pose the question, and the other four or five players would answer in unison, “All three!!!!” DOD recalled yesterday that this expression originated with his younger brother Richard, who died relatively young, around 1970 or so, at age 45 or so. Alcohol was involved in his early demise.

DOD’s youngest brother Louie was also a lush of some renown. After Mom died in 1992, I played a lot of cards with Louie, DOD, and Ginny (DOD’s next wife). Ginny once remarked, “Louie, the only time you ever win at poker is when you’re so darn drunk you don’t know what you’re doing!!!!” Louie died in 2000 at the age of 65. Ginny died this past January at the age of 88.

We recalled some other stories of this nature yesterday, but those are the most amusing ones. I was not having a particularly good day at the card table. In April I had cleaned up, and DS did not win a single game of cribbage all day. The tables were reversed yesterday. I think we played nine games of three-handed cribbage overall, and I won only one of them. DOD and DS had won four apiece. So after I had lost $14 at cribbage and 40 cents at Ole Heck (ignominiously surrendering the lead late in the stretch), I decided to take a smoke break.

“You two should play one last game of cribbage to break the tie,” I told DOD and DS. “I’ll be back in time to see you (DOD) win.”

It did not look good for DOD after I returned from my smoke break. He was trailing by about 15 heading into the far turn. DS was starting to gloat and count the money already.

DS pulled another good (dozen) hand and maintained her lead into the stretch. At that point I told her, “Now that you’re in the stretch, your good hands are gonna dry up.”

Which proved to be the case. DOD was “creeply slowing up behind” (which is yet ANOTHER story). It came down to the last hand. DOD needed nine on his first count. DS needed to peg three or hope he did not go out. She pegged one. DOD pegged a couple and had a surplus of points to claim the victory. We called it a day at that point.

A good time was had by all, even the losers (track or cards). If DOD dies today, he will die a happy camper. Because he prevailed at cribbage over his beloved progeny. He was the cribbage champion of the day.

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2 Responses to A Day at the Races (and at the Card Table)

  1. fmitchell07 says:


    The DOD has an excess of character. Perhaps he should bottle it and sell it in the department stores, eh?

    Was likewise at Keeneland on Woden’s Day but did not venture up to the 3rd floor or other locales. Was mostly outside gazing upon the equines.

    Glad you and family had a good time!


    • ddink55 says:

      Thanks. See you tomorrow. Yes, the DOD has an excess of character. He was supposed to bring down his latest “lady friend,” but she had an emergency and had to decline. Maybe next week.

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