Friday, May 9, 2008

A Mother's Day for the Dogs.

The year was 1990. It was the Saturday before Mother's Day. I was a 17-year old college-bound goofball with a Terminator haircut and no job.

Four of my friends and I crammed into my dad's Gremlin and, with NWA's Gangsta Gangsta blaring from the speakers, we decided to head over to the Wheeling Downs dog track on Wheeling Island and, hopefully, find someone to buy us a beer.

On the way over, my buddy in the front seat gutted me in the rib with his elbow.

"Owww!" I yelled.

"So, what are you going to get your mom for Mother's Day?" he asked.

I searched my pocket. Out popped a five-doller bill.

"Damn!" I said looking at the wrinked up piece of green paper. "Doesn't look like much."

So, we got to the dog track and ran into another friend of ours, Rod. He was a 16-year old junior at our high school. But he had a bushy mustache that made him look like he was at least 19. Maybe 20.

And man, could this guy bet on the hounds. During this particular day, he had just won his third trifecta [he picked the first, second and third place dogs in the race] and had a handful of $100 bills that he stuffed in his pocket.

Anyhow, while my buddies went walking around to see if they could find someone to get them a beer, I decided to hang back with the gambling dude.

Deep in thought, Rod was looking up at the odds screen and scribbling down little notes about the next dog race onto his program.

I looked around for my friends. They were no where in sight. That's when I decided to make my move.

"Sooo," I asked him nonchalantly. "Got any lucky dogs for the next race?"

Instantly he stopped scribbling, looked down from the screen and then to the floor. Then he let out this deep sigh, glanced towards me, rolled his eyes and shook his head no.

Then he went back to scribbling his notes.

"Dude," I pleaded. "I really need your help. I've only got five bucks and I have to forgot to get my mom a mother's day gift? Can you help a brutha out?"

No response. That's when I decided to pull out my trump card.

"Hey, remember when I drove you down to Bellaire that one day?" I said.

He glanced up to the screen, took a couple more notes, then - without saying a word - ripped off a corner of his program and handed it to me.

"Don't tell those guys," he said as he disappeared into the crowd to presumably watch the next race.

I glanced at the paper and it read "Perfecta 3-8"

Dubious, I went to the window, put five dollars down on the 3-8 perfecta, grabbed my ticket and went searching for the guys.

With ticket in hand, I walked outside and saw my friends who were all holding 23 oz. plastic cups of beers. One of my friends handed me a brew.

"Whatchoo got there," a friend asked pointing to the piece of paper in my hand.

"Ticket," I said. "This year, I'm going to let destiny decide if my mom gets a Mother's Day gift."
The crowd went silent. The bell rang. And the dogs charged out of the gate. The race had begun.

The dogs rounded the track and, wouldn't you know it, #3 and #8 were neck and neck for the lead.

The two dogs passed the finish line at, pretty much, the same time. Photo finish.

Gripping my ticket like Charlie at the gates of the chocolate factory, I waited anxiously for the scoreboard to announce the winners.

A couple minutes passed. Then a couple more minutes. Finally, the numbers lit up on the scoreboard.

Number 3 won. Number 8 showed.

"I won," I whispered as I looked at the ticket and then looked at the screen a couple more times.

"I won," I screamed as I ran to the ticket booth to collect my winnings: $150!

I managed to get my mom a nice bouquet of flowers for Mother's Day and had at least two weeks spending money left over for myself.

However, before we exited the dog track, I ran around the entire Wheeling Downs betting floor [it wasn't that big] searching for the leprechaun who led me to my pot of mother's day gold at the end of the rainbow ... Rod!

Although I've heard he's now racing greyhounds of his own, I haven't seen him since graduation from Martins Ferry in 1990. Thanks buddy!

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