Way back before the hubby was "the hubby", and he was simply "the guy I just started seeing" he occasionally played the ponies. Seems that a man he worked with had the inside scoop at the local horse track, and they would stop by on the way home from work. I had never been before, so one night we went. With just one glance I knew right off which horse I would be betting on. Big Courage. With a name like that, the horse was destined for greatness, I figured.
"That horse is a loser. It's never won. Look at the odds.", my future husband told me. Since I had no idea what he was talking about my response was pretty quick.
"I don't care about any of that. Look at his name. Big Courage. I want to bet it all on him."
"Bet it all on a horse that loses every time? Are you sure you want to do that?"
And so, while the man that would one day win my hand in marriage, waxed poetically about things like "the odds" and "win, place or show", I listened wide-eyed, hanging on his every word. And waiting for him to finish speaking so that I could say, "Did you see that guy with the waffle fries? Those are my favorite. Let's go get some."
I couldn't be talked out of betting on Big Courage. It could be true that race horses don't earn their names by displays of their personalities. It could be, but I wasn't betting on it. Surely, a horse with a name like Big Courage had the heart of a winner.
We settled in to watch the race. The gates open and my horse is slow to leave. It appeared that he got spooked. While everyone cheered for their picks, no one within earshot was calling out for Big Courage. I alone cheered that big, brown horse in last place. And then, like a scene out of a Hollywood movie, Big Courage gained some ground. He passed one horse and then another. The other horses appeared to be moving at the speed of snail. Big Courage passed them all. All but one. A giant black horse that reminded me of my favorite childhood story, Black Stallion. Blackie, I'll call him, was in the lead and he wasn't willing to give it up. Big Courage tried his best. Blackie lead by barely the length of his own body, but it was a distance that had to be breached if Big Courage wanted to cross the finish line first. As it became clear that only two horses were in line to win, the crowd changed their chants. Everyone that had already lost their bets took up the cheer for Big Courage. As unlikely as it seems that the horses could understand what was going on in the stands, it really did appear that the two competitors were responding to the crowds. Blackie fiercely fought for his hold on first place. You could see it in the display of rippling muscles, the way he held his head, the tension filled posture of the jockey. Big Courage appeared to be flying with his hooves never touching the ground. The two were neck and neck. The finish line loomed up ahead. As hard as those two horses raced, as seamlessly as the two jockeys made themselves one with their mounts, as great a race as it was, in the end there can only be one winner. And we had to wait to see who that winner would be. A photo finish. The crowd held a collective breath. When the photo popped up on that screen the place went wild. Somehow, someway, Big Courage had taken the lead at the last possible second. He won the race.
In the stands I was going wild. Jumping up and down, I grabbed my guy's shirt and shook him like a little rag doll, screaming in his face the whole time. The funny thing was, in those first minutes, I wasn't excited because I had won some money. I was screaming for Big Courage. Because as that horse stood in the winner's circle with a necklace of roses draped around his neck, it really did look like he was smiling and holding his head up high with pride. It was easy to imagine that Big Courage knew he was getting his moment in the sun. As if, all along he had been waiting for the chance to show someone what he was made of. And, given the chance he rose to the occasion. Big Courage, indeed. I now realize it was himself he had been wanting to prove some thing to.
This is the true story of my first experience with a horse race. The next time we went to the race track it was several months later, and the hubby had gone from "the guy I just started seeing" to "the one". We joined in with a few friends that were going to a different race track. It was a pretty boring day. No great horse races. No high winnings. No waffle fries. It was the last time I ever went to a racetrack. Nothing could ever compare to that first trip and I didn't want to try. Now, every May, my husband's step dad places some bets on the horses competing in the Kentucky Derby. He assigns us each two horses and we all sit around the t.v. waiting to see who will win. After all, we do live in Kentucky, y'all. I've never won again. Just that one time I took a chance on a horse, that in print seemed like a loser, but had the heart to match his name.
I tell this story because of something that I did this week. I sent off a query letter to a literary agent in regards to a child's story that I wrote. The story has been sitting in a drawer in my nightstand for years. I've been afraid to let it see the light of day. Afraid that if I try to sell it I will find out that it's not as good as I think. Afraid that my fears will be realized and it will be proven I've no talent for anything. You see, in print it would appear that I'm a long shot to win. I've never been published. And, after several interviews for jobs it seems that I have no real marketable skills, either. But, like that horse from sixteen years ago, I've got some big courage and I'm going to chase that childhood dream of mine. I'm going to prove to myself what it is I'm made of.