A night at the races
Submitted by Connie Holloway

Daddy was an elementary school teacher which meant that he wasn't paid much. He took often odd jobs in the summer just to make ends meet.

The summer I was ten years old, he took a job as a night security guard at the horse track in Ocean City about 30 miles away. The track was home to trotters and pacers.

On a beautiful summer night, Mother and I went to the track with Daddy and I placed my first bet. Daddy told me to bet on Vicki Dean to show. Mother disagreed saying I ought to bet on her to win as she was the best horse at the track. I was cautious and took Daddy's advice.

We watched the race with anticipation and great excitement. Vicki Dean won coming in lengths ahead of the second place trotter. Mother gave Daddy an "I told you so" look, but I didn't care because the best part of the night was still to come.

Daddy had taken me to the racetrack to spend the night so I could see what went on behind the scenes. After the race, we walked the stables watching as the horses were cooled down and put to bed. I got to see Vicki Dean up close. She was a beautiful dark brown, small in stature but big in heart.

Daddy woke me up before dawn. At first light, a few trainers were harnessing up their horses for a morning run. Daddy and I hopped in our small Fiat and drove right onto the oval track where we slowly circled as the trotters passed by. In the early morning mist, the clop-clop-clop-clop of hooves was all I could hear as, one by one, horse and harness emerged from the fog.

And then it was time to go. Being a typical bratty ten year old, I begged to stay longer. Daddy said we had to go but assured me that we'd come back again. We never did.

Over forty years later, the experience still burns bright in my memory. There were two winners that night: Vicki Dean, and me - because I realized I had the best father in the whole world.