Traveling Quarter Horse Racers

A number of traveling quarter horse racers were discussing their experiences a few days ago at Belmont park when one of them, a grizzled veteran who has known the horse racing game as thoroughly as any man or woman in the country, remarked that people living far from the major quarter horse racing centers were frequently more than able to hold their own.

"Brown and I owned some pretty smart horses - short horses or quarter horses they were called in those days," he said, "and we had beaten everything through Georgia and the Carolinas, those states being our particular stomping ground, when a friend told us that there was quite some quarter racing to be had in Mississippi and lower Tennessee.

"My partner Brown was well-nigh 6 feet tall, but he never weighed more than 130 pounds those days, and he did our riding. There was nobody that I ever saw that could beat him at the ask and answer game, and while we sometimes had to give away a lot of weight when our adversaries would put up a 90-pound cowboy or cowgirl. Brown's skill in the saddle at the start and during the race more than evened things up. And after the race was over and the stakes were to be collected he was equally handy, for nobody that I ever saw could make him take water with or without the gunplay that was in those days an accompaniment of that sort of sport.

"That wasn't all there was to Brown, either. He could put on a pair of trunks and step 100 yards down a cinder path close to evens. You wouldn't think so if you saw him come along today - and he'll be here someday soon, for he never misses a Withers at Belmont - with his gold-bowed spectacles on his nose and his umbrella hanging from its crook on his left arm. That's the sort of man Brown was, and I thought pretty well of myself those days, too.

"We were several thousand dollars strong and had three good quarter horses. One of them, known as the old mare, we regarded as invincible in our country. After hearing about the pickings in Mississippi and Tennessee we planned our campaign, and It was decided that I should do the preliminary work. I took a bunch of common, no-account horses, a pretty fair quarter horse, gray in color, and hired a young horseman and started off for the happy hunting ground, at least that's what we thought it would be for us, but you can't always tell whether you are going to scalp or be scalped.

"I traveled leisurely, selling an old horse out of my bunch or making a trade now and then for a blind, and I had just half a dozen scrubs and the gray horse when I hit the little town of Lauderdale in Mississippi. It was a sleepy, quiet little spot where the inhabitants appeared to take life easy, as the fellow remarked when he saw a family feud settled in the customary way one morning while waiting for a train at Baton Rouge, La.

"I found plenty of folks who would take a drink with me and not a few who were willing to trade horses or even run one a quarter of a mile for a consideration. I let some vague hints get around that my gray could sift sand some, and it wasn't long before I had a match for a hundred to run the crack of the town, a buckskin gelding with a black stripe down his back. They wanted to bet me more money, but I thought a hundred would do for a decoy, and let it go at that.

"Their horse was a mighty shifty-looking nag, with the big-muscled quarters and second thighs that you would expect in a crackerjack at the game, and I kissed my hundred good-by before I threw my horse's rider into the saddle, though I told the boy I wanted to find out just how good the buckskin was. They had a real nice path 800 yards long, straight as a gun barrel, and with plenty of room to avoid crowding. It had been in use many years, and was kept as level as a billiard table.

"It was a pretty fair race, but they beat me. They thought they won easily, but my own judgment was that the old gray had the buckskin pretty well straightened out. This was shared by my rider, and I wrote Brown that night to get ready for the shearing of the lambs. The old mare could beat the gray horse doing anything, and, having secured a line on their candidate, I thought it was all over but going through the process of making another match, putting up the money, running the race, and collecting the easy boodle.

"I told the people who owned the buckskin that I wasn't satisfied, that my horse must have been off, as he didn't run his race, but that I had one at home, and if they were game for another dash I would dearly love to have her brought over. Would they run? For a minute.

"Well, Brown came poking into town a week later riding a mustang and leading the old mare. She carried such a barrel that a person who didn't know her would never credit her with possessing the marvelous speed she had on tap - a quarter in 0:22 1-2 any time you wanted it, with Brown up. They made a few comments when they saw her and one tall chap facetiously inquired where her foal was. We said nothing in reply, except that our money made a noise, and more than $10,000 went up on the match that night, the proprietor of the hotel where we stopped holding the stakes.

"We agreed to run in ten days' time and not a day passed that somebody didn't come along with money to cover. We went the limit of our bundle and had only a couple of hundred dollars left the morning of the race.

"You should have seen that bunch look when we got ready to put up our rider. Brown pulled off his long boots, took off his coat and waistcoat and began fixing his stirrups.

"'Why, jumponanders!' said one of the bystanders - I'll never forget the unique exclamation - 'what are we uns up agin?'

"The old mare knew Brown and his ways like a book. She would stand around like she had no interest in life beyond getting three squares a day until her long-legged pilot was in the saddle. Then there was no sign of sleepiness. She was the finest thing you ever saw.

"They turned a couple of times and the race starter on the buckskin horse says 'Ready?' Those long legs of Brown's wrapped themselves around the old mare's big barrel and she wasn't two feet from the ground when he gave the answering 'Go!' And away they went at breakneck speed.

"The old mare had a peculiar way of twirling her tail as she ran, and it threshed incessantly. At half the distance she had the buckskin by a good length, and Brown was looking back. A few yards further and the old mare stumbled and almost unseated Brown. She lost three lengths or more by this mishap, and when the finishing line was reached, the buckskin's head and half his neck was in front of the mare's muzzle.

"Our mare pulled up lame, and Brown jumped from her back and was anxiously examining one of her ankles when I came up. It was puffed and sore to the touch, and I at once ran up the path to see the cause of the stumbling, for she was exceptionally sure-footed.

"There was a hole in the path about a foot and a half in depth where she had broken through the crust of the ground. It had evidently been made by a root or trunk of some dead tree and had been covered by the soil. Continuous planting of the path had gradually uncovered it and it had been our tough luck to have the old mare break through.

"We never whimpered, and of course had no chance for another match, as they had our mare's form fully uncovered. I felt badly losing my money, and both Brown and I were in the dumps because our mare was ruined, but neither of us minded that part of it half so much as the remark of the man who owned the buckskin, as he tucked our roll of bank-notes away in his pockets. This is what he said to us, and we couldn't talk back either:

"'You horseman surely had the best horse, but I think we out-trained you.' "Now wasn't that horse feathers?"