Sunday, March 4, 2007

Almost Heaven, West Virginia

I went to Charles Town, West Virginia this past weekend. I did the usual things. Toured a vinyard on the way there. Walked a little ways down the Appalachian Trail. Stayed in a Bed & Breakfast. Visited the Courthouse where John Brown was tried. Trekked out to South Charles Street to view the side yard where he was hanged. (It was a field in 1859. John Brown rode to his execution on a wagon seated atop his coffin.) Lost money on the slots. Won money on the horses.

Whoa, you say. Won money on the horses? Well, yeah. Sort of.

First off, sitting in the Charles Town Slots Casino and feeding an occasional twenty into the poker slot machine for two hours really stunk. Literally. Forget the money I dropped, around half a century note. (That's entertainment, right?) My clothes wound up stinking from all the smoke in the dimly lit gambling warehouse. It seemed like over half of the bleary-eyed people perched on stools in front of blinking, chiming and blinging machines were smoking.

After I developed a headache from the incessant noise in the huge gaming hall, I went into the horse racing parlor. It was filled with acrid smoke too. The bettors in there looked pretty much the same except they were blearily poring over racing programs instead of watching spinning bars and cherries flash by in front of their eyes. But at least you could go outside to the racing track.

I picked up a betting handout and studied it. I shortly realized that I didn't have a clue what it was talking about. Exacta, the Box, the Exacta Box, the Wheel, the Exacta Wheel, the Partial Wheel, the Trifecta, the Superfecta, the Daily Double and more. Variations on permutations. How about an Exacta Partial Wheel with six horses? My headache worsened.

Thankfully I run so I know about win, place or show. I placed a bet for horse number five, whom I'd observed briefly in the lineup area outside, to win, place or show. The ticket cost me six dollars. The cashier said horse number five (I never knew his name) was a favorite in the race.

And they're off! Outside, the horses took a lesiurely lap around the track so the bettors could see them once more and get excited all over again. Then handlers stuffed the horses into the starting gate apparatus, and following a riveting pause, the gates flew open and the racehorses charged out. It was majesty in motion as the thoroughbreds swept around the near turn and thundered down the track. Hooves flashing, they ran by amidst a rising crescendo of sound, like a wave breaking overhead. The noise receded as the horses raced around the far turn and went into the final straightaway. Down the stretch they flew, neck and neck. Horse number five came in third. He showed!

Excitedly, I hurried to the cashier and turned in my ticket. She smiled at my success and took my money out of the drawer. She pushed it across the counter at me. $6.20. My winnings.

Remember I said I'd spent $6.00 on this winning ticket? I stared at the five and one and two thin dimes in my palm.

I'd risked six dollars to win twenty cents. Those two coins represented my earnings for more than half an hour of my time. I carefully pocketed the coins, felt them in my pocket, jingled them. I left the track a winner! Is horse betting fun or what?

1 comment:

jeanne said...

Hey, at least you didn't lose $.20. now that would have been a shame! I've been to Charles Town; there's a lovely B&B there, but we skipped the ponies. I bet it's fun watching them. I'm a big fan of Dick Frances and his mystery horse-racing stories. So I think I know something about horse racing. Or about wildly improbable plot lines.