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Teach
11-10-2017, 12:07 PM
As a boy, I loved amusement parks. When I was in elementary school, my parents would take me both to Paragon Park ,south of Boston, and to Revere Beach, north of Boston. I liked all the rides, but I particularly liked the carousel (merry-go-round) with its wooden horses, calliope music and brass rings.

In the early-to-mid 1980s, when I was working as a publicist/backup announcer at MA’s Foxboro Raceway, I had many wonderful experiences; yet, one, in particular, will always stands out --- a ride in the starter’s car.

My “carousel ride” would take shape in the spring of 1984. One week before, I had cleared my presence in the starter’s car with the presiding judge. I also received the OK from the starter and his driver. I remember “my ride” was to take place during a Sunday matinee.

Well, I recall getting into the car on the backstretch. I then sat down in the car’s passenger seat next to the driver. The starter was perched in an elevated position facing the horses and drivers.

I remember the starting-car driver moving his car into position in front of the grandstand (we were a 5/8ths track). I recall the starter saying: “Bring’em up, gentlemen.” Moments later, the car was in motion. I remember that we started off slowly, like a freight train leaving the station. As we made the turn into the backstretch, we began picking up speed. By the time we were about to pull back the car’s wings, we were really motoring.

Just then. before we sped away, I looked back at the horses. They were now just noses away from the car’s wings. Their appearance is still etched in my mind. The only thing I could think of at the time was eight horses charging down the backstretch. I recall in that instant that the horse’s nostrils were flared. Their faces were taut. They seemed fixated. They appeared to know a major task was ahead of them. The horses exhibited the same characteristics that I might have expected of humans: The drive. The intensity. The urgency. It all showed in their tensed faces. In fact, the start of the race reminded me of muscled sprinters anxiously awaiting the sound of the starter’s gun.

At that moment, I was glad that the car’s frame and wings separated me from the horses. At that moment, the eight standardbreds reminded me of a stampede. As a history teacher, I could now get the feeling of what it must have been like for a Civil War infantry company that was being set upon upon by a hard-charging cavalry regiment. I can easily see why some men might have broken ranks.

Just then, the starter pulled back the wings and sped away. The starter’s car then skimmed the outside of the track as we watched the horses and drivers pace out the mile. It was like watching a “live” merry-go-round. Even the horses’ rhythmic gait reminded me of the merry-go-round’s up-and-down motion. In about two minutes, it was all over.

In hindsight, “my carousel ride” went by very quickly. It seemed to last just about as long as the merry-go-round rides my parents would take me on. By now, the starter’s car had come to a complete stop. Time to dismount...I mean to get out of the car. “Thanks very much” I said. “I enjoyed it,” I continued.
As I think back, the only thing missing was a brass ring. Yet, come to think of it, there was, in a manner of speaking, a "brass ring". It was the thrill of watching eight well-conditioned standardbreds close up as they prepare to rush headlong down the track. It’s a perspective few harness racing fans ever get to see, at least from the perspective of a starter’s car. It’s a ride I’ll never forget.

Yes, that spring day back in ’84, I had turned the clock back. I had, ever so briefly, relived my childhood. Only this time, instead of wooden horses, I was treated to the “real-life” carousel ride of my life.

Sea Biscuit
11-10-2017, 01:49 PM
Enjoyed reading the piece Teach.

Thanks for posting it.