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SC Rewind: Quips, Quotes, Anecdotes

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Published: February 27, 2010 11:05 am ET

Last Comment: March 5, 2010 12:20 pm ET | 8 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

Robert Smith's Rewind this week is intended at sharing some rather old and hopefully humorous quips, quotes and folksy tales he has recalled from a lifetime of listening.

I once heard that "a lesson learned in humour is a lesson remembered" or something close to that effect. I guess the message is that if you learn something and associate it with a good laugh you may retain it. Somehow over the years I have always enjoyed listening to the so called "story tellers" that grace our presence and usually fulfill our need for light-hearted moments. I might even be so bold to say that I have even occasionally engaged in the practice myself, but only rarely of course.

Here are a few jewels I have chosen from a list that exists totally in my mind as they have never been written down. My intention is to provide a bit of humour and hope that if any family member is offended at my remarks they will quickly realize my innocuous motives.

   * Old-time horseman Bill Fraser was once asked if there was any money to be made in harness racing. He replied "There sure as hell should be, because there's been a lot put in and not much ever taken out .... "

   * Legendary horseman Bill Herbert of London was talking to a reporter about his many successes as several of his horses were doing extremely well at the time and said, "It hasn't always been this way...I went through years when I borrowed from one bank to get to the races then borrowed from another to get back home."

   * Morris MacDonald had a rather unruly groom that he had come to blows with on several occasions and had fired and rehired numerous times, all to do with matters of sobriety. Finally after once again rehiring him he said "If I look at you and you're even thinking of taking a drink, YOU'RE FIRED!!"

   * In the 1950's a speed revolution began at Vernon Downs thanks in part to a 3/4 mile track. Morrie was asked his thoughts about the extreme speed being achieved and quickly said "Why, I could go a quarter in 30 seconds without a horse over that track."

   * Two old boys from the horse business had met at a Mitchell, Ont. watering hole for a few beverages. Their meeting soon turned into an all day affair as the drinks continued to flow. Finally the one old chap asked "Can I look down your throat?" When the other asked why, the reply was "Well everybody around this town says you drank up a 100 acre farm and I want to see if it's still down there."

   * Tom French was racing his horse at a small town near his native Elmvale, Ont. A thick blanket of fog made visibility difficult. Shortly after the race started Tom's horse made a standstill break just past the quarter, putting him hopelessly out of contention. Suddenly a thought occurred to the ever inventive Mr. French. He jogged his horse to the top of the stretch and as the horses hooves could be heard approaching through the fog. Sure enough Tom trotted home a good 20 lengths in front of the field.

   * When asked about his talents as a driver Westerner Jack Jones said, "I couldn't drive a cat down the stairs with a broom."

   * Bert Madill was once involved in a dead heat. It just happened the other driver was his cousin. There was no doubt, both horses hit the wire at exactly the same time...however Bert said because his horse was much shorter than the other horse, thus putting him closer to the wire, he was declared the winner! Bert was a great story teller and it is believed that some of his stories were actually true...

   * Ron Waples Sr. was asked a hypothetical question in a TV interview just prior to the start of a big race. "If you were driving in this race, given the inside speed and other factors, what post position would you want to have? "I would ask for the two hole and a quarter mile head start!"

   * "The cheapest part of owning a horse is buying it", also words of wisdom from Mr. Waples.

   * A group of people were sitting around talking about the merits of "horse dentistry" and how important it is to keep a horse's mouth in good shape. One fellow piped up and said, "You know it doesn't hurt a horse when you file its teeth.". The ever witty Harold Wellwood Sr. was standing close by listening only to this point and added, "Did anybody ever ask the horse?"

   * Londoner Barney Hughes was racing his stable in Montreal. He had one horse that was believed to be a "sure thing" if ever entered in a five-mile race even though she had never competed at that distance. When the race secretary carded such an event he was quite surprised that Barney did not drop his entry in the box so he called him into his office. Why didn't you enter your horse...you're leaving town? "No" Afraid of getting beat? "No" Don't think she can go enough? "No" Well what is the problem? "To be quite honest I don't know if I can go that long without taking a drink....."

March 5, 2010 - 12:20 pmAnother very quotable person

Another very quotable person the late great Frank Conlin who once or probably on more than one occasion to a perspective employee would say " working for me you get paid tri-weekly, if I can't pay you this week I'll try to pay you the next"

March 3, 2010 - 4:15 pmAfter losing his money on a

After losing his money on a horse that was given an absolutely terrible drive, Ed Avery once told me "That guy couldn't drive a hot spike into a snowbank with a sledge hammer in the middle of July!"

February 28, 2010 - 7:32 pmIsn't it great to hear the

Karl Holub SAID...

Isn't it great to hear the nostalgic comments of our wisened forefathers in the harness racing industry:-) I think that we have to include another wonderful quote from Mr. Ron Waples (please correct me if I have the wrong source) which goes as follows: "There are no retired gamblers-only dead ones." One thing that is truly remarkable about Mr. Waples, is that he had the class to turn his horses around behind the starting gate when acting discourteous. It salvaged the bettor's money due to refunds, but it must have wreaked havoc on the blood pressure of tax collecting personnel. Way to go Ronny!

February 28, 2010 - 6:33 amGordon Wolfe Bobby Sleethe

Gordon Wolfe SAID...

Gordon Wolfe
Bobby Sleethe (from Kingston ON I believe) while being enterviewed by the press in California years ago was was asked if being a catch-driver was a dangerous way to make a living.His answer was quick and concise " damn right! I near starved to death at least 3 times!"

February 27, 2010 - 10:09 pmHi Bob, When selling a 1/2

Hi Bob, When selling a 1/2 mile horse Morris MacDonald said to the buyer (Ross Curran) She can go around a turn so sharp, she can s**t in her own face. "Put your horse in the cheapest company and yourself in with the best" !!!!! (Curly Smart) . Great quotes Bob, and I am old enough to know them all .

February 27, 2010 - 6:22 pmMy brother was doing the

My brother was doing the track in Charlottetown years ago and they would close it early on race days. Francis McIssac always had a barn full so Reg was giving him a little more time, he just kept coming out with horses so Reg asked "Francis are you near done?" His reply was Reg I wont be done when I'm finished.

February 27, 2010 - 2:31 pmHmmmmm, I wonder how many

Hmmmmm, I wonder how many people are remembering good lines they've heard over the years around rack tracks. There have been a lot of characters over the years (still are today) Telling and retelling the stories is the way the history stays real. Well done Robert

February 27, 2010 - 12:56 pmGreat stuff Robert. This

Jack Darling SAID...

Great stuff Robert. This reminds me of a Morris Macdonald story that was told to me many years ago at Windsor by Lew Clark who was Morrie's second trainer. Morrie had a big stable and was frustrated with not having enough help, so he instructed Lew to go out and find some quickly. The next day, Lew went up to his boss and said "well Mr. Macdonald, I have found a young guy that is looking for a job but he doesn't know too much and I heard he is pretty lazy." Morrie thought for a couple of seconds and asked "is he breathing?" Lew hesitated and replied "well yes, i guess he is." Immediately Morrie bellowed "THEN HIRE HIM !"


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