HOORAY FOR THE GREY!
Mildred and Bill Williams often spent a Saturday afternoon at
Belmont Racetrack during the race season. They shared their
passion for horse racing on these afternoons among friends and
relatives. The track at Belmont Park was a convenient twenty-
minute walk along the sidewalk path that lined the nearby freeway.
The Saturday afternoon get-togethers would start when they all
gathered at the Williams house en route to the racetrack.
Jerry, Mildred’s brother, was one of the few that really
understood the sport. He always insisted upon rubbing Mildred’s
hair as they approached the track.
Although Jerry would never comment on a female’s appearance,
Mildred understood his insistence to perform his ritual.
“I had premature grey hair,” Mildred would say when the subject
came up. “I was the only child at my school with grey hair.”
“You could ask your mother to change your hair color with dye,”
her schoolmates would offer as encouragement.
Mildred pretended to hate her grey hair and explained that her
mother insisted that it stay grey. It was a part of her substance and
she should learn to use it to her advantage.
And so, she did.
She started to do so three years before meeting Bill.
Mildred made a habit to tell people that she was a premature
grey. Initially, she had meant it as a joke.
It would come back to haunt her on occasion.
Belmont Park would open for the season in just a week.
Jerry already had received his first tip of the year. On the second
Saturday of the season, Diamond Lil was strongly recommended, a
two-year-old that did well on the long tracks.
Belmont was a long race and qualified well at a mile and a half.
Jerry was known to obtain very reliable tips.
They would plan their first Saturday afternoon outing of the
season for that date.
Over the next few days, life was typical and mundane, but with
energy slowly building in the air.
Mildred had invited the new hire to join them for the horse race
James was new to the area and was anxious to meet new friends
and experience new activities. There hadn’t been much horse
racing going on in South Dakota of late.
“James will be a welcome newcomer to our group of sports
enthusiasts,” Mildred was proud to say to Bill. “It will be his first
horse race ever!”
During the lunch hour on the following day, James popped up in
the breakroom with his sandwich in hand.
“Hi, Mildred. Thanks so much for your invite to the races,” James
said with excitement.
Not a blink, but maybe a wink?
It was noticed!
Mildred’s sister, Maureen, had just returned from Ireland last
week. She stopped by one afternoon to show Mildred and Bill her
pictures of the trip.
“They are wonderful,” Bill asserted.
“Great!” Mildred remarked. “Beautiful country!”
Maureen smiled with a blink of the eye.
“Will you be joining us for the races coming up?” Bill asked.
“You can bet your ass!” Maureen shot back. “Your stupid Irish
They all laughed and saluted the plan with a swallow of beer.’’
The day had arrived. Finally!
Mildred mustered up hot dogs and baked beans.
After a quick lunch at Mildred and Bill’s they all paraded out the
door with their betting bucks in their pockets.
The walk along the freeway served as the social visit, a little bit
like boccie ball but without the boccie ball.
Maureen had been seen batting her eyes at James.
As they approached the back side of the racetrack, they were
approached by the welcoming committee.
It might be shameful to think that the race enthusiasts were
The dozen or so large peacocks circled around them and ran in
between them. Occasionally one would let out a scream.
It was all a part of the Saturday afternoon ritual.
“Don’t let Mildred see them. They have a touch of the grey. You
know how she can be,” Bill spoke in a booming voice.
Within ten minutes they had found seats and were reviewing the
horses for all the races. Each had their own choice criteria for
selecting horses for their bets. Some can be rather peculiar. Fans
are usually steadfast with their criteria.
It’s the newcomers that have an open ear to any
A newcomer was amongst them.
“James,” Mildred petitioned. “My brother, Jerry, can help you with
the typical jargon that I don’t understand. Listen to me. Be
respectful of any grey horse as the jockey walks them along the
track. Sometimes the horse will reach out to you, connect with you.
Don’t ignore it.”
“Thanks for your advice, Mildred,” James replied. “I’m anxious to
learn much and meet many.”
“James,” Maureen waved. “Come help me pick my two-dollar bet
for the first race.”
James winked as he nodded his head.
“Diamond Lil runs in the last race,” Jerry said to Mildred. “Quietly
pass it along to our group. We should do well.”
“Who are you betting in the first race?” Mildred asked.
“Don’t like any of them. I’m skipping the first race,” Jerry
Bill overheard and said, “Mildred, Maximum Height looks good.
I’m betting on him.”
Beers, snacks, horse talk, bets. The afternoon went by fast.
Finally, the time had come for the last race.
There were a few winners, and of course, many losers. Each had
settled on a humble amount to wager, so as to be prepared for the
“This is the race. Diamond Lil is our gal,” Jerry proclaimed.
Mildred had only bet on two horses all day. She saved her last six
dollars for the last race.
The jockeys walked the horses along the track single file.
Diamond Lil was second and Irish Mist was fourth. Mildred was
anxious for this moment, anxious to see Irish Mist. Irish Mist was
gray and gorgeous, and as he strolled on by, he turned his head to
her and winked!
“Oh my,” Mildred said to herself.
The odds for this horse to win were terrible at twenty to one.
But Irish Mist was grey and had winked!
Mildred bet all six dollars on Irish Mist.
Lo and behold, by golly, Irish Mist won the race!
Jerry wasn’t very happy as he watched Mildred collect her big
“Bill, what happened to Diamond Lil?” Maureen wanted to know.
Not far behind her was James. He had bet two dollars on Irish
Mist as a result of Mildred’s advice.
“He winked at me, Maureen,” James answered with a smile. “He
was grey, as well.”
The walk back was full of talk. Almost, should have, all post-race
They were close to reaching the house when Mildred had a
“Next street has O’Malley’s Tavern. I’ll buy a round with my
winnings,” Mildred announced.
Then, with drinks in hand, Mildred made another
“To friends and fun. No drink for me to toast. Bill and I will be
parents soon for either Kathleen or Heathcliff,” she said with a
wink, may have been a blink!
What kind of name is that was the question of the hour.
“How about O’Malley, instead?” the bartender suggested.
Mildred stuck to her guns on the chosen names until the baby
Fifteen years passed.
“Michael,” James smiled. “You should have been named
“The two main characters, the lovers, in your Mother’s favorite
book, Wuthering Heights, are Kathleen and Heathcliff,” Aunt
Maureen explained with a wink. “Nothing more than Irish mischief!
It was to be Michael all along.”