When one reaches a certain age, the obituaries are often the first section of the newspaper read each morning. Or so my mother tells me. Thankfully, I’m not quite of that age yet. Nevertheless, I did happen to glance at them yesterday, unfortunately due to tragic circumstances not (thankfully) directly affecting me, but something that occurred in my hometown—the murder-suicide of a couple and their two children. Another senseless tragedy left for the living to mourn and wonder what they could have done to prevent.
What caught my attention, though, was the obit of a man I didn’t know at all, a Mr. Michael P. Ondrick. The gentleman in question was 92 years old, and his obituary’s headline read: “Retired ironworker enjoyed horseracing.” In addition to being an ironworker for 71 years and (briefly) owning a family-operated bar, he is remembered as “a wonderful family man [who] enjoyed talking to all of his great-grandchildren and watching them play”—not to mention a chili aficionado who loved to cook for everyone. He golfed, bowled and played poker like just about every hard-working middle-class man I know. And then there was this tidbit:
“For 30 year, Mr. Ondrick owned, trained and bred thoroughbred race horses. He remained a great handicapper until his passing.”
His home being relatively far from any thoroughbred track—oh, perhaps Mountaineer if he drove still—and the closest off-track betting facility nearby being the Meadows racetrack and casino, I wonder if he had discovered the joys of advance deposit wagering online, but more importantly, I wonder if he passed his love for the sport on to his two daughters, their children and their grandchildren. I wonder if, when I die and my obituary is written, will someone remember to mention my love of horse racing too—or would that just be too unfashionable, or even obsolete?
For all the issues the sport must deal with to survive the 21st century, surely education tops the list—passing on to the next generation the thrill of the on-track experience. Hearing the thunder of hooves and snorting as the racers pass by as you eagerly hang over the rail, the thrill of watching your horse—the one you knew could win—either tenaciously cling to the lead or come roaring up through the field to win going away. I think that’s what I love most—for an event that moves so fast, it makes time stand still.