Maybe it is because I am fond of the years I spent in small town Canada as a child. Or perhaps it is because people in small town Canada can generally out-drink the last men standing at one of the parties once held at Picton Farm's Piggy's Palace. Whatever it is, spending time in a small Canadian town is like smoking good dope to me. Increasingly, just like reality in our Century of War, the only thing Canadian cities are good for is getting out of.
I was looking forward to my long weekend with Canada. I had a tall beer going as Sonja and I set up camp. Sonja had unscrewed a bottle of good Canadian wine. The Hammer sniffed around our camp for bits of burned wieners and dirty bacon grease. Then we heard it: American accents in the camp next to us. Fuck. Sonja reminded me, "They aren't all assholes, Beer."
After we got our fire started I stuck my flask and a couple beers in my pockets and one in my fist and wandered next door to see just what kind of Americans were going to be celebrating Canada's 140th birthday with me.
"My name's Beer. I'm camped next to you with my wife Sonja. This is the Hammer." My dog strained on her leash and choked on her drool. The two American men drank from their cans of PBR and stared at me and my dog. Their wives appeared to be doing dishes in their lengthy motorhome, I was not going to get any help from them kicking their male partner's social skills into gear. "How the fuck are you American bastards? I tell you, we get two kinds of Americans up here but you fuckers look as alike to us as good Iraqis and bad ones look to your boys over in motherfucking Baghdad. There's the pricks I see praising the fucking Lord on tv because a tornado missed sweeping their house into the sky by two inches and then there's the pot smoking assholes who listen to Steve Earle."
I pulled out my flask, took a hit, and passed it through the swirling campfire smoke to my American friend who was either going to kick my ass or tell me how many times he has seen Steve Earle. He took a big hit and passed it to his buddy who emitted a huge belch before he about emptied my flask and gave it back to me.
"Betty Lou," the second whisky pig hollered in the direction of his silver camping machine, "Can you bring me out my guitar? And bring us out some whiskey."
Betty Lou bounced down the steps with a bottle of fucking bourbon, five glasses and a 12 string acoustic. He poured himself and his buddy a tumbler and asked me with his eyes if I would like a glass. My eyes told him, "Fuck no," but my big mouth told him, "Fill 'er up."
Then he started playing a song I have heard Mojo Nixon sing called "Tie My Pecker To My Leg." If this American was a Christian, he was my kind of Christian.
He was not halfway through the song when Sonja joined what soon became quite the little wing-ding. Sonja loves listening to men sing about how tremendously gifted they are in the pecker department.
Pretty soon my guitar playing bourbon delivery service was singing us Steve Earle, Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson songs. When he asked, "So, uh, Beer, you got any weed?" I told him, "Sorry, I'm probably the only man in Canada this weekend without any."
I have never been able to drink bourbon. The shit makes me vomit. We had hardly put a dent in the 2nd quart of bourbon when I turned towards one of the two fires I was sitting beside and vomitted into it. My vomit sizzled like t-bone on a barbeque. If you are going to vomit in someone else's campsite try to always vomit in the fire. Sonja has seen my bourbon act before so she just giggled as the two American's bouncy wives vomitted all over their campsite. They missed the fire by quite a bit. I felt much better but I had to admit it did not smell real good all of a sudden.
Sonja took me by the hand and told our new camp buddies, "Tomorrow, if you are planning on getting my man drunk again, feed him anything but bourbon."
Next day I picked up the racing paper from the racetrack; bought a pile of Anne Murray stamps from the big red brick post office, got some great Chinese food in town we washed down with $4 beers and drove back to my favourite racetrack. When we were in the restaurant I overheard one rancher say this about our waitress to the rancher across the table from him, "I wonder if she knows she could be making $20 an hour instead of $9 doing the same job in motherfucking Alberta?"
By rancher I mean, for the benefit of those of you not familiar with the British Columbia economy, pot grower with a cowboy hat.
It was not hot as Race Day last year but the crowd appeared to be guzzling back their cups to the best of their considerable ability when Sonja, the Hammer and I joined the early arrivals in the beer garden. We had a few and some taco fries before we wandered over to the paddock to have a look at the Arabians kicking up sand and dust into the wind before the first race. Our eyes again soon felt like they did when we awoke with our bourbon hangovers. Several of the handlers inside the walking ring were in tears.
One of the Arabians was much bigger than his competitors and had won his last race by over 20 lengths. I made a large bet on the animal and was surprised to see him begin the race at even odds. We watched the race from high in the wooden grandstand. A few Dope City Downs jockies not in the race were watching from up there too. They had posed and let me take their photo before the race. The jockies just about all fell down with laughter watching the Arabians zig-zag down the stretch underneath their confounded riders. They babbled away in Spanish and slapped one another like the brothers they are.
The big Arabian won. It was the only winner I picked all day.
Between races, when I was away from Sonja, I spotted Miss Princeton Rodeo not busy with any of her official duties. I asked her, "Could I take your picture miss?" I tried to keep my drool to myself. There was a lot of it. As I was focusing on her with the camera someone asked, "Do you want her dad in the picture too?" I told the guy, "Fuck that," and snapped a picture quick before they fucked it up.
Later, when Sonja was talking to some people about the Hammer, I ran into one-time Dope City Downs jockey Anrella Villesche. She could have made a big impact on horse racing in the city if she had been given a better selection of horses by the distrustful-of-women owners. I had seen her bravery and skill many times through my binoculars.
Anrella (what a name!) had an Alaskan Malamute puppy with her that was cuter than a female jockey. "We had it shipped from Ontario," she told me. She was rightly very proud of the latest addition to her family. I took a photo of Anrella's fluffy dog and I ought to have taken a photo of her too but I was kind of expecting to get clobbered by her old man for talking with her for what seemed like a long time. When I am in the presence of a female jockey my legs get wobblier than usual, I was surprised I was able to speak at all.
There were a couple good spills on the track, a couple jockies got lucky and walked away after being thrown into the dirt and an ambulance had to be called after a backstretch worker tried to grab a horse on the loose and was dragged beneath the half ton crazy horse. One of the horses jumped the outside rail after he dumped his rider and headed off at full gallop into the nearby mountains.
That spill helped me win an exacta and another bit of racing luck later saw me win a triacta. Despite only picking one winner out of nine races, an Arabian race at that, I made money the same way I did last year. That is why Sunflower Downs is my favourite racetrack: it has not kicked the shit out of me yet.