20 January 2011
A Few Belated Words For Tom Longstaff
Tom Longstaff died. I do not keep up with local thoroughbred horseman news during the winter so I only just found that out. I have met and observed a lot of men and women I never would have ran into if I had not taken an interest in the Sport of Motherfucking Kings many years ago. There is good and bad everywhere in this world. Tom was one of the good ones.
He trained horses at Dope City Downs. I liked the way he carried himself. That is important. Carried himself like he was from some other time. Trained horses south of the line too. I bet Tom was a good fit down in Oregon. You can still find plenty of replicas of the larger than life characters Ken Kesey described in "Sometimes A Great Notion" down there.
Where I knew Tom best from was not the big city race tracks however. I knew Tom from Sunflower Downs. Tom liked taking horses up to the bush tracks. Tom and his jockey Felipe Valdez were hard to beat for a couple years up there. I think he felt most at home visiting the interior tracks, just as I do.
Early on during last year's Dope City meeting I noticed Tom had not entered more than a couple horses so I asked around about him. Turned out he was sick. Cancer. Son of a bitch.
When he got to feeling better I asked him how he was doing. "I'm feeling real good right now for a man dying of leukemia," he told me. He had lost a lot of weight. Looked real good for a man without a lot of time left. A cigarette smoked between his lips. "Doctors want me to take another round of chemotherapy but I don't think I'm going to take it."
Horsemen look at death a little franker than most of us I guess. When it becomes inevitable, why call the fucking vet?
I saw Tom several more times before the meeting was done. He was wearing the same t-shirt every time. It was black with two words and a skull printed on it. The words were "Death Race."
And you punk motherfuckers think you are tough.