The Inside Rail

Contributions from TIHR co-founder, editor and writer Sean Clancy.

Monday Flood

Tackroom is full of water, maybe a pipeline broke

That’s how the day started. It’s 7:07 on a cold, icy, windy Martin Luther King Day morning. Minutes later, I step and splash into the tackroom. My instinct is to call someone. Call anyone. Charles, the handiest handyman I know. Annie, she’s good in a crisis. Matt the Plumber, wonder if he's working today. Gus Brown, who knows a little about plumbing. Dad is always there. Jeeves.

There is something liberating about knowing that the ball is in your hands and there’s no one in the bullpen. I don’t mean there isn’t anyone warming up in the bullpen, I mean, there is no one in the bullpen. There is no bullpen. It’s 7 in the morning, the roads are icy, it’s a holiday.

With no plumbing knowledge, insight, education and certainly no penchant for fixing anything but a broken sentence, I narrowed it down to the splashing-open-faucet noise between the sink and the refrigerator. It’s loud and new. Owning a farm, hell, a house for that matter, you know the noises, they’re comforting in a way, like second cousins, high-school T-shirts. 

I don’t know this noise. I open the cabinet doors below the sink and take inventory. It’s dry, that’s good. One pipe going down. One pipe making a right (my right) toward the fridge. Lefty, loosey…Right tighty…I turn the oval knob to the right, two, three, four times and the noise stops, a slow smothering. That’s a good start, I figure. We might be in the ditch but at least the car has stopped spinning. 

Now for the damage. There is standing water on the slate floor, glad it’s not wood, the water splashes to the rubber lip of my hiking boots, that’s good, but not over, that’s good. 

I pick up a hand-made wooden bench and think of Peter Wilson, who built it, he would like that I saved it first. I hang up three Rambo Rugs, water drips from the top two and flows from the bottom one. I turn on all the lights, the fan in the bathroom, incremental at best. I drop three pairs of Kroops’ boots into the sink, a bucket of ribbons on the counter and the office chair on top of a saddle stand.

I push the water with a broom, like I’m cleaning up a spill in aisle eight at the local grocery store. The water sloshes like a big man got in a little tub and I open the back door, pushing water in ripples and tides onto the concrete stoop. The air bites from the north. 

I think about pouring soap into the mix (two birds with one stone?) but decided I don’t need the confusion. I stanchion off the bathroom, cordon off the laundry room and gradually start to win the battle. It doesn’t take long. I look around and the water recedes like a daily tide, the floor is damp but not drenched. I check my phone. 8:47 a.m. My feet are wet. 

• Play of the Day. Take a long look at Mizzen Man in the third at Fair Grounds. The son of Mizzen Mast makes his turf debut. 

Sean is trying to write every day, for more from the Inside Rail, check out the blog's main page. 

Where's Jack London?

Brutal out there, 13 degrees. Rising to 24 by noon. Snow to commence at 1:00. Temperature will rise to 30 by 6 p.m. and strangely climb to 42 by midnight, snow is meant to turn to ice and then subside by tomorrow afternoon. 

In the spring, summer and fall, we talk about how we need a good, hard winter to kill the bugs, balance the ecosystem. That all sounds good in spring, summer and fall. 

I enjoy the few minutes in a silent house, working with words, before braving the elements, seeing the horses, working with tools. Have you ever read To Build a Fire by Jack London? In a imaginative way, that's the way it feels on the farm on days like these. One wrong move, a water bucket down the leg, a lost glove, a frozen snap, a turn-out rug miscalculatoin can turn your destiny, change the game. That'll be the next 24 hours, trying to keep from making a mistake, a costly mistake. Always look above before you build a fire. 

Sean is trying to write every day, for more from the Inside Rail, check out the blog's main page. 



One Turn

The New York Racing Association announced that they’re rebuilding the Wilson Chute at Saratoga. I wish I could ask Allen Jerkens what he thinks. 

I do remember it being revitalized in the early 90s and it didn’t work very well. Rough races. Short fields. If I remember correctly. 

Will a mile option continue the demise of proper two-turn route races? Surely, can’t help. 

I did write a story a few years ago about using two wires like they do at Keeneland. It didn’t go far. 

I wish they would refurbish Horse Haven, that would be the best thing for the horses, offering an option to horses looking for an easy day, providing a break from the Oklahoma or the main track. I wrote about that, too. 

Sean is trying to write every day, for more from the Inside Rail, check out the blog's main page. 


Winter Wonderland

Here it comes. 

Sunday. Low, 14. High, 39. Snow, 100%. Winter Storm Watch. Heavy snow mixed precipitation possible. Total snow accumulations of 3 to 6 inches are most likely, with up to 8 inches. Ice accumulations of one to two tenths of an inch are possible. Winds could gust as high as 45 mph. Snow may fall at 1 to 3 inches per hour late Sunday afternoon into Sunday evening, resulting in nearly impassable roads. Visibility may be reduced to a quarter mile or less at times.

Put the blade on the tractor. Find the snow poles. Where’s the shovel? Fill up the car. Start the truck, let it run, prop out the wipers. Got milk? Bread? Coffee? Load the porch with firewood. The generator’s plugged in and gassed up. Hay in the sheds, the mangers. 

“Snow on a farm should be fun…” Miles says.

Yes, son, it should be fun. We’ll try to make it fun while trying to keep nine horses, a goat and a cat alive and well. 

Sean is trying to write every day, for more from the Inside Rail, check out the blog's main page. 


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