A Small Road Trip

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Plenty has been written about trainer Dickie Small, who died of cancer April 4. Plenty of other stories have been told, but not written, by friends and family over the past 10 days or so. Here’s one from longtime friend Ted Mudge about a trip to Camden, S.C. a few years ago. Small loved it there and told Mudge to tag along, that he’d love it too. Finally, Mudge agreed and Small said they were leaving at 7 in the evening.

While not quite Thelma and Louise, the excursion is good for a laugh, and classic Small.

They left Small’s farm in a pick-up truck with two dogs and a cooler full of Diet Pepsi. They arrived at a Camden hotel at 3:30 the next morning, in a driving rainstorm.

“Oh good, we’re going to get some sleep before we train the horses,” thought Mudge. “It’ll be nice to get out of this truck and lie down on a bed for a little while.”

Small had other ideas. He let the dogs out for a break, put them back in the truck and said, “Better get some sleep.”

The two men and the two dogs rested in the truck while the rain hammered down. Two hours later, there was a rap at the window.

“Time for breakfast,” Small said. He led Mudge to the small restaurant behind the hotel. After breakfast, they trained the horses, took a tour of the Camden Training Center, went to The Tack Room tack shop for some conversation and shopping, hit up a local gift shop, ate lunch at 10 in the morning, got back in the truck and were back in Maryland by 7 that night.

“It was a 24-hour road trip,” said Mudge, who never went again.

Small was like that. He drove almost everywhere, including a trek to Iowa to run a horse at Prairie Meadows.

“If there was anything interesting, he’d get off the road to go see it,” Mudge said. “Anything within two hours of historical significance, he’d stop and see it. On that trip to Iowa, he went to the site of the plane crash Don McLean sings about in American Pie (where Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson died in Clear Lake, Iowa).”