Cup of Coffee: Papergirl

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It’s all about the kids.

First there was Ryan, then Jack and Jane. Of course, Nolan. Emmy and Lucca made some guest appearances. Chappy, if Nolan was there. Trevor McCarron wanted to hang off the side of the cart like he was auditioning for the X Games. A slew of others, day-trippers and seasonals, hopping in the golf cart and going for a ride.

They hand out a few papers, ask a lot of questions, tell a lot of stories and provide perspective when needed. Thursday, it was Amelia.

For years, her parents Mike and Mary Ryan have hinted she’ll be our next papergirl. As engineer-to-be Ryan is working at the GE plant upstate, Jack and Jane – I’ve watched them go from useful, to useless to useful again – are well above handing out papers, Emmy has graduated, Lucca, well, it never really stuck with Lucca, Miles hasn’t made it to Saratoga and the others are long gone, the golf cart has been empty this year. Better for work, perhaps, but not as good for morale.

At the Morning Line Kitchen Thursday morning, Amelia Ryan, 7, stood at the side of the golf cart as her mother Mary explained the prospects of joining The Special. Amelia, in a pink sweatshirt and paddock boots, rolled her nose, looked at her feet, looked up at her mom, took a step, then a back step. I mentioned doughnuts, she was in the cart in a flash.

I explained the drill.

“Take a couple of copies of the paper, walk over and ask the person if they’d like a copy of The Saratoga Special.”

“I’m a little shy.”

“You won’t be.”

We rolled up to the Motion barn – that’s where we send all wannabe hotwalkers (John Panagot!) and prospective papergirls. I nudged Amelia in the elbow.

From the cart, a mile from the prospective readers, Amelia whispered, “Would you like a copy of The Saratoga Special?”

I nudged again.

She was a natural, handing out papers to Steve Rushing, Sharon Dominguez and a few others.

Crossing Union Avenue, our favorite security guard bellowed “Hoooooorse.” Amelia giggled.

“What’s so funny?”

“He would yell, ‘Dogggg,’ when our dog Simon walked across this road,” Amelia explained.

We bumped our way to the Oklahoma track and Amelia started telling me about going to Ireland. Well, I thought we were talking about Ireland.

“We made a fairy house. It was way more better this year, there were these decorations and stuff over sticks with flowers and stuff, it was really cute,” she said. “We made a store where they made any kind of pancakes, candycake pancakes, popcorn pancakes, any kind of pancake you want. But (someone, sounded Gaelic) can be really, really bad, he kicked the football into the house and we burst into tears.”

I did not laugh.

“What’s a fairy house?”

“It’s like a house for fairies.”

Ask a stupid question…

I asked more questions.

Do you go to the races?

“Yes, we went yesterday, it was too hot,” Amelia said. “Dad can’t decide if it’s too hot or too cold. He goes to Florida and he’s too hot. He stays in Kentucky and he’s too cold. He can’t make up his mind.”

Amelia picked up Thursday’s paper with Daring Dancer on the cover.

“Which race is this?”

“The Lake George.”

“I remember the Lake George. It was in Kentucky.”

“No, it was here, yesterday.”

“Yes, I remember it.”

We bantered as the golf cart battered its way through the holes and dips of the Oklahoma backside.

“Also, my other favorite thing about here is I get to go tubing with some friends once a year. Until 9 o’clock at night.”

“Nine o’clock at night. You can’t be on a river at 9 o’clock at night.”

“Well, I mean really late, like 7 o’clock. I can’t tell time.”

“Keep it that way. Once you start telling time, life changes.”

“I know,” she giggled.

We passed the clocker’s stand and around the bend of the Oklahoma track where a long line of potential readers stood.

I nudged Amelia.

She didn’t move.

I nudged again.

She didn’t move.

“Um, can you help me?”

Amelia held an acorn in her left hand and twisted her right hand, snagged in her sweatshirt.

“Umm, my bracelet is stuck in my shirt.”

It took 10 minutes.

“Thank you. I guess I shouldn’t have made a bracelet with a fishhook,” she said.

We meandered our way to Shug’s gap as Mary called and arranged a drop off.

Amelia asked me about what I do. I tried to explain, it sounded pathetic.

“Well, I write about the races, the people, the track. Then we put it together and it comes out each morning.”

Amelia looked at her feet, “So you’re like the author of the stable.”

“Yes. And you’re the papergirl of the stable.”

She smiled, fiddling with an acorn and a fishhook.