The pages of your life

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Sorting through books, newspaper clips and other research materials on people, places, horses, races, and other happenings from the 1930s, ’40s, ’50s and ’60s proved most interesting earlier this year and again these last few weeks.

Stuff in the 1970s, ’80s and early ’90s certainly provided a slightly different perspective. There were things that happened and were documented that could easily be remembered. Not quite the “Do you remember where you were when this happened,” type remembered, but certainly things not hard to bring to the front of the memory banks. A trip to the back room inside the National Museum of Racing’s library, a place that’s seemingly got everything from Daily Racing Form chart books from the early 1900s to a magazine called Gulfstream Style sitting on a box on the floor, took things even a step further.

Researching races from the middle parts of the last decade, from 2001 to 2008 to be precise, led me to the aisle that contained the bound editions of Thoroughbred Times and its predecessor The Thoroughbred Record. The bound volumes went through the 1999 season, which marked about the first 1 ½ years of my tenure at the publication. The 2000 through early June 2012 editions were not bound – certainly there were a few bucks to be saved there – and the last five sat on a nearby table.

Going through the old editions, reading about races won and lost, the next great marketing plan to bring in the young crowd, executives that came and went and came again, top racehorses retiring to stud and later moving to all points outside Kentucky a few years later, was like looking through the pages of your life for this journalist.

Plenty of stories were familiar, either I wrote them or edited them. An obituary of Affirmed from January 2001 jumped off a page. It happened late on a Friday afternoon, about the time the brain starts to transition from weekday page counts to weekend plans.

A story like this one put those plans on hold.

Calls were made, interviews conducted, facts checked, leads written, rewritten and rewritten again, word counts given and adjusted.

Then the calls from a significant other start coming in. They’re ready for the weekend. So are you, but a story like this can’t wait. I’ll never forget saying, “I’ll be done when I’m done,” and slamming the receiver down. Not my proudest moment, I know. I like to think there’s been personal growth since then. Surely that was better than writing an un-sensitive column about high school athletes who cry after games, and surely there’s been even more improvement since.

But back to the old issues, but first a shameless self-promotion warning.

One article was about winning a second Bill Leggett Breeders’ Cup Writing Award, complete with a picture holding said award with a terrible shirt-and-tie combo. I remember that, and remember, too, that there have been a lot of Breeders’ Cup races since then. Other issues, pages and articles didn’t conjure up even the slightest recollection. An obituary of Hobeau Farm’s Jack Dreyfus and 1988 Horse of the Year Alysheba shared a page. I remember that it happened on the same day, March 27, 2009, but could not recall much else about it, never mind the process of getting words to paper.

By my count there were about 750 magazines in front of me on those shelves, representing work from a little more than 14 years. When you’re doing it I suppose it feels like a long time, but looking back now with more than a year under my belt right here at ST Publishing and more than 15 months removed from Thoroughbred Times closing its doors, it feels like the blink of an eye.

I read somewhere, probably on this very site, about that old saying about how when you’re young the days go by fast and the years go by slow, but as you get older the days go by slow and the years go by fast.

Looking at those stacks of magazines and thinking about everything the last year brought personally and professionally sure made that phrase seem oh so true.