Keith Hunt - Wrangling on the Range - Page Forty- two   Restitution of All Things

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Wrangling on the Range #42

The BIGGEST news of ....


                      WRANGLING ON THE RANGE #42

                      THE BIGGEST NEWS IN 1938 .....

                        FROM THE SEABISCUIT BOOK

 
PREFACE

     In 1938, near the end of a decade of monumental turmoil, the
year's number-one newsmaker was not Franklin Delano Roosevelt,
Hitler, or Mussolini. It wasn't Pope Pius XI, nor was it Lou
Gehrig, Howard Hughes, or Clark Gable. The object of the most
newspaper column inches in 1938 wasn't even a person. It was an
undersized, crooked-legged racehorse named Seabiscuit.
     In the latter half of the Depression, Seabiscuit was nothing
short of a cultural icon in America, enjoying adulation so
intense and broad-based that it transcended sport. When he raced,
his fans choked local roads, poured out of special cross-country
"Seabiscuit Limited" trains, packed the hotels, and cleaned out
the restaurants. They tucked their Roosevelt dollars into
Seabiscuit wallets, bought Seabiscuit hats on Fifth Avenue,
played at least nine parlor games bearing his image. Tuning in to
radio broadcasts of his races was a weekend ritual across the
country, drawing as many as forty million listeners. His
appearances smashed attendance records at nearly every major
track and drew two of the three largest throngs ever to see a
horse race in the United States. In an era when the United
States' population was less than half its current size,
seventy-eight thousand people witnessed his last race, a crowd
comparable to those at today's Super Bowls. As many as forty
thousand fans mobbed tracks just to watch his workouts, while
thousands of others braved ice storms and murderous heat to catch
a glimpse of his private eighty-foot Pullman railcar. He galloped
over Manhattan on massive billboards and was featured week after
week, year after year, in Time, Life, Newsweek, Look, Pic, and
The New Yorker. His trainer, jockey, and owner, became heroes in
their own right. Their every move was painted by the glare of the
flashbulb.
     They had come from nowhere. The horse, a smallish,
mud-colored animal with forelegs that didn't straighten all the
way, spent nearly two seasons floundering in the lowest ranks of
racing, misunderstood and mishandled. His jockey, Red Pollard,
was a tragic-faced young man who had been abandoned as a boy at a
makeshift racetrack cut through a Montana hay field. He came to
his partnership with Seabiscuit after years as a part-time
prizefighter and failing jockey, lugging his saddle through
myriad places, getting punched bloody in cow-town boxing rings,
sleeping on stall floors. Seabiscuit's trainer, a mysterious,
virtually mute mustang breaker named Tom Smith, was a refugee
from the vanishing frontier, bearing with him generations of lost
wisdom about the secrets of horses. Seabiscuit's owner, a broad,
beaming former cavalryman named Charles Howard, had begun his
career as a bicycle mechanic before parlaying 21 cents into an
automotive empire.
     In 1936, on a sultry August Sunday in Detroit, Pollard,
Smith, and Howard formed an unlikely alliance. Recognizing the
talent dormant in the horse and in one another, they began a
rehabilitation of Seabiscuit that would lift him, and them, from
obscurity.
     For the Seabiscuit crew and for America, it was the
beginning of five uproarious years of anguish and exultation.
From 1936 to 1940, Seabiscuit endured a remarkable run of bad
fortune, conspiracy, and injury to establish himself as one of
history's most extraordinary athletes. Graced with blistering
speed, tactical versatility, and indomitable will, he shipped
more than fifty thousand exhausting railroad miles, carried
staggering weight to victory against the best horses in the
country, and shattered more than a dozen track records. His
controversial rivalry with Triple Crown winner War Admiral
culminated in a spectacular match race that is still widely
regarded as the greatest horse race ever run. His epic, trouble
plagued four-year quest to conquer the world's richest race
became one of the most celebrated and widely followed struggles
in sports. And in 1940 after suffering severe injuries that were
thought to have ended their careers, the aging horse and his
jockey returned to the track together in an attempt to claim the
one prize that had escaped them.
     Along the way, the little horse and the men who
rehabilitated him captured the American imagination. It wasn't
just greatness that drew the people to them. It was their story.
It began with a young man on a train, pushing west.
 
                             .................


I just had to get this "preface" from the book "Seabiscuit - An
American Legend" by Laura Hillenbrand, on here. If you haven't
yet decided you want this book, maybe the preface will entice you
to read the entire 400 page book. Maybe it can be a history
project, a book research, or whatever else a study in an age from
the past, is given as an assignment in school for your child or
children. Whatever excuse you may need to buy this book and read
it, find one, and enjoy a true life story of three men and a
horse, that in many ways is indeed stranger than fiction, even
fiction would be hard pressed to keep up with the reality of
truth, and the way Hillenbrand and company have put it down for
you.

Keith Hunt


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