Grey Falcon has turned out to be a proper racehorse, but he almost didn’t get the chance to show us that yesterday. Less than two kilometers from the end of the autoroute in Deauville I thought gee, the truck seems to be handling a bit funny. Maybe it’s my imagination. Thirty seconds later and BAM, the right rear tire blew to pieces. I got us to the side of the road just next to an emergency call box and we jumped out in the pouring rain to call for help. The response? Someone will be there within two hours. I’ve never really been able to take “no” for an answer, and this situation was certainly no different. We had a half-hour at the maximum to get this tire changed and get to the track, which I explained, trying to stay calm and limit my use of profanity, to the emergency operator. He seemed to understand. A half-hour, he said. Not good enough, I said. Fifteen minutes. Or perhaps our live cargo might find their way onto the highway to cause some serious damage. (An empty threat, of course, but he didn’t know that.)
Meanwhile, we started to attack the problem ourselves. We had two men in the truck, but the pathetic tool that passes for a jack was not going to get the job done. We had to wait. I had Pierre, who owned the other horse in the truck (and who would go off the favorite in the race) call and harass the tow-truck company. “They said they’re coming,” he said. “Call again,” I said. “Call every five minutes and tell them the horses are starting to kick the truck to pieces.”
The horses, mind you, couldn’t have been better. They didn’t move. I used the time to call the insurance company. “Ah. Sorry, we can’t help you just now. Everyone is at lunch.” “Really?” I said. “Well, I’m on the side of the road in the rain next to a truck with two horses in it trying to change a tire. Tell them bon-fucking-appetit!” I hung up. The tow truck came. After nearly amputating his fingers on the first try, he got the truck jacked up (he had a much more serious jack) and the tire changed. He looked at the spare. It was as bald as my friend Mark’s head. “You won’t get far with this,” he said, to which I replied: “It’s got air. That makes it better than what we had.”
With no help from the insurance side, Mark, luckily, had enough cash to pay the tow truck. Who needed, of course, to make sure all the paperwork was filled out. “Listen, I really don’t have time for this. Here’s the money, I’ll deal with the paper later, and bet on the horse because he’s going to win,” I said, giving him the name of Pierre’s horse. “What about the other one?” “He’ll be fifth,” I said.
We made it to the track in the nick of time, although the horses really didn’t seem to know or care. Grey Falcon is a calm sort, and he wasn’t fussed at all. It was only his third time out, and he still ran a bit green in the home stretch, but he tried hard and finished third of 15 runners, just beaten a nose for second and a half-length overall – by Bunook, his companion in the truck.
I chased around trying to get a new tire after the race, only to find out the wheel was broken, so there was no hope. I would have to get home on what we had. The rain was getting heavier. Don’t go too fast was the advice from the garage. “Don’t go too fast because we don’t have any tread, or because the tire will explode?” I asked. A little of both was the answer. We loaded up and set out. It was sheeting rain most of the way. I did my best to drive slow. Anyone who knows me will understand how difficult this is.
We all made it back in one piece, the horses in far better shape than the truck tires and all of us wet and tired. (Except the horses, who were dry as a bone and munching hay the whole time.)
Ah, it’s a glamorous profession. I hope those tow-truck guys got their bet in.