I briefly considered buying a horse or two, but the closest I got to that was a copy of Duel for the Crown: Affirmed, Alydar and Racing’s Greatest Rivalry, in a brief shopping spree at the Barnes and Noble. I also picked up a couple of quilting magazines and a copy of Christopher Moore’s latest (because it’s Christopher Moore).
It has occurred to me that I haven’t introduced you all yet to the horse that started it all - on my birthday, way too long ago for me to admit. My Chalky Traditional Man o’ War:
My Man o’ War was the only model I had that I felt merited the honor of his signature. By the time Peter had started doing Signing Parties, I already had his signature on the multiple letters that he had sent in reply to my (all too numerous) annoying letters to Breyer.
And besides, I had seen - and heard of - other hobbyists bringing multiple models to these events, and that made me a bit uncomfortable. I didn’t want to be one of those people, you know? I didn’t need someone’s signature on something to make it more valuable.
So I had signed the only model that I owned that truly had no price.
He’s still in relatively good shape, except for the blaze on his face. A seam split was forming there, and back before I knew better, I tried fixing it with nail polish remover. So now he has …a much bigger blaze.
I didn’t exactly get him for my birthday; the story is a little more complicated than that. Several months prior to that birthday I had been hospitalized with appendicitis, which in turn had enough complications that I ended up with a footlong scar and two weeks vacation from school.
The only other awesome thing about the ordeal - besides the vacation - was that everyone not only remembered my birthday, but sent money, too! I can’t remember the exact amount I received, but it seemed like a fortune to a nine year old.
So I went to Circus World - a local toy store chain - on my special day, and bought a pair of roller skates and the Man o’ War. Because I loved horse racing! And I thought he was pretty.
Dad approved of my choice. He loved horse racing as a kid, too.
I finally decided to take the plunge and join the model horse world right around the time of the Affirmed-Alydar Triple Crown duel, a few years later. It wasn’t the primary motivator, but it definitely played a part in getting me here.
The roller skates were eventually cobbled onto a homemade scooter made out of a couple of two-by-fours, painted green, and decorated with leftover stickers my Uncle Fred had given me from his Record-of-the-Month Club subscription.
I could have sworn that I still had those roller skates somewhere, though my brother says we sold the scooter they were attached to ages ago, at a yard sale. Probably to someone who thought they were buying some fabulous piece of American Folk Art.
Which would be ironic, if it were to be so, because Dad was the only member of the family who considered himself utterly uncreative. (Not that it was true, but that was what he believed.)