King Sunny
“King Sunny” by Jacques Dorier, Resin and washi papers

We humans are big on prediction; the end of the world, the outcome of a horse race, how much junk food we can eat at one sitting. Nostradamus may have been one of the first to earn his living predicting things, but how often was he right? Luckily Harold Camping was NEVER right.

Horse races don’t fare any better. California Chrome, racing for the Triple Crown, caused a lot of people to bet a lot of money predicting his win which fell to another. A cautionary ditty from the past said “I bet my money on a bob-tail nag, somebody bet on the bay.”

A local meteorologist was given the sack because he said you couldn’t predict the weather as much as seven days ahead. Now they do it regularly, but are they always right?

Television has hijacked the weather and stolen its mystery. Poetic ruminations about the moon and the stars and the wind have no place in TV’s world of scientific charts. They show us continental maps filled with circles and arrows amid large sections of color purporting to tell us of oncoming floods, tornadoes, snowstorms and hurricanes heading our way. No pity softens the voice of the person telling us that tomorrow’s temperature of 96 degrees will have a “real-feel” temperature of 107.

An earlier breed of sky watchers didn’t take weather so seriously. America’s early songwriters knew in their bones that there were blue moons, buttermilk skies and even rain wasn’t an event to get your knickers in a twist. It’s a state of mind, the stuff of dreams and yearnings.

To lyricists in the 20’s and 30’s the weather was a meteorologist’s playground, and they didn’t hesitate to write about phenomena not known to science: blue moons, paper moons, stardust, stars falling on Alabama, pennies from Heaven, a storybook life over the rainbow.

Johnny Mercer wrote about 1500 songs, and along with Harold Arlen and others, realized that the weather served songwriters as a metaphor for a broken heart. Torch songs as they were called in that day, were mostly sung by women, and bad weather predicted bad news, the end of the world. “Stormy Weather” is a slow lamentation of lost love. And what could be worse?

We hear that the bride is happy if the sun shines on her. We are left to wonder what might happen if it rains on the wedding day.

That kind of weather doesn’t get recorded on any television chart.


sculpture by kayti sweetland Rasmussen

Today’s 145th running of the Belmont Stakes race in New York was exciting on more than one level. The Belmont is a 1 1/2 miles run and is the culmination of the Triple Crown Series which begins the first Saturday in May each year with the Kentucky Derby, and sandwiches the Preakness which was two weeks ago.

I never seem to get my bet down in time, but then I’ve only seen it on TV. We love horses in our family, but strangely enough, these are the only times of the year I watch the races. I study the racing form eagerly in the morning of the race for the odds and carefully choose my horse. The trainers are familiar, and some of the same jockeys remain from year to year. The pre-race is interesting to me because we get a little history of the jockeys, and of the trainers, which makes it fun to choose whom we will bet our two bucks on usually depending on the hardships the jockey or the trainer have gone through to get there.

Gary Stevens is a jockey I used to follow, mainly because he is so good looking (plus he’s a great rider) and he had a part in the movie “Seabiscuit” which I loved to pieces. He retired a few years ago and sat in the broadcasters booth to read the race, but I found him again at the Preakness when they announced that he was the “oldest jockey in the field” at age 50. I immediately chose him as fellow “codger” to put my money on to win, and he came in by several lengths on “Oxbow”, trained by D. Wayne Lukas who has been around nearly as long as I have. It goes to show you can’t discount the oldsters, we’ve still got it.

The second jockey they featured two weeks ago was Mike Smith, 47, and also called attention to his age, so I could have lived betting on either one, just on the face of their advanced age.

Today Gary Stevens was again on board “Oxbow”, and Mike Smith on “Palace Malice”. I naturally chose Stevens once again, and cheered like crazy during the couple of minutes the race takes. Charlie, our Jack Russell was tuckered out with the heat of the day and sleepily opened one eye in disgust. He is a lousy sports fan.

In a sport where sportsmanship doesn’t include making way for another jockey, Gary Stevens was a classic and classy gentleman at the end of this one. When Smith was asked what Stevens had said to him near the finish line when Smith was a little ahead of him, he said “Go ahead Big Boy, you’re movin’ better than I am.” I don’t know, that remark touched me more than if he had won the race.

“Palace Malice” took the race by a length. Dr. Advice lost one dollar on “Oxbow” who came in second I lost 2 dollars. Dr. Advice is almost as old as the two jockeys together.