—“Numa,I will always bet on you…You can’t lose—you’re the sheriff’s horse in this race.”
Thus spoke our late mentor and friend Professor Dr. Heraldo Tavella (using that most affectionate soubriquet he used with yours truly) when I met him in December 1982 to accept the plane ticket to the USA that he had bought for me. He loaned me those critical funds, which were readily paid back some time later, and enabled me to start my longstanding medical career in this country; I duly acknowledged his noble gesture in the preface of my upcoming book. Gracias Gran Heraldo!
What he was referring to is an ancient saying from the countryside of Uruguay and Argentina where there have always been occasional illegal horse racing and betting that has been tolerated by the authorities, especially if they have an interest in it. In those little agribusiness towns, the figure of the “comisario” (local police chief) towers high above all the rest as he/she has a big influence in all local affairs. Most of them are gifted horse riders, a needed skill in the vast expanses of these countries.
Note-. This picture of a mounted policeman in 1880’s Argentina was taken from Wikimedia Images.https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Policia_caballo_1880.jpg
Our dearest uncle José Luis—recently deceased due to the Coronavirus pandemic—had a coffee and tea business in La Paz. Montevideo, and he regularly visited his loyal clients in the countryside to deliver his goods in local groceries and markets. In many of those trips, we gladly accompanied him, an always exciting adventure. When we visited a little town in the department of San José, we found such a race.
There was an impromptu racetrack in the outskirts with plenty of public and several riders. Right before a race, we parked our van and strode briskly to the assembly.
—“Find out if the sheriff owns one of those horses and bet all our money on it.”
I raced to the makeshift betting booth and quickly asked what my uncle had told me. The clerk pointed at an old wrinkled and flea-infested mare that could hardly stand.
Shocked, I went back to my uncle and detailed the sorry physical state of that horse.
—“It does not matter…Do as I say—put all our money in that mare’s legs. Go!”
Obfuscated and grumbling, I skedaddled back to the booth and plonked all our monies.
The bell rang. In the first dash, all the colts raced forth and the mare was left behind. The race entailed there round turns at the track; I steadfastly refused to watch it. Until the very last leg when I turned around and I saw an unbelievable spectacle. All of a sudden, the hectic race seemed to turn into a ralenti mode where all the jockeys slowed their frantic ride to the finish line, looking like a slow-motion film sequence.
At the same time, a most unexpected player slowly but steadily gained on all of them. The mare, running on the far end of the track, finally crossed the finish line. Wow!
Flush with freshly earned cash, I went back to my uncle and hugged him tenderly. Never again did I question his knowledge of human nature. Gracias Tío querido!
In a previous article about Pride, we praised the value of keeping a modest profile in our lives. However, on reviewing the latest (and hopefully also the final) Galley Proofs of our upcoming book Emotional Frustration- the hushed plague, we cannot help feeling a little bit like that old mare, a proudly-winning Caballo de Comisario.
We will not fail our expectant lady-readers. Our book is getting better by the day, hour, minute.
Stay distant. Stay safe. Stay beautiful.
What do you think? Please tell us.
Don’t leave me alone.