Got a sandwich from Subway, settled on the hotel bed, and opened the book I’d just bought in Amherst on the recommendation of North American Trainer editor Frances J. Karon. “Day out of Days” is a short story collection by Pulitzer winner Sam Shepard, also the author of more than 45 plays. He’s an accomplished actor, too. But perhaps it’s not widely known that Shepard is also a horseman and lives in Kentucky and New York, and yearlings he breeds are often sold by Four Star Sales, a company for which Frances also works. She’s a huge fan of Shepard’s literary work, and though she owns a copy of “Day out of Days” she hasn’t read it yet and had actually recommended another of his short story collections, “Cruising Paradise.” The book store didn’t have that one, which is why I’m reading this one, and I’m glad I am.
Because a few days after re-reading Hemingway’s short story “My Old Man,” which references the top French colt Ksar in 1922, Shepard’s first story, “Kitchen,” gently mentions the great racehorse and sire Seattle Slew in passing. He writes: “Pencil drawing of Seattle Slew, long after retirement—bloated pasture-belly, glazed far-off stare in his eye as though looking back to the glory days of the Triple Crown.”
There’s something about racing, with its present troubles and all, that attracts us to it, and mainly its the horse as a hero, noble, pure, willing, and giving. What writers as Hemingway and Shepard can so eloquently portray each of us feels, even if we can’t express it quite as well.