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A short story by George V. Hobart

John Henry On Race Tipsters

Title:     John Henry On Race Tipsters
Author: George V. Hobart [More Titles by Hobart]

One day last week I was beating the ballast up Broadway when Pete, the Piker, declared himself in and began to chatter about cinches at the track.

"Get the saw, Pete, and cut it," I said; "it's many a long day since I've been a Patsy for the ponies. Once they stung me so hard that for months my bank account looked like a porous plaster, so I took the chloroform treatment and now you and your tips to the discards, my boy, to the discards!"

Pete isn't really a native of Dopeville-on-the-Fence, but he likes to have people think he knows the racing game backwards.

And he does--backwards. In real life he's a theatrical manager and his name on the three-sheets is Peter J. Badtime, the Human Salary Spoiler.

In theatrical circles they call him the impresario with the sawdust koko and the split-second appetite.

Every time Pete poses as an angel for a troupe if you listen hard you can hear the fuse blow out somewhere between Albany and Schenectady.

From time to time over 2,197 actors have had to walk home on account of Pete's cold feet.

Pete can develop a severe case of frosted pave pounders quicker than any angel that ever had to dig for the oatmeal money.

Pete is an Ace all right--the Ace of Chumps!

His long suit when he isn't dishing out his autobiography is to stand around a race track and bark at the bookmakers.

Pete is what I would call a plunger with the lid on.

He never bets more than two dollars on a race and even then he keeps wishing he had it back.

Pete had me nailed to the corner of Broadway and 42d Street for about ten minutes when fortunately Bunch Jefferson rolled up in his new kerosene cart and I needed no second invitation to hop aboard and give Pete the happy day-day!

"Whither away, Bunch?" I asked, as the Bubble began to do a Togo through the fattest streets in the town.

"I thought I'd run up and get the girls and take 'em for a spin out to the Belmont Park races," Bunch came back.

"Did you telephone them?" I inquired.

"No, but I told Alice this morning that if I got through at the office in time I'd take her to the track. We can call for Peaches on the way across town," was Bunch's program.

"Whisper, Bunch!" I suggested; "let's do the selfish gag for once and leave the wives at home. I haven't bet a nickle on a skate for two years, but my little black man has the steering wheel to-day and I'm going to fall off the sense wagon and break a five dollar bill."

"I'm with you, John," chuckled Bunch, and half an hour later we were on our way | to the track, after having sent notes to our wives that important business kept us chained to the post of duty, but if they would meet us at the Hotel Astor at 7 p.m. we'd all dine together.

Bunch had just tied his Bubble to a tree at the track and was in the act of giving it a long cool drink of gasolene and some cracked oats, when Flash Harvey bore down on us and made a touch for the turn-out.

"Say, Bunch!" chirped Flash, "lend me the choo-choo for half an hour, will you? I have my sister and a dream cousin of ours from Hartford here this aft. and I'm eager to show them how I can pound a public road with a rowdy-cart. I'll take good care of the machine and be back in two hours, honest, Bunch!"

Flash being an old friend of ours Bunch had to fall for the spiel and loaned him the Bubble forthwith.

Ten minutes later we were so busy listening to the sure-things falling from the eager tongues of the various friends we met that we quite forgot all about Flash and the busy barouche.

The first cinch-builder we fell over was Harry McDonough, the inventor of the stingless mosquito now in use on his Jersey farm.

Harry has the mosquito game down so fine that he's going to take a double sextette of them into vaudeville next season.

He has trained these twelve skeets to sing "Zobia Grassa," and Al Holbrook has promised to teach them a Venetian dances.

Harry offered us four winners in the first race and two cigars. He told us if we lost to smoke the cigars carefully and we'd forget our troubles and our names; but if we won we could use the cigars as firecrackers.

Then we ran across Jeff D'Angelis, the composer of the new tune now played on the automobile horns.

Jeff hadn't picked out a horse to win any race because his loyalty to sneeze-wagons is so intense that he won't even drink a horse's neck.

He explained that he only came to the race track to show the horses his smoke-buggy and make them shiver.

George Yates, the inventor of the machinery for removing sunburn from pickles, was there and he tried to present us with a sure winner in the third race.

A little later on we discovered that the horse Yates was doing a rave over had been dead for four years and that the card from which he was lifting his dope was the program of the meet at Sheepshead in 1896.

Some kind and thoughtful stranger had lifted fifty cent| from George's surplus and in return had stung him with an ancient echo of the pittypats.

Our next adventure was with Joe Miron, the famous horse trainer and inventor of the only blue mare in captivity at Elmhurst.

"Say, why didn't I see you guys before the first race; I had a plush-covered pipe!" yelled Joe.

"I had that race beat to a stage wait," Joe went on, enthusiastically. "Why, all you had to do was play 'The Goblin Man' to win and 'Murderallo' for a place--it was just like getting money from the patent medicine business."

"How much did you win, Joe?" I inquired.

"Who, me!" Joe came back. "Why I didn't get here in time to place a bet. I drove over from Elmhurst and the blue mare burst a tire. But, say, I've got a mother's darling in the third race! Oh, it's a ladybug for certain! You guys play 'Perhaps' to win and you'll go home looking like Pierp Morgan after a busy day. It can't lose, this clam can't! Say, that horse 'Perhaps' wears gold-plated overshoes and it can kick more track behind it than any ostrich you ever see! Why,| it's got ball-bearing castors on the feet and it wears a naphtha engine in the forward turret. Get reckless with the coin, boys, and go the limit, and if the track happens to cave in and it does lose, I'll drag you down to Elmhurst behind the blue mare and make the suction pump in the backyard do an imitation of Walter Jones singing 'Captain Kidd' with the bum pipes."

Joe was so much in earnest about it that Bunch and I put up fifty on "Perhaps" and waited.

We are still waiting.

"Perhaps" may have been a good horse but he had a bad memory and never could recollect which end of the track was the proper place to finish.

Joe must have left for Elmhurst immediately after the race because he failed to answer roll call.

Then we ran across Dave Torrence, the famous inventor of the disappearing trump so much used by pinochle players.

When Dave began to dope 'em out for us Bunch and I hid our pocketbooks in our shoes.

"Here's a good one," Dave suggested; "listen to this 'Easy Money' out of 'Life Insurance' by 'Director.' And here's a good one, 'Chauffeur' out of 'Automobile' by 'Policeman!' Do you care for those?"

There were tears in Bunch's eyes, but I was busy looking for a rock.

"Here are some more peacherinos," Dave went on, relentlessly, "here is 'Golf Player' out of 'Business' by 'Mosquito,' and here's another good one, 'Eternal Daylights' out of 'Russia' by 'Japan'--like 'em?"

Bunch and I handed Dave the reproachful face and fled for our lives.

Then we got down to business and began to lose our money with more system and less noise.

At the end of the fifth race we hadn't the price of a leather sandwich between us.

Every dog we had mentioned to the Bookies proved to be a false alarm.

Every turtle we plunged on carried our money to the bonfire and dumped it in.

"My little black man is whimpering, Bunch," I said. "I'm cured."

"One hundred and sixty bucks to the bad for mine," laughed Bunch. "I guess that will hold me temporarily. Come on, John; let's hop in the Bubble and dash back to the Hotel Astor; the girls will be waiting for us."

We hurried to the spot where Flash Harvey was to leave the gas-hopper but there was no sign of Flash or the machine.

Seven o'clock came and still no sign of Flash or the Bubble, and there we sat, two sad boys without a baubee in the jeans, hungry to the limit and with an ever present vision of our two worried wives displacing a bunch of expensive space in a restaurant while they waited for us to show.

It was pitiful.

Eight o'clock came, no Flash, no machine, while there we waited and watched our hair as it slowly turned gray.

I had gone through my pockets till I wore holes in them without locating anything in the shape money, but finally on about the 919th lap Bunch discovered dollar bill tucked away in a corner, whereupon we turned our faces to every point of the compass and called down maledictions on the head of Flash Harvey, wherever he might be, and then ducked for the trolley.

When we finally reached the Hotel Astor it was a quarter past ten, so we decided it was too late for dinner and we didn't go in.

At home--but what's the use?

The war is over now and a treaty of peace has been signed.

We are even with Flash Harvey, though.

He got speed-foolish in the Bubble and tried to give an imitation of a torpedo destroyer, with the result that a Reub constable pinched him and the whole outfit and threw him in a rural Bastile for the night.

That's what delayed him.

[The end]
George V. Hobart's short story: John Henry On Race Tipsters