Posts Tagged ‘ Hell ’




     Stewart I. Haupman was petting a $2,300 cockatoo when I met him several years ago at his parrot shop in Redondo Beach, California. But he wasn’t always in the exotic bird business.

     He grew up in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen, a tough tenement section brimming with poverty and controlled by gangs. At the age of seven, he sold magazines and sang on weekends at Jewish weddings to help support the family

     Sharing a small two-bedroom flat in a tenement house with his parents, grandparents and a brother who had polio, he slept on a cot in the hallway.

     When he turned 14, he quit school, forged his father’s signature, and became a stable boy at the old Jamaica Race Track. A year later, he became an exercise boy at Hialeah, a track in Florida.

     It was there he got his first mount as a jockey. The third horse he raced, won! Within eight months, he had won 127 races and had become a full-fledged jockey.

     Over a period of eight years, riding for Sonny Jim Fitzsimmons, whom he described as “the dean of trainers,” he had won 832 races. “Being a jockey, that was my education. I rode and I broke yearlings for the DuPonts, the Vanderbilts, the Whitneys… “I owe a lot to those people. They taught me to be a human being. I learned to function in an area of society I never even dreamed I could be a part of.”

     As a winning jockey, the kid from Hell’s Kitchen not only rubbed elbows with the rich and famous, but found a pride within himself. “The racetrack gave me self-esteem. I had a great time. Winning a big race is an unbelievable experience.

     “You hear the crowd yelling, screaming. And You’re whipping and driving. Well, it’s exciting. You wave at the judges in the winner’s circle. There’s smiles. Applause. The track gave me the feeling of being somebody special. Like a track star.”

     During a race at Hialeah, his mount “snapped an ankle” and Steward went down in front of the pack. Trampled by six horses, he was “busted up bad” and spent nine months in the hospital, gained weight and lost that competitive edge to win.

     “To have success suddenly taken away from you — it was devastating! When you’re a kid, nobody paints you a rosy picture. Nobody tells you there’s a rose garden out there. You find it. Then, all of a sudden, it’s gone. It seems that nobody really teaches you that in life, you win a few and lose a few. You should never quit when you’re down.”

                                                               — Boots LeBaron —





What’s behind that final door?

Do I have the courage to open it?

Will I find a congenial St. Peter?

Or a menacing Satan ready to cuff me

and send me to the brimstone pit

without reading me the Miranda Act?

Or will there be a sorceress

with a ravishing smile sporting

a Miss Universe type sash with

OBLIVION printed across it?

I’m really not prepared

to leave this troubled World

where I’ve battled defiantly

over the past eighty-some years.

I still have unfinished symphonies

to complete before I open that portal

 to Valhalla where Odin might honor

me with a glimmering diploma for

a lifetime of writing meaningful

prose and creating soulful art.

Narcissistic as it might sound,

as a writer and artist, I’m proud of

of my work. So I’m not ready to take

that final step. My favorite Woody

Allen quote just about sums up my

feelings: “I don’t want to achieve

mortality through my work. I want

to achieve it by not dying.”

When I’ve finished my memoir

and published my illustrated book

of essays and human interest stories

that took me a half century to create,

I’ll  give ODIN a high-five and

welcome MISS  OBLIVION  with

open arms.

— Boots LeBaron —

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