Old Roads, New Stories: Hawk Medicine, by Rob Carney

Hawk Medicine

By Rob Carney

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Old Roads, New Stories: A Literary Series

I-80 West of Laramie, May 5, 2019

Mostly I lose. And even when I win, I still lose. Betting horses.

A couple years back, up in Evanston, for instance—there’s a horse track there: Wyoming Downs—I had the winner; I had the exacta; I even had the superfecta (first through fourth), something that had never happened to me, and also some decent money, but it disappeared. The second-place jockey raised an objection, claiming that he’d been bumped. So the steward scrutinized the video, maybe sniffed the air for my karma, maybe sensed my held-breath wishing Don’t screw me, then he did: the winning horse got disqualified. All gone.

It couldn’t happen a second time, could it? Yes, it could. And to Jen and Jameson and Quentin too, because yesterday was the Kentucky Derby, and we all had Maximum Security to win or place. Jen had Country House to show, as well (more on that in a minute). And it wasn’t so much about a pot of gold—probably a hundred bucks between us—it just really sucked: “Riders up” nervousness, to cheering and excitement, to “Yes!” and then an X through it all.

That’s never been done before. In 145 years, Maximum Security (ironic name) is the only horse to have the roses taken away.

I don’t have to tell Auburn fans. And not you Saints fans either. The refs sent the Rams to the Super Bowl. The refs choked twice in the last eight seconds, so Virginia not Auburn wins the March Madness Tournament. And no, this isn’t just Whatever; it isn’t right. And it feels like proof that things don’t go your way.

Others have it worse, of course. I’m not an idiot. I don’t lack perspective. But still. . . .

Now some more about Country House: He had long, long odds—the second-most ridiculous—but he ran, and I’m glad that he did. It doesn’t make sense, but it feels good anyway when the horse you’ve decided to cheer for gets it done, and my wife gets to have that feeling. She’ll get a little money too. Six bucks to show at 65-to-1 isn’t the whole $390, but it’s good.

I’ll find out how good soon at the Rock Springs OTB. They still smoke inside there; how crazy is that? Like Wyoming’s half time warp/half dead zone: gas signs and wholesale fireworks signs with their fonts from the 1970s, and dozens of mangled deer along the roadside that even the magpies won’t eat. It’s pretty awful.

But just now a prairie dog did something that’s changing my mind. And a ways back, east of Rawlins, a hawk did too, pulling off this divebomb-gliding maneuver just an inch—one second—in front of me, and now a prairie dog is standing in the highway, right between lanes, and cars, and U-Hauls, and semis, and everything going more than 80 miles an hour. Like it’s testing out maniac luck.

Or better yet, like it doesn’t need to because it’s got mine. It didn’t vanish that day in Evanston; it just went and wrapped itself around a prairie dog. And what I’d thought was my good luck yesterday in Denver? Same thing: It decided to drift off north and find a hawk. That seems like a reasonable story. I’ll even bet you it’s true.

Because I liked the shadow that hawk made, briefly, flying away.



Rob CarneyRob Carney’s new book The Book of Sharks is available now from Black Lawrence Press. Previous books include 88 Maps, Story Problems, and Weather Report.
Read poetry by Rob Carney appearing in Terrain.org: 6th Annual Contest Finalist, 4th Annual Contest Winner, and Issue 30. And listen to a new radio interview with Rob Carney, and here’s an older radio interview.

Header photo by Olga_i, courtesy Shutterstock.

Terrain.org is the world’s first online journal of place, publishing a rich mix of literature, art, commentary, and design since 1998.