Based on characters owned by the estate of Walter Farley and several original characters he bears no responsibility or blame for.

Thanksgiving

"Well, maybe we could spend Christmas with my family. Do you think that's possible? I was talking to my Mom this morning and she's really looking forward to us all being there. She's already planning a big family party and menus and she was even asking me what sizes you wear for presents and stuff."

They were standing in the stallion barn and Alec was in his horse's stall, going over Black with the big brush he liked so much. The horse was standing with his eyes closed, enjoying it like a person would a good massage. Pam was leaning on the opened half of his double stall door.

Alec had just told Pam about his having to spend a large part of the winter racing season in California. She'd been hoping they could go down to Florida so they could see her family over the holidays but it just wasn't going to happen this year. He knew that it was their first Christmas together and, of course—he wanted to be with Pam just as much as she wanted to be with him, but if she really wanted to be with her family and he had to work, well…it was what it was. He was sorry, but there wasn't much he could do about it. Well, okay, maybe… "What if we went down for Thanksgiving instead, would that be all right? And there's no reason why you couldn't go to Florida for Christmas or just stay through from Thanksgiving. I have to be at Santa Anita to race before the end of the year; opening day is December twenty-sixth—I'll have to be there at least a week or so before that." He paused knowing this wasn't what she wanted to be hearing. "Black is entered in the California Handicap and the winner's share is a million and a half tax free, Pam."

"I know it's a lot of money, but…"

"They're basically running the race just for Black—it's how they're getting us out there so early in the meeting, we have to be there; I have to be there." He really didn't want to disappoint her, but she knew they needed the money the races could bring in. Henry's simple goal—between winning purses and stud bookings— was for them to come home with as much money as they possibly could. If they won this race and a few others maybe they could cut the meeting short and he could come home early. There were half million-dollar races every couple of weeks, so if they could pick up that money in addition to the big one, maybe he'd be home sooner.

Pam was clearly upset by the news, right now Alec had to spend at least part of every week down at Aqueduct, Pimlico or Churchill Downs and much as she loved the farm, she was lonely when he was gone. "I have work to do, more than enough to keep me busy, but—I just miss you so much." She didn't want to make this any harder for Alec than it already was for him but still, it was hard. "Besides, I've never missed Christmas with my family and it's just so great when we have everyone together with the tree and the candles and everything and I want to share it with you."

"I'm not happy about it, either."

"But ...Mom and Dad said that your parents could come too and even Henry if he doesn't have anyplace else he'd be then and…" She stopped, determined not to whine. This was his job, the work he loved and was important to the farm and everyone on it. She knew this.

"Henry will be out in California, too." Alec held her while she composed herself, not saying anything about the argument he'd had that afternoon with Henry. Alec insisted he could fly back and forth between the farm and California, that he didn't have to stay there the entire six or eight weeks. Henry would be there and Jinx would be going out as well to look after the Black. The horse would be fine and Alec would still be there for all the races and most of the training runs. He could still deal with the press and the other horsemen when he was out west with no harm being done. It would be fine. Unfortunately, you'd have thought that he'd suggested that he simply phone his entire job in from the reaction he'd gotten from Henry.

"It's not a part time job and it never has been for you. Maybe I should find myself another jock that takes his work a little more seriously than you've been doing lately. Maybe that's what I have to do."

"That's unfair and you know it, Henry—I work as hard as anyone and I always have."

"Sure you do, but it looks to me like you have other things on your mind the last few months and those are the things that are going to get you killed if you're not careful and then what am I supposed to do?"

"No one's going to get killed, Henry. Lighten up a little, will you? I just want to spend some time…"

"With Pam. I know. Well, maybe it's time for you to make some decisions about what matters most to you now, you hear me? I don't want to be the one to have to tell her you're in a hospital or worse because you were day dreaming instead of concentrating on some race." Alec thought he was finished but then stopped to throw out one last comment. "I've been thinking about retiring for a while now—maybe this is the right time. I don't want to be around to watch some medics put you on another stretcher. I'm getting too old to follow ambulances and the way you've been going that's exactly where you're going to end up—or worse. I've been telling you this for months and I may as well be talking to Napoleon for all the good it's done. You're riding for a fall and it's going to be a bad one when it happens."

It had been ugly and they'd both drawn back a bit at the vehemence of the half hour long exchange.

He forced the unpleasantness to the back of his mind and refocused his attention back onto Pam. "We'll all go down for Thanksgiving this year—it'll be fun, you'll see. I don't think my parents have ever been to Florida and Mom has this weird thing about palm trees—she really likes them."

"We have lots." She sniffed very slightly, smiled and laughed. It would be fine. It wasn't what she'd hoped for but Alec was busy, he was working and he had a lot of pressure on him to perform. He was pulled in a lot of different directions and she didn't want to add to that. "It'll be great."

*****

A month later the visit with Pam's family was going well, even if Alec was still dealing with the fall out of his being a week late for the race meeting out at Santa Anita. Henry had grumbled, complained and finally agreed to hire a journeyman jockey for the half dozen cheap training races he had the youngsters entered in. Alec had promised that he'd be there in plenty of time for the rest of the meet and would ride any and all races involving the Black. In fact, he had his ticket and his racing kit was packed and ready to go.

They arrived down in Florida the Monday before Thanksgiving to beat the travel rush and settled in, Pam and Alec using Pam's old room and her two brothers doubling up to free up another bedroom for the older Ramsay's. They all made a real effort to get along but the two sets of parents was as different as it was possible to be and still live on the same planet.

Alec's parents were two decades older than Pam's and they were registered Republicans, while Pam's parents were still in their early forties and as liberal as you could get.

Alec's parents tended towards solid comfort food, while the Athena's favored health food.

Alec's mother didn't own a bathing suit. Pam's mother wore a bikini and looked good in it.

Pam's family all rode their own horses. Alec was the only rider in his family.

Pam's family liked to join friends for shows, movies, concerts and dinner. Alec's parents liked quiet evenings at home with the TV, a good book or maybe a game of Scrabble.

But—they all loved 'the kids', as Pam and Alec were referred to—and that was what mattered and so everyone pitched in to make the visit a success. The two mothers worked together to make the big holiday dinner, sharing recipes. Pam, her sister Ann and Alec made the apple and pumpkin pies for dessert and Alec's father watched a lot of football and discussed the business end of Hopeful Farm. They all made it work and the holiday went well; everyone ate too much and the northerners laughed about eating Thanksgiving dinner in summer clothes and air conditioning instead of sweaters with a fire blazing in the living room.

Part of the planed entertainment for the guests took place on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Pam's sister Ann was entered in a local horse show, hoping to gain a few more points towards her championship and everyone was going over to watch—except for Pam's brother's who were going to the local high school football game instead. Ann had headed over to the show grounds by dawn with Jim, Pam's father driving the pickup pulling the horse van. Pat, her mother had followed after breakfast with the Ramsay's and Alec and Pam were sleeping in after a late party with some of her old school friends anxious to meet Alec. They'd join the rest when they got around to getting up. They were still newlyweds, afterall…

They finally rolled out of bed around nine-thirty—an unheard of hour for them, had some breakfast and then, an hour or so later were at the show, parked and looking for Ann's stall assignment. They cut through the rows of barns until they found her grooming her horse, Sandman, in preparation for their first class of the competition. Although Alec had been to a few horse shows in his life, this was all pretty unknown territory for him. The formality, the emphasis on the show part of horseback riding was a little strange to him, but so long as he didn't have to do it, it was fine with him. He was used to the friendly rivalry of the jockey room and the professional competition; here he was getting the vibe that it was more polite, but also a bit more cutthroat. Oh well and no matter, he was just a visitor and wouldn't be spending much time in this corner of the horse world.

"Hey guys, you're just in time; my first class is in a few minutes." Annie was wearing her complete kit, other than her jacket, which was on a hanger on a hook on the barn wall. The breeches, high hard boots, white blouse, stock and all clean, pressed and fitting perfectly.

"What's your first event?"

"Stadium jumping, with jumps under four feet high." She went into her tact trunk to pull out the saddle blanket. "You know, I've had at least seven or eight people come over to ask me if you're going to be here today, Alec. I think you have a fan club." She was teasing him, but it annoyed him despite his smile and laugh. He just wanted to be left alone to watch the events and hang out with his extended family.

"I hope you're kidding."

"No, honest. There were a local reporter and a photographer looking for you a little while ago, too. Really they were. You might have to hide or something if you want to avoid them."

Pam squeezed his hand, she'd be here with him and she knew how much he hated this part of his job. He accepted it and was even pretty good at dealing with the public side of things, but sometimes it wore thin, especially when he was in a private part of his life.

They chatted for a couple of minutes as Annie tacked her horse, walked with her over to the ring she'd be competing in then made their way into the stands, finding the two sets of parents and sitting down beside them. "So you two finally made it—for goodness sake, what on earth kept you so long?"

"Oh Belle, don't embarrass them; leave them alone!"

The lead-line pony class was just finishing up in the ring in front of them. A group of a dozen or so two and three year olds were sitting on a bunch of Shetland ponies, both ponies and kids in full tack and habit and being lead by proud mothers and the occasional father. "Pammie, do you remember when you and Annie were in your first shows? They were both so cute, Belle—you would have loved it!"

Alec's mother smiled; "Do you have any pictures back at the house?"

"Mom, please." Pam rolled her eyes, "Albums full. Tons."

"Well, young lady, it may not be too long before you or Alec are out there leading our grandchildren, you know. You and your sister were adorable."

Belle didn't bother to hide her grin. "Knowing Alec, any kids they have may start out in the lead-line racing class, complete with silks."

"You know, Satan is calm enough to go along with something like that. Okay, he's not a pony, but are there really any regs about that? Think of him as a very big pony…" Pam giggled at Alec; Satan was close to eighteen hands tall, solid as a wall and was a Triple Crown winner. It would be funny, though and he was a big sweetheart now—he probably wouldn't mind a toddler on his back. "Or maybe Napoleon? He's so swaybacked he's like sitting in a hammock…"

Pam and Alec smiled at the joking as the little kids were handed their ribbons. One kid bursting into tears with the yellow, clearly wanting the blue. As soon as the kids cleared the ring the jumping class started. They watched the horses and riders go through the prescribed series of jumps, with less than a quarter of them having clean rounds—Annie was one of them, though and she would ride in the jump off. The second round of jumping had four horses going, all of her family thinking she'd have the blue until the very last jump when Sandman clipped his heel on the final rail, knocking it over for points and the red ribbon instead of the blue. It was a disappointment, but a minor one and she had four more classes before the end of the afternoon. Pat and Jim went down to congratulate her on placing while Alec's parents suggested they look through the vendor's stalls and then find some lunch at the concessions tent. They spent a half-hour browsing the saddles, horse blankets, jewelry, hard hats and silk scarves printed with hunt scenes, buying nothing.

On line for overpriced hamburgers, Alec was struck at how odd it was for him to feel like an outsider at a horse event—of necessity he'd gotten used to being the center of attention at the tracks but this was different. It wasn't a bad thing and he didn't mind, but it was something he hadn't dealt with in a while, not since he'd started racing the Black years ago and was the new kid being heckled in the locker room. He knew he was getting some looks from people who seemed to recognize him, but they were leaving him alone—so far.

Sitting with everyone eating lunch and chatting with some folks Pam's family knew, it was pleasant and relaxed and cool here in the shade of the large tent marquee. As they were finishing eating, more people came over to say hello; evidently Pam's family were regulars on the show circuit and had a lot of friends.

"That's quite a girl you have there, Jim—I think she may have an Olympic berth in her future if you aren't careful!"

"We'll keep an eye on her, Herb, and that new thoroughbred you brought today looks like a real mover—that's the one you brought down from Kentucky last month, isn't he?"

"That's right, that's right. Excuse me for breaking up a family gathering like this, but you're Alec Ramsay, aren't you?" Alec managed a smile. "The closest I've ever gotten to you was a TV screen and now here you are as close as you could be—you're not giving up racing for horse shows now, are you?"

God. "No, just here to see Annie ride, that's all."

Herb looked a little confused for a moment, then, "Of course! I swear, I'd forget my head if it wasn't attached—I heard that you and this pretty little lady tied the knot a little while ago, of course I did." He leaned over and kissed Pam on the cheek. "Little Pammy an old married woman now. Good Lord, I remember you and that little pony you used to have and now look at you—all grown up and married to the top rider in the whole country."

"I'm not the top rider…"

"Modesty—I like that in a man, indeed I do. Well, the best known rider then, if you prefer. All right, Alec—you don't mind of I call you Alec, do you? You take good care of this lady—she's pretty special to us folks around here, you know…but that's too much of my jabbering, you get back to your lunch, you hear? I've interrupted enough, but Pammy? I'm going to have Wendy call you to see what you kids want for a wedding present so you start thinking, you hear?" Herb moved away as Pam and Alec exchanged looks. How embarrassing.

Unfortunately, Herb seemed unable to keep his mouth shut and from then on throughout the afternoon Alec was forced to deal with a constant stream of people coming up to ask for his autograph, shake his hand or have their picture taken with him. They were all complimentary and pleasant enough but the interruptions were non-stop and getting annoying after a few hours. He'd been raised to be polite and he didn't want to be rude to kids, but enough was enough. If he'd been back home or at one of the tracks he would have simply gone back to the barns and hide out but that wasn't really an option today and he endured it with as much good grace as he could. Pam's family, and even his own parents, had never really seen this side of his life and he hated the way they kept looking at him, as if he wasn't just 'Alec' but a 'celebrity'. He really hated it.

Then the local sports reporters who were asking about him earlier found him. Alec only managed to get rid of them by agreeing to pose for a few pictures and answering a few lame questions…all of which, of course, brought him more attention from the other spectators.

"Alec Ramsay is here? Oh my God…!"

"Mom, could you ask him to sign this? Please?"

"Waitress? Would you please send a pitcher of beer over to table seven? Tell Mr. Ramsay that it's from Melissa."

"Alec, Alec Ramsay? Um, I was wondering if you'd mind taking a look at my daughter's horse for me—I think he may be limping but she insists he's just fine…"

"Just one picture with my kids, please?"

"My gracious—I wish I could stay as thin as you are! You have to tell me your secret."

"Aren't you frightened riding at a dead run the way you have to?"

"My mom was wondering if you're free for dinner…"

His own mother was the one who finally commented. "Alec, I know this may sound silly, but I had no idea you were this well-known, and this isn't even a race track, for goodness sake. Do you mean to tell me this happens to you down at Belmont or Churchill Downs when you're there?"

He shook his head. "It's not as bad there—I guess they're used to seeing me around or something. This isn't normal—most of the time I don't get this much attention and I'm really sorry about it; I know it's kind of putting a dent in the day." And he was feeling badly for Annie, too. After her second place red ribbon that morning, she's scored three blues in a row and no one was giving her the time of day. It wasn't fair—all he was doing was sitting there drinking iced tea, watching the show classes and trying to mind his own business.

He'd also done just about everything he could think of over the last few years to keep his parents shielded from the reality of his public life when he wasn't on the farm but hardly a week went by when he wasn't contacted by at least one reporter. Sometimes it was someone wanting a formal interview, sometimes it was a book deal regarding his so far unwritten biography (he wasn't even twenty-two, for crying out loud—a little premature maybe?) or just a quote or comment about some race or horse or something. He'd been dealing with it long enough that he was fairly used to it, but he still didn't like it. First of all, he liked to keep his privacy as much as possible. Secondly he didn't have time for this nonsense, much as it may be part of his job to raise the visibility of his sport. And finally he wasn't all that convinced he had all that much to say which anyone would want to listen to. Sure, his parents knew he was in the sports pages pretty regularly. They'd seen most of the magazine articles about him, knew he was on TV whenever he was in a big race and was expected to give interviews, but they really didn't know the extent of the intrusion it all made into his life.

He'd thought it was pretty telling that Pam's parents knew exactly who he was before they'd even been formally introduced; it wasn't like they were involved in racing or anything. He wasn't even surprised that her father could pick up the phone to check up on whether or not it was okay for him to be married to his daughter. Luckily for Alec, there were enough people in their very limited overlapping circles of friends and acquaintances who vouched for him as being a decent guy. Jim had his information in less than an hour and that was from three sources.

He felt Pam squeezing his hand. "You okay?" She knew he was getting fed up.

He nodded, a bit tersely. "Fine."

"Want to leave?"

"No, but is there someplace we can take a break from this?"

"Let's go."

A couple of minutes later they were seated together on a hay bale out in the sun, Alec sitting with his back against the barn wall by Annie's stall and Pam between his legs, using him as a backrest with his arms around her waist. Annie was grooming Sandman near by and today's ribbons were hanging on a string. No one bothered them, though they were getting a few looks—or Alec was, anyway. He ignored them.

"Better?" Pam was more worried about him than she'd admit.

"Better. Are your parents going to be angry that we bailed on them?"

"They saw what you were going through; they're probably wondering how you lasted as long as you did." She laced her fingers through his. "Do your parents really not get how well-known you are? Was your mom kidding?"

He laughed as he pressed closer against her. "She's not big into racing. I think she's only been to like two races I've ridden and she usually forgets to turn on the TV when one is televised. I know that sometimes my father will show her an article but after she read one that was a little critical she refused to read any more and that was like five years ago."

Pam was laughing and turned enough to look at Alec. "So she really doesn't know you're—what was it that Miami reporter called you?—America's sporting sweetheart. You know, the one who said you're better looking than David Beckham?"

"Oh God, he didn't, did he?" He squeezed her a little tighter. "And you're married to me so…"

"So I get to bask in the glory that is you."

"And that's just for starters." He kissed the back of her neck.

"Alec! And so how come no one was asking for my autograph today?"

"I'm cuter than you are."

She jabbed an elbow into his ribs. "Not even close."

"Oh yeah—you're just blonder."

She turned a little more serious. "Annie's class is in a few minutes. I'd like to watch her, if you can stand it."

Pam's sister was pulling out her saddle again, getting Sandman ready. Pam was both happy and proud that Alec cared enough about her family to stay when he probably wished he'd never agreed to show up here today. After word had gone out that he was here, the various trainers and riders and owners had made a point of trying to either get a look at him or strike up a conversation. One owner even had the gall to ask him if he had a ride yet for the next Kentucky Derby. She had a horse she just knew her husband wanted to start in the race. She was sure that all they needed for the win was a top notch jockey and so if Alec wasn't booked, well…

Somehow Alec had gotten out of that one by politely suggesting that she call his agent who would keep her in mind if Hopeful Farm didn't run one of their own colts. The woman seemed insulted that he hadn't jumped at her offer.

Ten minutes later they were holding hands as they walked Ann down to the ring for her advanced stadium jumping class, the finale of the day's events, and wished her luck.

After he signed a few more autographs for some twelve-year-olds in riding habits, Pam and Alec turned to retake their seats in the stands a man tapped Alec's shoulder. "I hope you'll excuse me, Mr. Ramsay and I don't mean to interrupt, but my name is Duke Johnson—president of the Horseman's Association for the East Coast. We'd be mighty proud if you'd agree to join us in the VIP tent, if it's not an imposition give you a chance to watch the class without all the interruptions. Oh, and it would be a real honor for the competitors if you'd agree to present the Championship ribbons in the last events."

"Thank you, but…"

"I certainly don't want to be presumptuous, but you look like you could use some privacy about now after what you've been enduring since you got here; mighty hard to miss the gawkers and autograph seekers following you around all day."

"It's all right, I'm sort of used to…"

"Yes, I'll just bet you are used to this, young man, after everything you've accomplished in just a few years. Well, truth be told, I've been watching you from the grandstand since that first match race you won on the Black when you were still a kid—you've no idea how much you managed to impress the hell out of me that day. I saw you ride all three races for Satan's win in the Triple Crown—and then on Black Minx in the Derby again and I catch your rides every chance I get. I don't mean to embarrass you but for my money, you're the most talented rider currently working on the circuit."

Alec really did want to see Annie ride since he'd missed all her other rounds when he was dealing with fans but he felt trapped. If he refused he'd be considered a stuck-up, arrogant diva, but if he sat in the open stands he'd be inundated by fans again. So with little real choice and after exchanging a look and silent agreement with Pam, "I'd be pleased to, of course." A minute later, seated in the shade of the judges marquee, he turned to their host, "I'm sorry, Mr. Johnson, this is Pam, my wife."

"Duke, please and, my goodness, you'll have to forgive me, Mrs. Ramsay—I had no idea that Alec here was even married; I just thought he'd managed to find himself a pretty girlfriend to spoon with. I hope you two don't mind my saying that you both look a few years too young for making it official."

Pam squeezed Alec's hand again but he was fine. He knew he looked younger than his age. "It's been almost a year, actually."

"My goodness, I had no idea! Well this calls for a celebration—Jimmy? Champagne, please." Duke next insisted on introducing the young couple to almost everyone under the marquee, all of them various officers of various local, southern or east coast horse associations. Most of them seemed to want to shake his hand or invite him to dinner or to tour their stables, most also asked about the cost of breeding to Hopeful Farm stallions and wanted to talk shop.

After the obligatory toasts and finally settling in to watch the jumpers go through their paces, Alec tried to change the subject away from his personal and professional life while he ignored the stares from virtually everyone within sight. "So you follow racing, Duke? Are you an owner or a trainer?"

"Owner. Sorry, I have a little operation up in Kentucky but I'm down here visiting my daughter and the grandkids for the holiday, going back tomorrow as a matter of fact—that's why I'm just the honorary president around here."

That rang a bell for Alec. "That's why I know your name, you own Cat's Paw, don't you?" He'd come in third in the Preakness last year.

"I sure do—best I've ever owned, not that you ever saw the front of him the way you blew by him in the backstretch—that was one of the best rides I ever saw and I've seen a lot of them, believe me." Alec had managed a win by five lengths on Black Aces in that race. They'd only taken a third in the Derby, but Aces had won both the Preakness and the Belmont. It wasn't the Triple Crown, but it was still pretty good.

Alec nodded his thanks. He remembered Cat's Paw and he was all right but nothing more—good speed but couldn't run the classic distances. He'd only been entered in the Preakness as a rabbit for a couple of the other horses in the race. Henry had seen him in a workout and dismissed him out of hand—and he'd been right to do so. He also spooked if you looked at him and had gotten the reputation of being a nutcase; not a horse they'd want in the Hopeful Farm stable.

Finally, Annie came into the ring, looking composed and smooth as she started the horse through the course.

"You're interested in show jumping, Alec?"

"I'm interested in pretty much any horse, Mr. Johnson. That rider is Pam's sister and we're here to see her today."

Duke gave Ann a closer look. "She's ridden over my grand daughter in every class they both entered today. That's quite a nice animal she's on—is she out of your farm by any chance?"

Alec answered without taking his eyes off the ring. "No, he's not, but I agree—Sandman's a nice mover." Ann moved Sandman over the final two jumps, chalking up a clean round and moving her into the jump-off.

"So will you be down here long, Alec—you don't mind if I call you 'Alec', do you?"

"Of course not, Duke, and I'll only be here another couple days."

"Racing?"

Alec nodded. "Out in LA for the winter meeting."

"You aiming for the Breeders Cup?" Alec nodded, his attention still on the action in the ring. "Well, when you get back east, I'd love to sit down and have a long talk with you about setting up some breeding, if that's all right with you."

"We're always willing to talk about breeding our studs—why don't you e-mail me your genealogies and I'll take a look at them, see what might line up for us." He handed over a business card with Hopeful Farm's address and e-mail on it.

Duke looked like it was Christmas morning and he'd just seen that new bike he'd been hoping for under the tree. "The minute I get home, absolutely."

As soon as Duke left them alone Pam turned to Alec. "You know that second we walk in later that your mother is going to give you the third degree about all this hype, don't you?"

"I don't think it'll be that bad."

"Y'think? Okay, if I'm wrong I'll buy dinner for every one; if I'm right, you buy. Deal?"

"Deal."

***

Back at the Athena's, the two sets of parents were sitting in the back yard with iced tea, waiting for the various kids to get back from football games and the horse show. "Belle, how long has Alec had to deal with fans like he did today?"

"Good Lord, Pat, to tell the truth, I have no idea—he's certainly never said anything about it to me. Bill, has he ever talked about that to you?"

"I know there are usually some articles about him when he's riding and we get calls up at the farm from reporters but he never makes a deal about it, just seems to take it all in stride." Alec's father shook his head; no he had no idea, either. "Henry's made oblique references to his having to deal with the press and the public a couple of times but I had no reason to think it was that intrusive. I just hope it's not this bad for him when he's at a track."

Pat refilled the glasses; it was a hot day. "I was impressed by how well he handled it, though. A lot of people wouldn't have taken it as well, all those interruptions and questions; he really is good with that sort of thing."

"Well I did try to teach him to be polite to people but I'm not sure I would have taken it as well as he did. Those poor things; all they wanted to do was have a pleasant day at the show and all those people made it so difficult." Belle sipped her tea. "Poor Alec…"

"But Belle, you two must have known something about this; I mean, excuse me but he's had a couple of books written about him and he's followed by a good number of the mainstream press, not just the sports or racing segment." Jim went to get himself and Bill each another beer from behind the small bar area. "I'm not trying to be argumentative but he's become something of a role model both in the horse arena and out in the larger world. Surely you must have seen this growing over the years."

Alec's parents exchanged a look. Truth be told, they hadn't. Sure they knew there were things written about him, but to see him followed around the way he way today…

"Now I understand why he prefers being up at the farm." Belle shook her head. "I ready didn't think it was like this for him."

"He never talks about this with us but I suspect he realizes that it's for the good of racing—showing the positive side of things. Our horses aren't abused in any way; they're treated humanely, scratched if their health is in any question. Heaven's, even Satan was retired when there was a question of his soundness." Bill sipped his beer.

"But he's still making your farm some serious money, I'd think. Humane or not, that was a sound business decision."

Bill nodded, "Yes, of course, but it was still for the benefit of the animal as well. That was the main consideration and is the approach Henry and Alec both insist on." They heard a car coming into the driveway; the kids were home. A minute later Alec and Pam joined them on the deck and poured themselves iced tea from the pitcher on the table. "We were just talking about how much attention you ended up with today, Alec; is that normal for you out in public?"

Alec looked at his father as he sat on the loveseat, pulling Pam down beside him. "Not really, not at the tracks. I think it was just that they're not used to seeing me on the horse show circuit. I mean, it's not like I hang out at many of them."

"Are you two all right?" Belle was giving them a once over. "You both look tired."

Pam and Alec exchanged a small laugh. "'Sure, just another day at the office. Besides, you know what they say—it's when they stop bothering you that you have to worry, right?" He smiled. "It's cool." After taking a long drink of his tea he stretched his arms a little. "'Since I'm leaving for California in the morning, how does dinner out sound; my treat?"

5/6/09

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