The Road To Freedom Is Paved With Words And Numbers

When I was fifteen and sixteen and seventeen years old I used to work for my dad at the horse race meetings every couple weeks. 
He preferred me to work as his Penciller because I loved the pressure of making mathematical calculations on the spot with drunken adults waving wads of cash in my face. I thought it was the perfect job because it combined my natural proclivities for mathematics and stress management (i.e.: couldn't give a shitness) in one career choice.
Only thing was, it wasn't a career. You only worked Saturdays. Still, I made 60 bucks for four hours work which wasn't bad back in the day. Dad was only making 120 bucks a week in his full-time job at the wheat board. I know this because he used tell mum to take it easy down the shops cos she was spending 130 bucks a week on food.
So at 15 I was rolling in it and it happened because I was good at math and in not taking people too seriously.
So dad was a bookmaker and people would line up and make bets and he'd shout out the amount they were betting, the horse they were betting on, the race, the city, and the odds. He very often changed the odds according to how the betting was stacking up in the lead in to each race. I had to write down all these numbers and make calculations every few seconds and keep up with Dad's frantic pace as he was raking in the great wads of cash. If he wasn't fast enough getting through the betters and their outstretched fists of money they would get antsy and jump over to the next bookie or the next. In order for Dad to get through them and rake the cash in fast I had to work at the same frantic pace. Only difference was, I was doing all the calculations on the fly. I didn't use a calculator. I worked out my own system and from the bare bones of this system I could fill in all the other details after the rush had passed and the race itself was on.

We took bets on the local races right there in the paddock, and also the Sydney and Melbourne races that you could hear over the radio and public address system at the course. I would often go out and look at the horses in their stalls, and check out how they were being walked soon as we arrived at the course. You could tell an awful lot about how well a horse could run just by doing that recon around lunch time.
Occasionally if he was undecided what odds to offer on a local race and the odds were getting all out of proportion he would ask me my thoughts about such and such a horse and I would tell him. This information came in handy on more than one occasion. It was my way of feeling like I was adding value to the whole bookmaking enterprise.

Also when I was 15 I had a job at Target, the department store. I made 51 bucks a week there over my three days a week, and I sometimes mowed a couple lawns on days off, plus I did the races with Dad. So I was making as much money as Dad some times.
I bought surfing magazines, and custom van magazines cos I fully intended to take up a career in creative spray painting of panel vans and other recreational vehicles soon as I was able.
I bought myself expensive running shoes and started running every day. The running led to writing every day, to keep a journal of the running, and then eventually other stuff that occurred to me to write down.
Pretty soon songs were coming into my head. I figured everyone did that when they were fifteen.
The songs started flooding out of me, along with poems and other stories, like this one here even now in 2014.
So I was thrilled today when my wife and daughter arrived home from an afternoon at grandma and granddads place and seven-year-old Bonnie was able to recite all the squares of every number from one through ten: one times one is one. Two times two is four. Three times three is nine. All the way up to 10 times 10 is 100.
Numbers and words, dude. I love them. The road to freedom is somehow built out of them. I can't explain exactly how, but it is.

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