Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Winning with style

A story my grandmother likes to tell:

Late in the 1800s, when her grandfather was a young boy, his father needed to borrow a large sum of money. (Why? and what for? I do not know, and do not like to be asked, as it interferes with the progress of my story.) This was in the state of Chihuahua, which I can hardly spell, and there weren't too many people in that state at that time from whom one could hope to borrow a large sum of money, so my great-great grandfather was sent to go catch a certain Englishman after a race to make the request on my great-great-great grandfather's behalf.

This Englishman was an unconventional sort of person and had a significant amount of disposable income for two reasons: 1) he came from a quite well-to-do, aristocratic family 2) they had sent him to Mexico with the express understanding that he would be taken care of so long as he agreed never to come back and embarass them.

("Why would they do that?" my cousin Haruka interjected last night, as my grandmother began to relate the tale once again. "Listen to the story she's about to tell and you'll see" was my reply.)

Now, the Englishman had a reputation as a great runner and a greater braggart. He'd never been beaten, in his time in Mexico at least, in a race, to the increasing chagrin of those who were perpetually fed up with him. Some of these had recently hatched a plan to bring in a celebrated American athlete to humble their eccentric neighbor. Friends of the Englishman, believing in his ability to annoy those around him, hoped for an upset win and hoped that such a contest would, indeed, take place.

After the American had been contacted, the Englishman was approached regarding his own willingness to participate. He had agreed to a race, on two conditions: the runners were to wear sombreros and sarapes to the starting line, for the sake of local color, and the race was to begin from a kneeling position, for no discernable reason at all. His adverseries immediately agreed and the date was set. When morning of the race came, however, the Englishman's closest friends were dismayed to find him (as was not unusual) more than a little hung over--perhaps even still a bit drunk, and followed him to the track with despair in their hearts.

It is only because the day of this race coincided with my great-great-great grandfather's need that my great-great grandfather saw what happened next and passed it on down the generations. He saw the runners line up for the start, shrouded in their sarapes. He heard the pistol go off. And he saw the Englishman drop his sarape to run the course absolutely naked, which startled the superior talent straight out of his hotshot American competitor and thus won him the race.


  1. thanks for reminding me of this story!

  2. I've decided that someone should start a blog that consists entirely of the words that one is made to type to verify that they really are a real person in order to post a comment.

  3. I'm going for the most comments in this post--did the Englishman loan him the money?

  4. Grandma says that the Englishman was quite upset with Daddy John's father for having sent such a young boy to borrow such a large sum, but yes, he did lend him the money.


Related Posts with Thumbnails