Sunday, February 5, 2012

The story of Frank

I knew the day I met Frank we would clash one day. He was brash and gruff. I was brash and never backed down. That is a collision course waiting to happen. Of course, that collision did happen, and in a big way.
For the first few weeks, he loved me. I think in many ways I reminded him of himself. A no nonsense guy who doesn't take any shit. Of course that would be a problem when he decided to give out some shit and I wasn't going to take it.
Frank came to our barn because of Kim. Kim was a nice young girl, who knew horses but not really racehorses. She was a show horse person but while stabled at Frank's farm she had acquired a standardbred mare that Frank  had ruined called Sugar Cane K V. She intended to make Sugar Cane into a show horse. Kim really had no idea how to train her, although she jogged her every day. The thought was that the horse would never race because of an injury she acquired while Frank was training her. That was no surprise. Frank wasn't really a finesse guy and was likely to destroy any horse that couldn't take his brand of hard training and punishment. When Frank lost his farm, somehow it became a good idea for him  to stable at our place. Good idea by who I still have not figured out to this day.
One day he just showed up and Kim had made stalls for him. The owner of the barn, Mike, really had no spine or backbone and didn't have the guts to tell Frank he wasn't welcome although he knew of Franks reputation for being ornery.
I knew of Frank because I had been to the races for more than twenty years and his horses always had a name that was easily recognizable. Every horse he bred and raced was called either King something (if they were male) or ended in KV (if they were female) for King Valley Farms. He had a few nice horses over the years, but mostly they were poorly bred horses with very limited ability. He brought three horses to train to our farm, and those three were all poorly bred. None of them ever made it as racehorses.
I don't think I actually realized what a pathological liar he was until he spoke of the breeding of his horses. At the time one of the best trotting stallions around was a horse called Mr. Lavec. His stud fee was around $15,000 and it was hard to get a breeding. Frank's mares certainly did not qualify for that standard, nor did he have the money to pay the stud fees. He was at our farm now because he had sold his farm and then pissed that money away over the years. He was basically broke, but still acted like the big shot he never was. Because of his reputation,  he was not welcome at any stable within 200 miles.  Everyone knew of Frank. His lies. His attitude and his confrontational nature. Frank did what he wanted when he wanted. His own son had a farm down the road and he wasn't welcome there either.
Frank had claimed that his colt was a son of Mr. Lavec. Of course, that was an outright lie. The truth was that his colt was a son of a son of Mr. Lavec (called CJ's Secret), one nobody wanted to breed to. He probably got a free breeding for that very reason. That colt never raced and he was never going to. To Frank though, he was going to be the next world champion. In Frank, I saw the same bravado and delusional bragging talk I always heard from my father. I had heard his bullshit before, and it sounded very familiar.
When we looked up his horse and called him on his lie,  he said what all  liars did to save face.
 "Well,  that's what I meant".
I didn't know much about him until I met him. I had heard a few stories, and when he arrived I heard a few more. As it turns out, his reputation was well earned. He was a lying, cheating, mean spirited, cold jackass who looked for fights. He was a bully who didn't like it if he didn't get his way. And because most people just cowered and let him have his way,  he usually got it.
In the barn at the time were Robbie and his dad John. They were also in the business a very long time. Both were nice guys, but also very tough customers.  You never ever messed with them, and Frank was smart enough to stay on the other side of the barn and avoid them. He may have been a bully, but he wasn't a stupid bully. There were stories of both Robbie and John taking on a whole bar of tough men by themselves and leaving them all on the ground. I saw John do this one night at a bar we were at, and even the cops were scared of him.
On my side of the barn were Lou, Cory and Jason.  Kim was in the middle with her two horses.
Cory, Jason and I were all very similar. Educated Jewish guys who didn't really fit in with the racing types we had to associate with. We didn't grow up in the game and only entered it on our own. We all had wives and kids  in addition to the other things we did. We were outsiders. To see us out at the mall,  you would never know we trained racehorses. But we were all good guys and we got along well. There was never any trouble on our side of the barn. It was a fun place to be. Until Frank arrived. Then there was trouble and not much fun.
Lou was also a great guy, but he had issues. He would basically do anything for money.  One of those was taking in horses that didn't really belong on the racetrack. He also had bad owners and he hired scummy help. At that time he had two younger guys working for him, and they were too stupid to realize what a troublemaker Frank was. We all knew but we tried to make the best of it. That became very difficult as time went on.
Lou decided he would train for Frank and Lou's two helpers would help Frank. When it came time to remove Frank,  Lou would not want to give up the money that Frank was going to pay him. Of course going to pay him, because he really didn't have any money to pay him with. Lou was stupid like that. A great guy, but stupid.
We also had a lot of barn cats,  and really too many. We all knew  that, and as time always went on a few died, a few disappeared and the harmonic balance was always maintained. We fed them, but other than that they either survived or they did not.
Jason had actually taken two of the kittens home a few years earlier,  and because he moved to a new apartment, he could not keep them at home anymore. So he brought them back to the barn and being socialized cats, they were very easy to like and get attached to. Some of us did. I was one of those.
Because they weren't barn cats anymore they had trouble fitting in to the hierarchy of the cat structure of the barn. Some of us protected them from that. I was one of those.
We had a room in which we relaxed when we weren't training or grooming. It had a tv and all the channels. We used to hang out there and we let some of the cats in. Because Jason's two cats were very well behaved, we let them hang out there. I let them sit on my lap, because they were friendly and loving.
When I used to go to get my feed or hay for the horses, I would let them ride in the truck. They really were pets and didn't belong at the barn anymore. They arrived slightly before Frank did and had established themselves back in the pack  by then. At that point though there was a lot of kittens (too many) and something had to be done about that.
To most of us, that meant finding homes for them, mostly the males, so the reproduction would come back in line. To Frank that meant taking them out back and drowning them. I wasn't aware he was doing that, as he did it very early in the morning before any of us had gotten there. Jason and Lou knew about it, but ignored it. They weren't about to stand up to Frank for their own reasons.
One day I noticed Jason's two cats were missing. This wasn't unusual as barn cats always went missing. We had foxes and coyotes in the area, so that could always happen. But one day I noticed in the waste pile that there were two dead kittens buried. I asked Jason if he knew about it and he told me Frank drowned them. Of course,  that did not sit well with me. I spoke to Mike, the barn owner, but he said just let it go and not to mention it to Frank.
Later that month I still hadn't seen Jason's two cats so I asked him if he knew about them. He said he was pretty sure Frank killed them and dumped them. Of course this bugged Jason, but he still didn't want to do anything about Frank. Cory saw me and my reaction and he knew what I was going to do and told me to leave it alone. He knew that I wouldn't though. Frank wasn't the only one that never backed down.
One day later I saw Jason's two cats, dead and dumped in the pile. That was it. I told Frank that was the end of that.
I went to Frank and told him he was not to touch another cat in the barn. If he did he would have to deal with me. When he got over his anger, I think he was more in shock than anything. I doubt he thought anyone would have the guts to stand up to him. John and Robbie had told me before that he carried a gun as well as not being above bringing in a pitchfork or shovel and swinging it at you. Nevertheless,  he didn't scare me and he knew he didn't.
A few weeks passed and the cat killing stopped. At least as far as I know it stopped. By that point I had more horses and had to take a few stalls right beside Frank. One of my horses, Sassy Little Lassy was a major chewer. By the time a week  had passed she had chewed two boards out and she and Franks horse were nose to nose. He told me to make  sure that didn't happen anymore.  I told him that I would do my best but I could not stop her from chewing.
Of course, Frank was not getting his way,  and he needed (in his mind) to bully me to get it.
After a few more days and another board chewed,  he approached me and told me if I didn't stop it one morning I would come in and my mare would be set free and on the street where she could get hit by a car.
I warned him that he would be very wise to not do that, as there would be very grave consequences if that happened. He said just make sure she stops chewing. I said no matter what he was never to touch my mare or go near her stall again.
The next day, after Frank went to Mike and didn't get his way, Jason, Lou, Cory, John and I were sitting in the tv room watching Tv. Frank came to the door and told me to "get my fucking mare out of that stall" or he would put her on the street right that instant. I told him that he would do no such thing,  if he wanted to live to see the sunset that night. That was it, the final showdown.
He slammed the door and started screaming at me. He had a pitchfork in his hand and was shaking it at me. He threatened me and told me he was going to beat the crap out of me. Everyone was silent. They had now seen what happens when you let a bully have reign and don't stand up to them.
I stood up, quietly, and said "Frank, I am right here, lets go,  you want to fight,  lets fight". Nobody moved, including Frank. I had dealt with punks like him  before and he didn't scare me.
Then as soon as he was stood up to,  he backed away and just ran off and moped.
Two weeks later, when everyone had enough of him and he was asked to leave and would not, the police came and escorted him off the property, never to be seen again.
I never saw him a day after that. That is the story of Frank.

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