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Sunday, June 16, 2019
SUNDAY REVIEW / NEW HEMINGWAY SHORT STORY RELEASED INTO PUBLIC DOMAIN
Painting by Charles Taylor, 1934
“When my old man grinned nobody could
help but grin too...”
--from My Old Man, 1923 by Ernest
Editor's note: First privately published in “Three
Stories and Ten Poems.”The run of 300
copies was published by Robert McAlmon’s Contact Publishing in Paris in 1923.
It was dedicated “for Hadley.”This work
is now in the public domain.In her book
“Everybody Behaves Badly,” Hemingway biographer Lesley M.M. Blume in 2016 wrote
in her introduction: “...by 1923, it was driving him crazy.It seemed that practically every month,
another Fitzgerald short story appeared in another American publication, but no
one would publish the stories of Ernest Hemingway.Eventually a couple of Paris-based expat
boutique publishers brought out two little volumes of Hemingway poems, sketches
and stories.These booklets showcased
his revolutionary new style but didn’t exactly earn him a mass readership; in
fact, fewer than 500 copies of both titles combined ever went into
MY OLD MAN.
A short story by Ernest
I guess looking at it now my
old man was cut out for a fat guy, one of those regular little roly fat guys
you see around, but he sure never got that way, except a little toward the
last, and then it wasn't his fault, he was riding over the jumps only and he
could afford to carry plenty of weight then. I remember the way he'd pull on a
rubber shirt over a couple of jerseys and a big sweat shirt over that, and get
me to run with him in the forenoon in the hot sun. He'd have, maybe, taken a
trial trip with one of Razzo's skins early in the morning after just getting in
from Torino at four o'clock in the morning and beating it out to the stables in
a cab and then with the dew all over everything and the sun just starting to
get going, I'd help him pull off his boots and he'd get into a pair of sneakers
and all these sweaters and we'd start out.
"Come on, kid,"
he'd say, stepping up and down on his toes in front of the jock's dressing
room, "let's get moving".
Then we'd start off jogging
around the infield once maybe with him ahead running nice and then turn out the
gate and along one of those roads with all the trees along both sides of them
that run out from San Siro. I'd go ahead of him when we hit the road and I
could run pretty stout and I'd look around and he'd be jogging easy just behind
me and after a little while I'd look around again and he'd begun to sweat.
Sweating heavy and he'd just he clogging it along with his eyes on my back, but
when he'd catch me looking at him he'd grin and say, "Sweating
plenty?" When my old man grinned nobody could help but grin too. We'd keep
right on running out toward the mountains and then my old man would yell
"Hey Joe!" and I'd look back and he'd he sitting under a tree with a
towel he'd had around his waist wrapped around his neck.
I'd come back and sit down
beside him and he'd pull a rope out of his pocket and start skipping rope out
in the sun with the sweat pouring off his face and him skipping rope out in the
white dust with the rope going cloppetty cloppety clop clop clop and the sun
hotter and him working harder up and down a patch of the road. Say it was a
treat to see my old man skip rope too. He could whirr it fast or lop it slow
and fancy. Say you ought to have seen wops look at us sometimes when they'd
come by going into town walking along with big white steers hauling the cart.
They sure looked as though they thought the old man was nuts. He'd start the
rope whirring till they'd stop dead still and watch him, then give the steers a
cluck and a poke with the goad and get going again.
When I'd sit watching him
working out in the hot sun I sure felt fond of him. He sure was fun and he done
his work so hard and he'd finish up with a regular whirring that'd drive the
sweat out on his face like water and then sling the rope at the tree and come
over and sit down with me and lean back against the tree with the towel and a
sweater wrapped around his neck.
Hemingway passport photo, 1923
"Sure is hell keeping it
down, Joe" he'd say and lean back and shut his eyes and breath long and
deep, "it aint like when you're a kid". Then he'd get up before he
started to cool and we'd jog along back to the stables. That's the way it was
keeping down to weight. He was worried all the time. Most jocks can just about
ride off all they want to. A jock loses about a kilo every time he rides, but
my old man was sort of dried out and he couldn't keep down his kilos without
all that running.
I remember once at San Siro,
Regoli, a little wop that was riding for Buzoni came out across the paddock
going to the bar for something cool and flicking his bouts with his whip, after
he'd just weighed in and my old man had just weighed in too and came out with
the saddle under his arm looking red faced and tired and too big for his silks
and he stood there looking at young Regoli standing up to the outdoors bar cool
and kid looking and I says, "What's the matter Dad?" cause I thought
maybe Regoli had bumped him or something and he just looked at Regoli and said,
"Oh to hell with it" and went on to the dressing room.
Well it would have been all
right maybe if we'd stayed in Milan and ridden at Milan and Torino cause if
there ever were any easy courses its those two. "Pianola, Joe". My
old man said when he dismounted in the winning stall after what the wops
thought was a hell of a steeplechase. I asked him once, "This course rides
its-self. It's the pace you're going at that makes riding the jumps dangerous
Joe. We aint going any pace here, and they aint any really bad jumps either.
But it's the pace always—not the jumps that makes the trouble".
San Siro was the swellest
course I'd ever seen but the old man said it was a dog's life. Going back and
forth between Mirafiore and San Siro and riding just about every day in the
week with a train ride every other night.
I was nuts about the horses
too. There's something about it when they come out and go up the track to the
post. Sort of dancy and tight looking with the jock keeping a tight hold on
them and maybe easing off a little and letting them run a little going up. Then
once they were at the barrier it got me worse than anything. Especially at San
Siro with that big green infield and the mountains way off and the fat wop
starter with his big whip and the jocks fiddling them around and then the
barrier snapping up and that bell going off and them all getting off in a bunch
and then commencing to string out. You know the way a bunch of skins gets off.
If you're up in the stand with a pair of glasses all you see is them plunging
off and then that bell goes off and it seems like it rings for a thousand years
and then they come sweeping round the turn. There wasn't ever anything like it
But my old man said one day
in the dressing room when he was getting into his street clothes, "None of
these things are horses Joe. They'd kill that bunch of skates for their hides
and hoofs up at Paris". That was the day he'd won the Premio Commercio
with Lantorna shooting her out of the field the last hundred meters like
pulling a cork out of a bottle.
It was right after the Premio
Commercio that we pulled out and left Italy. My old man and Holbrook and a fat
wop in a straw hat that kept wiping his face with a handkerchief were having an
argument at a table in the Galleria. They were all talking French and the two
of them were after my old man about something. Finally he didn't say anything
any more but just sat there and looked at Holbrook and the two of them kept
after him, first one talking and then the other and the fat wop always butting
in on Holbrook.
"You go out and buy me a
Sportsman, will you Joe?" my old man said and handed me a couple of soldi
without looking away from Holbrook.
So I went out of the Galleria
and walked over to in front of the Scala and bought a paper and came back and
stood a little way away because I didn't want to butt in and my old man was
sitting back in his chair looking down at his coffee and fooling with a spoon
and Holbrook and the big wop were standing and the big wop was wiping his face
and shaking his head. And I came up and my old man acted just as though the two
of them weren't standing there and said, "Want an ice Joe?" Holbrook
looked down at my old man and said slow and careful, "You son of a
bitch" and he and the fat wop went out through the tables.
My old man sat there and sort
of smiled at me but his face was white and he looked sick as hell and I was
scared and felt sick inside because I knew something had happened and I didn't
see how anybody could call my old man a son of a bitch and get away with it. My
old man opened up the Sportsman and studied the handicaps for a while and then
he said, "You got to take a lot of things in this world Joe". And
three days later we left Milan for good on the Turin train for Paris after an
auction sale out in front of Turner's stables of everything we couldn't get
into a trunk and a suit case.
We got into Paris early in
the morning in a long dirty station the old man told me was the Gare de Lyon.
Paris was an awful big town after Milan. Seems like in Milan everybody is going
somewhere and all the trams run somewhere and there aint any sort of a mixup,
but Paris is all balled up and they never do straighten it out. I got to like
it though, part of it anyway, and say it's got the best race courses in the
world. Seems as though that were the thing that keeps it all going and about
the only thing you can figure on is that every day the buses will be going out
to whatever track they're running at going right out through everything to the
track. I never really got to know Paris well because I just came in about once
or twice a week with the old man from Maisons and he always sat at the Cafe de
la Paix on the Opera side with the rest of the gang from Maisons and I guess
that's one of the busiest parts of the town. But say it is funny that a big
town like Paris wouldn't have a Galleria isn't it?
Well, we went out to live at
Maisons-Lafitte, where just about everybody lives except the gang at Chantilly,
with a Mrs. Meyers that runs a boarding house. Maisons is about the swellest
place to live I've ever seen in all my life. The town aint so much, but there's
a lake and a swell forest that we used to go off humming in all day, a couple of
us kids, and my old man made me a sling shot and we got a lot of things with it
but the best one was a magpie. Young Dick Atkinson shot a rabbit with it one
day and we put it under a tree and were all sitting around and Dick had some
cigarettes and all of a sudden the rabbit jumped up and beat it into the brush
and we chased it but we couldn't find it. Gee we had fun at Maisons. Mrs.
Meyers used to give me lunch in the morning and I'd he gone all day. I learned
to talk French quick. It's an easy language.
As soon as we got to Maisons
my old man wrote to Milan for his license and he was pretty worried till it
came. He used to sit around the Cafe de Paris in Maisons with the gang there,
there were lots of guys he'd known when he rode up at Paris before the war
lived at Maisons, and there's a lot of time to sit around because the work
around a racing stable for the jocks that is, is all cleaned up by nine o'clock
in the morning. They take the first batch of skins out to gallop them at 5.30
in the morning and they work the second lot at 8 o'clock. That means getting up
early all right and going to bed early too. If a jock's riding for somebody too
he can't go boozing around because the trainer always has an eye on him if he's
a kid and if he aint t kid he's always got an eye on himself. So mostly if a
jock aint working he sits around the Café de Paris with the gang and they can
all sit around about two or three hours in front of some drink like a vermouth
and seltz and they talk and tell stories and shoot pool and it's sort of like a
club or the Galleria in Milan. Only it aint really like the Galleria because
there everybody is going by all the time and there's everybody around at the
Well my old man got his
license all right. They sent it through to him without a word and he rode a
couple of times. Amiens, up country and that sort of thing, but he didn't seem
to get any engagement. Everybody liked him and whenever I'd come in to the Café
in the forenoon I'd find somebody drinking with him because my old man wasn't
tight like most of these jockey's that have got the first dollar they made
riding at the World's Fair in St. Louis in Nineteen ought four. That's what my
old man would say when he'd kid George Burns. But it seemed like everybody
steered clear of giving my old man any mounts.
We went out to wherever they
were running every day with the car from Maisons and that was the most fun of
all. I was glad when the horses came back from Deauville and the summer. Even
though it meant no more humming in the woods, cause then we'd ride to Enghien
or Tremblay or St. Cloud and watch them from the trainers' and jockeys' stand.
I sure learned about racing from going out with that gang and the fun of it was
going every day.
I remember once out at St.
Cloud. It was a big two hundred thousand franc race with seven entries and Kzar
a big favourite. I went around to the paddock to see the horses with my old man
and you never saw such horses. This Kzar is a great big yellow horse that looks
like just nothing but run. I never saw such a horse. He was being led around
the paddock with his head down and when he went by me I felt all hollow inside
he was so beautiful. There never was such a wonderful, lean, running built
horse. And he went around the paddock putting his feet just so and quiet and
careful and moving easy like he knew just what he had to do and not jerking and
standing up on his legs and getting wild eyed like you see these selling
platers with a shot of dope in them. The crowd was so thick I couldn't see him again
except just his legs going by and some yellow and my old man started out
through the crowd and I followed him over to the jock's dressing room back in
the trees and there was a big crowd around there too but the man at the door in
a derby nodded to my old man and we got in and everybody was sitting around and
getting dressed and pulling shirts over their heads and pulling boots on and it
all smelled hot and sweaty and linimenty and outside was the crowd looking in.
Cover of Hemingway's first published work, 1923
The old man went over and sat
down beside George Gardner that was getting into his pants and said,
"What`s the dope George?" just in an ordinary tone of voice cause
there aint any use him feeling around because George either can tell him or he
can't tell him.
"He won't win"
George says very low, leaning over and buttoning the bottoms of his pants.
"Who will" my old
man says leaning over close so nobody can hear.
says, "And if he does, save me a couple of tickets".
My old man says something in
a regular voice to George and George says, "Don't ever bet on anything I
tell you" kidding like and we beat it out and through all the crowd that
was looking in over to the 100 franc mutuel machine. But I knew something big
was up because George is Kzar's jockey. On the way he gets one of the yellow
odds sheets with the starting prices on and Kzar is only paying 5 for 10,
Cefisidote is next at 3 to 1 and fifth down the list this Kircubbin at 8 to 1.
My old man bets five thousand on Kircubbin to win and puts on a thousand to
place and we went around back of the grandstand to go up the stairs and get a
place to watch the race.
We were jammed in tight and
first a man in a long coat with a grey tall hat and a whip folded up in his hand
came out and then one after another the horses, with the jocks up and a stable
boy holding the bridle on each side and walking along, followed the old guy.
That big yellow horse Kzar came first. He didn't look so big when you first
looked at him until you saw the length of his legs and the whole way he's built
and the way he moves. Gosh I never saw such a horse. George Gardner was riding
him and they moved along slow, back of the old guy in the gray tall hat that
walked along like he was the ring master in a circus. Back of Kzar, moving
along smooth and yellow in the sun, was a good looking black with a nice head
with Tommy Archibald riding him and after the black was a string of five more
horses all moving along slow in a procession past the grandstand and the
pesage. My old man said the black was Kircubbin and I took a good look at him
and he was a nice looking horse all right but nothing like Kzar.
Everybody cheered Kzar when
he went by and he sure was one swell looking horse. The procession of them went
around on the other side past the pelouse and then back up to the near end of
the course and the circus master had the stable boys turn them loose one after
another so they could gallop by the stands on their way up to the post and let
everybody have a good look at them. They weren't at the post hardly any time at
all when the gong started and you could see them way off across the infield all
in a bunch starting on the first swing like a lot of little toy horses. I was
watching them through the glasses and Kzar was running well back with one of
the bays making the pace. They swept down and around and came pounding past and
Kzar was way back when they passed us and this Kircubbin horse in front and
going smooth. Gee it's awful when they go by you and then you have to watch
them go farther away and get smaller and smaller and then all bunched up on the
turns and then come around towards into the stretch and you feel like swearing
and goddaming worse and worse. Finally they made the last turn and came into the
straightaway with this Kircubbin horse way out in front. Everybody was looking
funny and saying "Kzar" in sort of a sick way and they pounding
nearer down the stretch, and then something came out of the pack right into my
glasses like a horse-headed yellow streak and everybody began to yell
"Kzar" as though they were crazy. Kzar came on faster than I'd ever
seen anything in my life and pulled up on Kircubbin that was going fast as any
black horse could go with the jock flogging hell out of him with the gad and
they were right dead neck and neck for a second but Kzar seemed going about
twice as fast with those great jumps and that head out—but it was while they
were neck and neck that they passed the winning post and when the numbers went
up in the slots the first one was 2 and that meant Kircubbin had won.
I felt all trembly and funny
inside, and then we were all jammed in with the people going down stairs to
stand in front of the board where they'd post what Kircubbin paid. Honest
watching the race I'd forgot how much my old man had bet on Kircubbin. I'd
wanted Kzar to win so damned had. But now it was all over it was swell to know
we had the winner.
"Wasn't it a swell race
Dad?" I said to him.
He looked at me sort of funny
with his derby on the back of his head, "George Gardner's a swell jockey
all right", he said, "It sure took a great jock to keep that Kzar
horse from winning".
Of course I knew it was funny
all the time. But my old man saying that right out like that sure took the kick
all out of it for me and I didn't get the real kick back again ever, even when
they posted the numbers up on the board and the hell rang to pay off and we saw
that Kircubbin paid 67.50 for 10. All around people were saying "Poor
Kzar. Poor Kzar!" And I thought, I wish I were a jockey and could have
rode him instead of that son of a bitch. And that was funny, thinking of George
Gardner as a son of a bitch because I'd always liked him and besides he'd given
us the winner, but I guess that's what he is all right.
My old man had a big lot of
money after that race and he took to coming into Paris oftener. If they raced
at Tremblay he'd have them drop him in town on their way back to Maisons and he
and I'd sit out in front of the Café de la Paix and watch the people go by. It's
funny sitting there. There's streams of people going by and all sorts of guys
come up and want to sell you things and I loved to sit there with my old man.
That was when we'd have the most fun. Guys would come by selling funny rabbits
that jumped if you squeezed a bulb and they'd come up to us and my old man
would kid with them. He could talk French just like English and all those kind
of guys knew him cause you can always tell a jockey and then we always sat at
the same table and they got used to seeing us there. There were guys selling
matrimonial papers and girls selling rubber eggs that when you squeezed them a
rooster came out of them and one old wormy looking guy that went by with post
cards of Paris showing them to everybody, and of course nobody ever bought any
and then he would come back and show the under side of the pack and they would
all be smutty post cards and lots of people would dig down and buy them.
Gee I remember the funny
people that used to go by. Girls around supper time looking for somebody to
take them out to eat and they'd speak to my old man and he'd make some joke at
them in French and they'd pat me on the head and go on. Once there was an
American woman sitting with her kid daughter at the next table to us and they
were both eating ices and I kept looking at the girl and she was awfully good
looking and I smiled at her and she smiled at me but that was all that ever
came of it because I looked for her mother and her every day and I made up ways
that I was going to speak to her and I wondered if I get to know her if her
mother would let me take her out to Auteuil or Tremblay but I never saw either
of them again. Anyway I guess it wouldn't have been any good anyway because
looking back on it I remember the way I thought out would be best to speak to
her was to say, "Pardon me, but perhaps I can give you a winner at Enghien
today?" and after all maybe she would have thought I was a tout instead of
really trying to give her a winner.
We'd sit at the Café de la
Paix, my old man and me, and we had a big drag with the waiter because my old
man drank whisky and it cost five francs and that meant a good tip when the
saucers were counted up. My old man was drinking more than I'd ever seen him,
but he wasn't riding at all now and besides he said that whiskey kept his
weight down. But I noticed he was putting it on all right just the same. He'd
busted away from his old gang out at Maisons and seemed to like just sitting
around on the boulevard with me. But he was dropping money every day at the
track. He'd feel sort of doleful after the last race, if he'd lost on the day,
until we'd get to our table and he'd have his first whiskey and then he'd be
He'd be reading the
Paris-Sport and he'd look over at me and say, "Where's your girl
Joe?" to kid me on account I had told him about the girl that day at the
next table. And I'd get red but I liked being kidded about her. It gave me a
good feeling. "Keep your eye peeled for her Joe." he'd say,
"She'll be back."
He'd ask me questions about
things and some of the things I'd say he'd laugh. And then he'd get started
talking about things. About riding down in Egypt, or at St. Moritz on the ice
before my mother died, and about during the war when they had regular races
down in the south of France without any purses, or betting or crowd or anything
just to keep the breed up. Regular races with the jocks riding hell out of the
horses. Gee I could listen to my old man talk by the hour, especially when he'd
had a couple or so of drinks. He'd tell me about when he was a boy in Kentucky
and going soon hunting and the old days in the states before everything went on
the bum there. And he'd say, "Joe, when we've get a decent stake, you're
going back there to the States and go to school."
"What've I get to go back
there to go to school for when everything's on the bum there?" I'd ask
he'd say and get the waiter over and pay the pile of saucers and we'd get a
taxi to the Gare St. Lazare and get on the train out to Maisons.
One day at Auteuil after a
selling steeplechase my old man bought in the winner for 30.000 francs. He had
to bid a little to get him but the stable let the horse go finally and my old
man had his permit and his colors in a week. Gee I felt proud when my old man
was an owner. He fixed it up for stable space with Charles Drake and cut out
coming in to Paris and started his running and sweating out again and him and I
were the whole stable gang. Our horse's name was Gillford, he was Irish bred
and a nice sweet jumper. My old man figured that training him and riding him
himself he was a good investment. I was proud of everything and I thought
Gillford was as good a horse as Kzar. He was a good solid jumper a bay, with
plenty of speed on the flat if you asked him for it and he was a nice looking
Gee I was fond of him. The
first time he started with my old man up he finished third in a 2.500 meter
hurdle race and when my old man got off him, all sweating and happy in the
place stall and went in to weigh I felt as proud of him as though it was the
first race he'd ever placed in. You see when a guy aint been riding for a long
time you can't make yourself really believe that he has ever rode. The whole
thing was different now cause down in Milan even big races never seemed to make
any difference to my old man, if he won he wasn't ever excited or anything, and
now it was so I couldn't hardly sleep the night before a race and I knew my old
man was excited too even if he didn't show it. Riding for yourself makes an
Second time Gillford and my
old man started was a rainy Sunday at Auteuil in the Prix du Marat, a 4.500
meter steeplechase. As soon as he'd gone out I beat it up in the stand with the
new glasses my old man had bought for me to watch them. They started way over
at the far end of the course and there was some trouble at the barrier.
Something with goggle blinders on was making a great fuss and roaring around
and busted the barrier once but I could see my old man in our black jacket with
a white cross and a black cap sitting up on Gillford and patting him with his
hand. Then they were off in a jump and out of sight behind the trees and the
gong going for dear life and the pari mutuel wickets rattling down. Gosh I was
so excited I was afraid to look at them but I fixed the glasses on the place
where they would come out back of the trees and then out they came with the old
black jacket going third and they all sailing over the jump like birds. Then
they went out of sight again and then they came pounding out and down the hill
and all going nice and sweet and easy and taking the fence smooth in a bunch
and moving away from us all solid. Looked as though you could walk across on
their backs they were all so hunched and going so smooth, Then they bellied
over the big double Bullfinch and something came down. I couldn't see who it
was but in a minute the horse was up an galloping free and the field, all
bunched still, sweeping around the long left turn into the straightaway. They
jumped the stone wall and came jammed down the stretch toward the big water
jump right in front of the stands. I saw them coming and hollered at my old man
as he went by and he was leading by about a length and riding way out over and
light as a monkey and they were racing for the water jump. They took off over
the big hedge of the water jump in a pack and then there was a crash and two
horses pulled sideways out off it and kept on going and three others were piled
up. I couldn't see my old man anywhere. One horse knee-ed himself up and the
jock had hold of the bridle and mounted and went slamming on after the place
money. The other horse was up and away by himself, jerking his head and
galloping with the bridle rein hanging and the jock staggered over to one side
of the track against the fence. Then Gillford rolled over to one side off my
old man and got up and started to run on three legs with his off hoof dangling
and there was my old man lying there on the grass flat out with his face up and
blood all over the side of his head. I ran down the stand and bumped into a jam
of people and got to the rail and a cop grabbed me and held me and two big
stretcher bearers were going out after my old man and around on the other side
of the course I saw three horses, strung way out, coming out of the trees and
taking the jump.
My old man was dead when they
brought him in and while a doctor was listening to his heart with a thing
plugged in his ears I heard a shot up the track that meant they'd killed
Gillford. I lay down beside my old man when they carried the stretcher into the
hospital room and hung onto the stretcher and cried and cried and he looked so
white and gone and so awfully dead and I couldn't help feeling that if my old
man was dead maybe they didn't need to have shot Gillford. His hoof might have
got well. I don't know. I loved my old man so much.
Then a couple of guys came in
and one of them patted me on the back and then went over and looked at my old
man and then pulled a sheet off the cot and and spread it over him; and the
other was telephoning in French for them to send the ambulance to take him out
to Maisons. And I couldn't stop crying, crying and choking, sort of, and George
Gardner came in and sat down beside me on the floor and put his arm around me
and says, "Come on Joe old boy. Get up and we'll go out and wait for the
George and I went out to the
gate and I was trying to stop bawling and George wiped off my face with his
handkerchief and we were standing back a little ways while the crowd was going
out of the gate and a couple of guys stopped near us while we were waiting for
the crowd to get through the gate and one of them was counting a bunch of
mutuel tickets and he said, "Well Butler got his all right."
The other guy said, "I
don't give a good goddam if he did, the crook. He had it coming to him on the
stuff he's pulled."
"I'll say he had,"
said the other guy and tore the bunch of tickets in two.
And George Gardner looked at
me to see if I'd heard and I had all right and he said, "Don't you listen
to what those bums said, Joe. Your old man was one swell guy."
But I don't know. Seems like
when they get started they don't leave a guy nothing.