The Ride of Their Lives

by longformphilly

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Gary Smith | Sports Illustrated | September 2004

The Black Cloud

They took no notice, at first, of the $500 black Taurus and the dented pickup with the rusted trailer rumbling out of the rolling green distance. Not the ladies in flowered hats chatting in the big white party tent, nor the sportsmen gathering their helmets and whips. Not the tanned elderly men tethered to tiny purebred dogs, nor the white-jacketed waiters preparing pâté and tumblers of vodka, crushed ice and pink lemonade.

Faintly, at first, came the boom-cha-boom-boom … boom-cha-boom-boom. The $500 black Taurus and the dented pickup turned off the country road and cut through pastures framed by white fences–rolling thunder drawing nearer and louder until even the party boys on the picnic blankets near the playing field turned to see what was coming.

The rap music stopped. The two vehicles halted. Out tumbled a couple of black teenagers wearing ‘do-rags, cornrows and gold stud earrings, a swarm of small black children, four yelping dogs, four hand-me-down horses, two iguanas, a boa constrictor … and a white woman.

Writer bio: Hands off, Gary Smith is ours. We claim Smith, a four-time winner of the National Magazine Award, as our own. He grew up in Delaware, graduated from LaSalle University and covered the Eagles for the Philadelphia Daily News before spreading his wings at Sports Illustrated. He is one of the most celebrated narrative journalists of our time. And he’s ours.

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