Alameda County Fair.gif On Sunday we went to the races. It was my first time to the track; we went to the county fair and placed our bets. And we learned a little bit each time.

To begin, I picked a winner in Race 6, our first of the day. Funtrip, a three-year-old bay filly. Her jockey wore emerald green. She came out of the gate dead, dead last. I sighed and peered out after her, shading my eyes from the heat. Rounding the first turn she kicked in and pulled ahead of one horse, then another. But the favorite held a steady lead.

At the final turn I hitched my gauzy skirt above my knees. Oh it was so hot. With the blessing of breeze beneath me I grabbed Jon's shoulder and threw my maturity to the, er, lack of wind.

"Come on, girl!" I yelled. "Gimme a sudden burst of speed!"

She did. And she flew across the finish line a whole nose ahead of the bunch. I couldn't believe it. Jon wanted to pocket our dollar-fifty profit and make out our next ticket.

But first I wanted to watch Funtrip prance lightly back to the line. The crowd cheered for her, and her jockey nodded to us all. For that moment Funtrip was mine. Her veins pumped with energy and adrenaline; I could see them rising from her burnished coat like a road map to victory or fantasy, or both.

And then we went on into the fair, surrounded by heat and summer madness. Somewhere we could already smell the cows and pigs in their pens. We ambled between old tractors and feeders, running our hands along the rails. I wondered who had driven them and over how many acres.

In a photo booth we took our annual photos. Silly, laughing, kissing, smirking, crazy. A tradition we started during our first summer.

We steered clear of the cotton candy, listened to some awful karaoke, and spent most of our time in the youth sumission hall. Much of what I saw there impressed me. While I don't know jams or jellies, cake decorating, clothes-making, painting... I do know hometown fun. It made me proud.

In high school I took a drafting class with Mr. Rudolph, a sweet old man who liked me because I was the only girl in the class. We designed "buttons with a message". Mine won honorable mention. To be completely honest, though, there were a lot of honorable mentions. I missed the button exhibit this year. Hopefully I'll get to see it next year.

We played the ponies five times, almost breaking even most of the time. But on the final race we made some silly bets. I liked 2 and 4, even 6. Jon put $2 on number 9, a 20-1 shot, the least likely to win. As post time neared, the odds changed. Suddenly 9 was 35-1. I don't think it would be innaccurate to say we began to regret our bet. Not that two dollars matters, but neither of us like to lose.

Missle Tone, beautiful number 9, a gelding with almost no one pulling for him to show, let alone win... pulled it out. He raced right on through with his broad chest puffed up. And he won it. We cleared almost $100 on that final race.

I can see how horse racing could be addicting. Not just the thrill of money or beating the odds. Those beautiful horses, shooting stars. I could watch them every day. Listen to them every day.

One more reason to love the county fair.