The honest farmer.


Taunton

16/02/06

Bookmakers are renowned for having long memories, often for superstitions and bad losing days, but not always bad things. One of the local firms has a regular punter, the casual bystander may wonder why this punter always gets slightly better odds than everyone else, he asks and always gets whereas anyone else who tries to beg over the odds often get short shrift. Well for anyone who interested it goes back a long way.

Back longer than anyone can remember at a forgotten but local meeting the bookmaker was doing brisk trade, the horses had passed the post and the punters lined up to get their winnings, all were paid out with a smile, then after what seemed an age, ‘bing bong – stewards enquiry’. The rules of racing state that bookmakers don’t have to pay their customers until the ‘Weighed in’ signal has been given, but to a man they do, the weighed in is when the result is set in stone and no changes can be made for betting purposes. The story goes that this day there was a late objection by the second to the winner and the ‘winner’ that the bookmaker had paid out on was disqualified and the second placed first. The punters who backed the eventual winner then formed an orderly line to get their winnings too so the bookies paid twice. Of course, the people that got paid early should really return the money to the bookmaker who paid them, but in reality most laid low or skulked off.

The bookmaker this story relates to looked around for the non-existent return of his money paid out in good faith, people who were so soon to show themselves as soon as their horse had passed the winning post had now disappeared into thin air. As he glumly paid the last of the second lot of winners he felt a tug on his arm, as he turned he saw the gentleman we shall now refer to as ‘Farmer’, ‘Ere’ he said ‘Your money back from the horse they chucked out’. Those old enough to witness the occasion said the bookmakers jaw dropped so far that the roll-up cigarette that had been hanging there fell to the floor. He took the money and thanked ‘Farmer’ his confidence in human nature partially restored.

As the years rolled by, the bookmaker continued to make a book and ‘Farmer’ continued to bet at local meetings, when ever he did he got an extra bit of price for recognition of being the only man to return his erroneously paid winnings. The unspoken agreement went on for years, the reason untold until the bookmaker decided to hand over the business to his Daughter and Son in Law and hang up his hod. He didn’t leave them many instructions but one was that ‘Farmer’ should get a bit of extra price. These days the bookmaking firm still bears the name of the retired layer but the new generation have taken over. ‘Farmer’ still goes racing when it’s not too busy but his legs aren’t so good so he’s got a zippy little chair which he can nip around the ring with alarming speed on. He uses his new conveyance with great effect and with a little devilment, though he would deny that, when the crowd are clamouring to get on he appears with an electrical whirr and looks up as if oblivious to the people he’s almost run over and who he knows has blocked from the bookmaker. ‘Will you give me a bit better than that? ’He says, referring to the price of his fancy, he knows the answer will be yes, but ask he does, then once given the affirmative he gives a wicked little grin as he zooms off to watch the race scattering punters as he goes.

Today at Taunton Martin Pipe unleashed Commercial Flyer, all the clever people said he was different class, the pro-punters were on it and so were the off-course firms. The bookmaker who always gives ‘Farmer’ the best price had taken a nice few quid on the race and was full up with the horse, then whirr, whirr, whirr Farmer landed in front of the joint. ‘Can you give me best price?’ he said, the bookmaker looked a bit reluctant but he cast his mind back to the honesty story and then readily agreed with a nod, after all he was a modest as well as honest punter. To his surprise ‘Farmer’ then asked for a bet a fair bit bigger than normal, then there was a pause while he struggled to get his money out and handed it over and the bet was struck.

Commercial Flyer won at 1-2f in such impressive style that it was made as short as 10/1 for the Sun Alliance at Cheltenham, ‘Farmer’ as was paid out and whirred off the other, unmentioned here until now, words from the founding bookmaker echoed around his Son in Law’s ears. ‘I half wish Farmer had kept his winnings back in the day the same as the others did, rewarding his honesty all these years has cost me a small fortune!’

Had he heard that, ‘Farmer’ would have no doubt smiled that wicked smile once more, only broader, his day complete!

(c) Simon Nott

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