Paul Clark's Gutter And Sheet Metal


The Polo Prince

Posted by thegutterdude on February 11, 2010 at 1:56 AM

The Polo Prince.


The old Victorian expression “Breeding Tells” in the heyday of its use referred both to the quality of people as well as horses. When the European class system was in its final bloom before the industrial revolution, and the rise of the democratic republic was still in its infancy.


The nobility of the time and their horses were the descendants of conquerors; winners of battles on land and sea, who produced legitimate heirs from arranged marriages with other conquering families and (back-up) illegitimate heirs with the beauties of the surrounding district and court servants. The main idea was to keep the conquering business in the hands of the ‘right sort’ and the best horses handy for the job.


There is however some amount of truth to all such expressions. We see it in our daily lives: The intramural marriages where types, philosophies, races and ethnic groups not hemmed in by geography, follow the path of least genetic resistance and probably a few more natural laws. So it is that one occasionally runs across someone who has about them a natural aura of class and nobility. The Polo Prince is one of these.


I met the Polo Prince when a gutterguy buddy of mine asked if I could take care of a customer which he was unable to get to. Having a lull in my own work, I picked up the ball.


I wish I could write the Polo Prince’s real name because it is lyrical with an old-world, noble sound to it; a handle that by itself confers and air of nobility to the owner.


When I arrived at the house on the outskirts of Beverly Hills, I met a man in his mid twenties with an easy yet commanding bearing and clear incisive eyes which told me that he could size up a person or situation and make a decision which would not need revisiting. Not a common description of your average twentysomething.


The house was being renovated for his bride-to-be after their impending marriage, yet the Polo Prince was financially shrewd enough to be lavish only where it counted (Needless to say that rain gutters were not high on the list of things that counted to a blushing bride.). We therefore worked out a way to repair what was already there at a price that was almost satisfactory to both of us.


When I arrived to start on the job, the Polo Prince (who is always gracious in manners) was gracious enough to show me a bathroom I could use in his office should the need arise (Something that only the occasional customer will to do.).


When the need did arise, I walked on through the office making a quick mental inventory of the contents, not for any other reason than curiosity. The office had a look both modern and conservative, and definitely used. There were a scattering of books on the shelves, placards, baseball trophies. The office as well as the prince, described a person with both ability and determination. In a closet next to the bathroom was polo gear; boots, mallet and helmet all with definite wear.


Having been raised around horses and horsemen in my younger years, having absorbed the equine world practically through my mothers milk, having been thrown from my first horse at age four and having become and expert rider and decent horseman by my early teens, having spent every day of my young life with the smell of horse hair, horse sweat and horse crap in my nostrils (and now having the bad back to show for it),  I immediately started calculating ways to draw the Polo Prince into conversation and find out more about him and about the one equine activity I never touched. Polo.


Though I chose to divorce myself from the all-absorbing lifestyle surrounding the horse in order to explore what else there might be out there in the big, wide world. I’ve never forgotten the trill of racing my crazy cowboy brother at break-neck speed down the side of a near-cliff, nor the exhilaration of being on top of a bucking horse, chasing down a steer with a rope or besting all comers in a riding competition, nor the unique peace of riding alone through the mountains and scrub where I grew up. There’s something about being half of that partnership between a human and a horse that make most people unable to abandon it and others to devote their whole lives to it.


As a kid I would occasionally watch a polo match on some obscure TV program with excitement and envy, because it seemed to me the penultimate expression of that partnership. Not only that, it looked like one helluva lot of fun. Wrecks and injury be damned! It would be worth a trip the hospital just to be in the middle of bunch of fast horses and crazy sons-of-bitches playing a hard, fast game. Now that’s the sort of living worth dying for!


It turns out that the prince grew up playing Polo, a sport passed down to him from his dad, another of true gentleman of the same stamp, ruler of a sizable rental property holding, a sharp businessman yet –when the suit and tie comes off-- down to earth, kind and generous to friends, workers and those he likes.


It seemed obvious that the prince grew up privileged, yet was neither spoiled nor indulged. He was obviously taught the value of a buck and hard work maintaining high standards. It was also obvious that he had that bold wild streak that distinguishes the winners in life, no matter their social stratum. The prince was the type of person who would prevail no matter what his situation. Prevail or die trying.


After establishing our common ground in the equine world and my interest in polo, he invited me to come and watch them play at Will Rodgers state park on the weekends. Among the polo crowd, the weekend matches there are the rough equivalent of a pick-up basketball game in any city park. Players sign up and show up with their polo horses and are given handicaps for their expertise. The horses range in quality from the classic polo pony to run-of-the-mill grade animals brought by weekend hobbyists.


After finishing my bids one Saturday, I decided to take up his invitation and went to the park. It was my first time seeing polo live and gracious as always, the prince invited me to the players section where I met his father the king and some of their friends.


The first thing I noticed was how happy the horses were. It is the most natural thing for horses to run in a herd. Add the element of running fast and a trained polo horse is as close as it can be to horse heaven on earth. Ears forward, nostrils flaring, stamping impatiently, they’re in their element and they love it.


When the prince mounted for his game it was also obvious that he was a superb rider. When and expert rider mounts a horse, there is a momentary slouch he assumes while settling into the feel of the horse he is on; a plug-in that take place giving each a feel for the other (You can tell a lot about the experience and temperament of a horse you are on by the way it reacts to your initial shifts of weight. A more knowledgeable horse will adjust his stance to your feel. A less experienced horse will be confused and wait for guidance.). After the plug-in, the expert will swing to the correct center of movement control, the horse feels it and they move off together.


Watching the prince play it was also obvious that he was an expert strategist compared to the rest of the players. He did nothing flashy but was concentrating on the field of play and at the right moment would boldly capitalize in an assist or in charging toward the goal. It was also obvious that the prince had a champion’s attitude when he lost the chucker (a period of play in polo.) He came back fuming (“Show me a good loser and I’ll show you a loser”….a gruff sentiment but all too true.) and had to cool off for a couple of minutes.


On a subsequent job, he confessed to me, with a certain fire in his eye, that he would love to turn pro and do nothing else, but that he felt he should be “responsible” and the fire flickered out. Given his kingdom and his new family, he made the correct choice for the long term, but there is never a pleasant way of diverting a warrior’s hungry heart. In other times, the prince would have been in his element charging the guns of Napoleon or breaking the Persian line at Isus, but peaceful times call for peaceful, prudent men, and so the wiser choice.


Over the last ten or so years I’ve worked occasionally for the prince and the king. They have always been good to me even going so far as to offer free polo lessons to me and summer camp at their horse ranch to my daughter (though I was never able to take up either offer). They are always a warm and welcoming family and I do my best to look out for their interests when called upon. Though we have the love of the horse world in common, there is always the unspoken boundary of peoples with different destinies and places in the world that is best never crossed. Yet the Polo Prince and his family command a natural loyalty from me and it is a comfort to me somehow to know there are people out there still who possess natural nobility, who make and command benevolent kingdoms.



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Reply Jackievob
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