Saturday, just prior to the Lone Star Derby, the music swelled over the PA as announcer Michael Wrona started in on an intro to an exciting event about to transpire and directed our eyes to the sky. Skydivers were about to descend on the park.
The plane circled and buzzed several times as the patrons craned their necks, and the music built to a crescendo. "I'm getting whiplash!", one racegoer was heard to exclaim.
Suddenly the crowd oohed and aahed as tiny black specks started appearing, and soon the parachutes unfolded, parachutes of many bright colors, and the parachutist closest to the ground was hotdogging it up, swinging and swaying, as he angled toward the front of the stands, coming in over the top of the top of the stands from the west, negotiating the strong west winds that had been blowing over the stands all day.
As he neared the track in front of the stands, he pulled up on the cords, which should have brought him to a soft stop just a foot or so above the track, but somehow the wind currents over the top of the grandstand created a sudden downdraft, and he was slammed into the track at a speed much greater than is normal. He collapsed in a heap and lay there. The fate of the next skydiver to land was much the same, slammed into the track about 50 yards further down, collapsing too.
From then on the landing of each parachutist, on the dirt or the turf, was a hold-your-breath event, with some slamming into the ground, and a few landing more or less softly, these latter drawing relieved applause cheers from the crowd, and the former pained groans and sucked in breaths. One skydiver who landed on the turf track was immediately dragged by the wind to the inside turf rail and slammed into it.
When all was said and done, two 'chutists were down on the track in front of the grandstand, with ambulance crews in attendance. One finally got up, more or less under his own power, and was helped off the track by two compadres, injured NFL-player style, to the crowd's applause. The other was strapped to a stretcher and hauled off in an ambulance, after a goodly wait, also to applause.
The Lone Star Derby was delayed by some minutes as there were no additional ambulances on the grounds.
The Dallas Morning News on Sunday reported that the most seriously injured diver had suffered a broken femur, and that two other divers had suffered less serious injuries; a sprained ankle and some sort of knee injury.
The paper also said Lone Star would have no more skydiving events.
Meanwhile, Tahkodha Hills finally got the win he's been looking for all Spring in the LS Derby, and Sir Bear showed he's still got a bit of a spark, as trainer Ralph Ziadie and jockey Eibar Coa ran off with both of the big money events on the day.
And the Lone Star crowd left messy little piles of crawfish shells and empty plastic Miller bottles all over the park.
So here's the question: Is watching human carnage at a nice track worse than any afternoon at Sportsman's Park?
That's a big nyet.