It is seven or eight hundred miles, as the hawk flies, from
Las Vegas to Hobbs, New Mexico. If you know Hobbs, New Mexico, you might
logically wonder why any hawk would want to make the flight.
One did last week, however, and was joined by three New
Mexico hawks, all circling over luscious prey they had spotted on the barren
Hobbs is not a tourist location, or much of anything else. It
is, however, on the New Mexico border with Texas, and it is only 50 miles or so
from the lively cities of Odessa and Midland, and some 75 from the even livelier
sprawl of Lubbock.
Hawks can handle those distances without flapping a wing, and
so can people who like to play horses, or even better, slot machines.
So for two years now, the hawks have been circling, trying to
zero in on Hobbs as a racino destination, and for two years a perplexed New
Mexico racing commission has tried to figure out which hawks to shoot down and
which to let land.
This week it will pick the one that lives.
The three New Mexico hawks are R. D. Hubbard, who has built a
thriving operation at Ruidoso Downs; Ken Newton, who formerly owned Santa Fe
Downs; and a prosperous Santa Fe art dealer named Gerald Peters.
The Las Vegas hawk is Shawn Scott, profiled in this space
That Burnt Offering, incidentally, in which I characterized
Scott as “smart,” singed telephone lines around the nation, and I got
calls saying I had used the wrong word. The callers wanted it to read
So I turned to my bedside companion, which in this case
happened to be the Random House Dictionary of the English Language, The
Unabridged Edition, and checked on the two words.
Among the myriad definitions of “smart” were
“quick or prompt in action”; “having or showing quick
intelligence or ready mental capacity”; “shrewd or sharp, as a person
dealing with others”; “clever, witty or readily effective”; and
“dashingly or impressively neat or trim in appearance.”
No reason to back off on the basis of those qualities.
So I turned to “slick,” and found “smooth and
glossy”; “smooth in manners, speech, etc”; “sly, shrewdly
adroit, as in ”˜He’s a slick customer, all right’”; “ingenious,
cleverly devised’;’ and “slippery.”
Reading all that, my only answer to the critics, who said
among other things said the column would return to haunt me, is what author H.
L. Mencken used to tell his critics: “You could be right.”
Having your words haunt you is a peril of both writing and
horseracing, both of which occupy much of my time.
But back to Hobbs.
The four applicants made their presentations to the New
Mexico Racing Commission last week, each telling what they would do for Hobbs if
they got to build the racino there.
R. D. Hubbard got most of the space, but the headline that
caught my eye was the one ESPN Horse Racing put on an Associated Press
story by Pete Herrera.
It read, “Scott stumbles during Hobbs
The stumble, Herrera wrote, was that the Scott marketing
pitch to the commission talked about having bikini-clad waitresses serving
liquor to casino patrons.
Herrera wrote, “Oops! New Mexico law forbids the serving
or consumption of liquor on the gambling floor of casinos. Besides, waitresses
in bikinis might not go over well in a Bible belt town like Hobbs.”
I don’t know if Hobbs is a Bible belt town or not. I try to
avoid spending much time in Bible belt towns.
I do know that Hobbs is very remote and very dusty.
Come to think of it, so was Las Vegas before things really
got started here, and look how far this town has come with bikini-clad
waitresses and all that goes with that.
If bare bottoms come to Hobbs, along with slots, the hawk
that gets to land there this week will be one happy bird.