My Boy Billy Jack – Sandra Martin

While I was married to the father of my children and living as a suburban mother in Richmond, Virginia, I had a very strange day at the horse races.
As young married couples do, we had lots of friends and many of those friends were trying to sell us something and often it seemed to be insurance. Our insurance salesman friend was a great guy, full of life and a super-duper salesman. I am pretty certain we were over insured. The friend was trying to get my husband’s company insurance account and so to push him over to saying yes, he’d invited us to go to the racetrack in Maryland. I’d never been to horse races and neither had my husband, so we said sure, sounds like fun.

I’d never seen the insurance salesman without a suit. Even at backyard barbecues. His wife bragged that her husband had never seen her without makeup. I asked how she did that and she said I get up before him and the children and do my makeup and my hair and I’m ready for the day. She seemed pretty uptight to me. But she always looked gorgeous, liked she’d just walked out of a fashion magazine. They were blond, tall and elegant. Conversely, my husband and I were short and extremely casual.

The car was loaded with coolers of drinks and snacks and we were off to the Pimlico Racetrack near Baltimore. It was a lovely spring Saturday morning. The men talked and the wives listened. They talked work, sports and business. We opened cans, bottles and handed out snacks and napkins. They assured us we’d have the time of our lives and that they went all the time. The salesman was a big horse racing fan and “quite” good at handicapping the races so the wife said. We were going for the fun.

We arrived and as we walked through the gate, we were handed a racing form of all the horse races. It was a small, stapled, flimsy little pamphlet, just a page apiece for the ten races with the horse’s names and the jockey’s names. The insurance man had reserved seats and it was obvious he knew his way around.
My husband and the insurance salesman were studiously studying the racing form; the salesman suggesting who they should be betting on, being the expert and all.

Apparently, he’d had a lot of luck at the races. They walked over to the paddock check the horses over and then up to make their bets. The wife had gone off to the ladies room to check her hair and makeup, I guess.

I sat alone in our reserved seats nearest the track and just studied the list. I read each horses name and each jockeys name and after a few seconds of thought, one of the names would pop into my head. I’d put a check by that name. I’d go to the next race and do the same. I did the same process for all the races on my little flimsy pamphlet.

After about twenty minutes the horses were walked around the ring. It seemed to me there were a lot of horses. Very spirited, very large and very high strung animals.

The guys came back from checking out the horses, the wife from the ladies room and I asked my husband if I could place a bet. He laughed and said sure. Those were the days: asking your husband if you could spend your own money. I went up and placed my $2 bet. The wife never looked at her pamphlet and never bet. Race 1; my bet was $2 and I placed it to win. That is what I learned when I walked up to the window and this older woman with a cigarette hanging out of her mouth asked.

Race? How much? Win, place or show?

We chatted and waited for the races to begin.

Finally, they did. It was exciting and I immediately got caught up in the energy of cheering for my horse. And shockingly enough, he won! I was thrilled. The men hadn’t bet on him, so they weren’t quite as excited. They seemed happy for me and patted me on the back with “beginner’s luck.” I walked up to the window and got my winnings. Nice. I liked this horse racing a lot.

They looked at my list and asked why on earth I’d gone through and selected each of the horse races “winners” when I hadn’t even seen the horses. I had no answer.
I placed my second $2 bet on the next horse race. He won, too. Beginner’s luck, they said. Again.

I placed my third $2 bet on the next horse race. Again, the guys were condescendingly solicitous but said, patting me on my back, beginner’s luck.

As I sat there with all the people swirling around me, muttering to themselves and others, I remembered another time that I’d had luck like this. It was a long time ago. I was maybe 10 or 11. It was fall and Dad had taken the family to the County Fair. Every fall it was our tradition to go to the fair: walk around looking at the lights, listening to the carnies, get on the easy kid rides, eat cotton candy and play the games of luck. Dad had played baseball so he was especially good on the games which required a dead-eye on a target. On this occasion we, as a family, decided to play bingo. Long tables under a tent with long lines of picnic tables lined up and bingo cards everywhere.

Dad paid for starter cards for each of us and sat waiting for the caller to begin calling out numbers. Up front shelves were loaded with prizes: stuffed animals, doll babies, toys, sheets and blanket sets, serving dishes, pots and pans, fancy lamps-all sorts of stuff.

I won my first game really quickly. I won the second game and thereafter I just kept winning. Mom and Dad stopped playing and just hauled the prizes to the car. Mom got dishes, lamps, pots and pans. I created a mini-sensation because I just kept winning. We kids got toys and stuff animals.

I was amazed, awed and totally perplexed. But as is normal in any family, after a few days of talking about how I’d won all those games of bingo, the event drifted into family lore.

So here I was in Baltimore, Maryland having the same “feeling” experience. By the fourth horse race, I was drawing a crowd. A little old lady in tennis shoes and no teeth was peering over my shoulder, trying to see which horse I’d picked. My husband shooed her off. Nervous now that I’d won four races, I was agreeing, yes, it was just beginner’s luck and I was certain I’d lose the next one. I didn’t want the expectations to keep growing.

Inside of myself, I felt a growing enthusiasm mixed with excitement and that over-mixed with total anxiety. But I kept smiling.

Meanwhile, the guys continued to bet on the horses that they’d examined. I watched as they walked around each horse making manly evaluations- all the while talking to the other men milling about with an air of importance and secret knowledge. They talked to the jockeys and often the owners.
Then they’d make their bets. They were betting real money while I was still betting $2. They were not winning.

I kept winning: each race I had picked the winner.

They men had double-downed on extensive examination of the horses and discussions with jockeys, owners and other race track aficionados. Still they had no winners. They seemed edgy and nervous now. And somehow, I had the strong feeling that they were not happy with me.

I continued to win. Now, I had won nine races. I went from hyper excitement to a careful and quiet pondering on this experience. The tenth race was the last one.

After the fourth race I had people around me like I was a flower and they were the bees. My husband kept trying to shoo them away but they were determined. When they asked me who I was betting on I’d tell them. I was open to what was happening and amazed at it all at the same time.

The last race, both men came to me, my husband reached down and took my list out of my hand and checked my pamphlet to see who I was betting on: Billy Jack. Bill Jack was a long shot they told me. He didn’t have a good race record they told me. He’d never win they said. I said, okay. I was fine with that. I was grateful I’d been so lucky so far. Yes, they said, that was definitely beginner’s luck. For sure.

When they came back from the betting window the two of them stood there, arms folded across their chests and said sternly, “You better be right this time because we’ve put all the money we have left on that horse, Billy Jack.”

No pressure or anything.

“Well, as you’ve said repeatedly, it is just beginners luck.”

My coterie of tag-alongs, watching my every move, was listening to those two men announcing to me they’d made bets on “my” horse. Suddenly, it seemed there was unrest in the air, instead of happy, anticipatory excitement. They were pulling each other in, whispering to each other. They were asking if it was a bad sign that these two overbearing men had finally bet on one of “my” horses.

The coterie had listened as they’d made fun of me winning. They’d been my supporters. Of course, they were a superstitious lot and knew that luck was a fickle thing. They said to me, when you’re hot, you’re hot. Go with it. Don’t mind them. They’d been following along, betting on my horses, ever since race three and they had money to show for it.

The guys making a bet could be a sign that my luck had run out. Which would mean that their luck had run out, too.

The insurance agent’s wife was non-partisan. She had been quiet as a mouse, sitting with her beer and listening. She made no comments even when I tried to engage her – for support. None was forthcoming. She had to go home with him, she said.

Finally, the race began. Sure enough Billy Jack was dead last. Like by two or three horse lengths. My groupies, my fellow winners and, my companions-the losing men got really quiet.

Then very slowly Billy Jack began to pull up from the outside and pass the other horses. We were leaning onto that heavy wooden fence quietly begging him, urging him, willing him to win. As he pulled farther and farther ahead we all erupted into a screaming mass of hysteria.

Billy Jack won the race.

The entire place went into a wild pandemonium.

I think I left my body. Or maybe I was just before passing out from holding my breath.

I was so grateful Billy Jack had won.

I was grateful because of all those people had been betting on what I’d been betting on and I didn’t want to let them down. Of course, I had no idea how I’d tuned in and picked all those winning horses so each race I worried and wondered and agonized over whether I should bet my $2 but each time I did. I kept saying to myself, “it is just beginner’s luck – it won’t happen again” – but it kept happening again. It was a wild ride. If I could’ve run down and kissed Billy Jack I would’ve.

The guys had recouped their losses and were high with excitement. We had dinner at a fancy restaurant in Washington, D.C. No one actually said “Thank you Sandra that was extraordinary.” The insurance man and his wife were sure it was beginner’s luck all the way. I was giddy with relief.

Finally, my husband hesitantly said, near the end of dinner, “Sandra is really lucky and wins things all the time-I think she is psychic.”

I demurred, “No, no, you’re right, it was just beginner’s luck. “

The next week the insurance man called my husband to see if we wanted to go to the horse races again. No, definitely not. My husband had had enough of that. He really didn’t like it when I had attention focused on me. He was much happier as the King of the Family.

The following week, the insurance man called me, directly, to see if I’d go with him to the races. I, of course, said no thank you. The following week he called and said he’d pay me to go with him to the races. I said, of course, no thank you to that, too. Finally, he called and said that if he gave me the names of the horses would I just chose the winners. Nope, that wasn’t working for me either.

Finally, after a couple of months he gave up.

A few days had passed after writing this piece and I was out in the garden digging up sweet potatoes and thinking about Billy Jack and how this luck thing was so undependable. I pondered over the many stories I’d listened to from parapsychologists about their own psychic moments and how it motivated them to find out how and why these things happen. I had lots of discussion about how they were afraid to even mention their own experiences because of criticisms that they were prejudiced for psychic abilities.

I thought about how dedicated the researchers at The Rhine Research Center, The Institute of Noetic Sciences, the Parapsychology Foundation and many more organizations around the world, have had to be to study this elusive and seemingly unknowable science.

The main abilities studied are: Telepathy, which is mind to mind communication, Clairvoyance, which is now often called Remote Viewing and pertains to having knowledge of people and events that are unknown to the person having the clairvoyance experience. Precognition is knowledge about future events and Psychokinesis is the ability to have control over physical matter-such as making objects move without touching them.

All these big words say the same thing: how do we humans get information that we should not have access to? How did I know which one of those horses in all ten of the races was a winner?

I had innumerable conversations with scientists, psychics and everyday people, like me, who’d had extraordinary experiences. Dean Radin, Ph.D. a researcher at The Institute of Noetic Sciences has the answer, as do many other parapsychologists, and they have proven these abilities are valid over and over, but mainstream science has never accepted that Dean’s facts are their facts. So, it is a stalemate. We believe what we want to believe no matter what the facts say.

I read this essay in one of Dean’s blogs titled: No one pays any attention to psi research.

Do scientists pay attention to psi research? Some skeptics would have you believe that this topic is so far from the mainstream that no one takes it seriously.

From the article: Predictive physiological anticipation preceding seemingly unpredictable stimuli: A meta-analysis, which examines experiments  studying  what I’ve called “presentiment,” Altmetric reports that this article has “one of the highest ever scores” in the journal Frontiers in Psychology (ranked #3 of 1,714 articles). The average number of viewers of a journal article is typically a few hundred, and that’s for a very popular paper. This paper has 47,765 views so far.

In other words, compared to most journal articles on mainstream (meaning, conventional) topics, these articles are reaching into the rarefied domain of extreme scientific impact — hundreds of times more interest than the typical article.

I’ve found a similar response every time I’ve given a talk to an academic or technical audience. While opinions differ on how to interpret psi data and vigorous debates are common, there is no question that scientists and scholars are interested. And isn’t that what a healthy science is all about — the excitement of exploring the frontiers of knowledge?

As Gandhi famously said, “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” Based on interest and impact metrics, it appears that if this were a political battle (which it basically is — the politics of ideas), as far as the actual mainstream is concerned (mainstream in terms of numbers; not that small minority that desperately holds onto the status quo), I’d estimate that we’re somewhere between fighting and winning.

Update: May 7, 2014. For the sake of curiosity, I wanted to see how my own scientific impact metric would fare against that of the average scientist. According to a study by the London School of Economics and Political Science the average tenured professor from the disciplines of law to economics have (Hirsch) h-indexes ranging from 2.83 to 7.60, respectively. The average h-index varies widely by discipline, but Hirsch estimated (based on physicists) that after 20 years a “successful” scientist will have an h-index of 20, where success in this context is equivalent to a full professorship in physics at a major research university. According to Google Scholar, my h-index is 22.

We know it is real. We know we “have” it. Why isn’t it dependable? It never seems to “manifest” when you need it (i.e. lottery-gambling). Is it an astrological aspect-the lucky trine? In a documentary I made for PBS on Intuition we had a clip of Richard Feynman, the famous physicist talking about intuition and how ideas and answers just come to you, pop in your head. And I’m paraphrasing here but he said so you try to re-create the same scenario-my desk was like this; I think I was holding my hands this way; I was leaning back in my chair in a meditative state and bingo that’s when the answer came to me.

Dr. Feynman said “Over and over, I’d do all these things to try and re-create the scene, open the door to the possibility, draw in the same atmosphere of peace and quiet waiting, to have it happen again – and it never worked! It never happened when I worked or planned for it, but always when I least expected it.”