(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Herman Dudley reflects on his early life, beginning with his childhood in a small Nebraska town and leading up to the event that caused him to leave the racehorse and tramp life forever. He begins his reminiscence in his own home, recalling his home town, a nondescript place. He fills in his family history, which leads him to the western Pennsylvania racehorse circuit, traveling from county fair to county fair, working as a groomer for a horse named Pick-it-boy, during fall until winter sets in.

In late fall, after the departure of Herman’s friend Tom Means, Herman is joined by Burt, an African American groomer. Through his relationship with Burt, Herman explores racial issues. He decides that they cannot be friends because too much talk about such issues has put an unnatural strain on relationships between black people and white people. Still, Burt and Herman obviously are friends. Burt covers for Herman’s lethargy, and Herman walks both horses to help Burt out.

During the final week of the circuit, circumstances lead to Herman’s being left alone, tending to all the horses. Loneliness causes him to leave his post, and he ends up in a miners’ bar. As he drinks whiskey at the bar and the miners play cards in the background, he looks into an old, cracked looking glass behind the bar and sees the frightened face of a young girl in his own reflection.

Furthering his transition from male to female, a huge man with red hair...

(The entire section is 594 words.)