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STAYING THE COURSE (THE GAMBLER)
October 25, 2004
 
Your inner life and imaginings, sleeping and waking, let you know things your conscious mind would just as soon let lie. Last night, for instance, a busy one in my dreams, full of fears about my failing memory: I had a speaking engagement and no car with which to get there. I'd ride Leo, I decided, and we got there in good time, a pleasant trot. But no: it was the wrong place, the real venue was about a hundred miles north, and I was scheduled to begin in an hour. Leo can make a five mile trip pretty quickly. A hundred miles is a long day, though, and that's if he starts now and maintains a pace significantly faster than his normal amiable walk. Besides, we'd now acquired a child we had to take with us in front of me on the saddle, and Leo had learned to talk and had begun changing, occasionally, into a large man -- all these things take time.

And yet I persisted in trying to reach my appointment in the way I had originally chosen. Certain to fail at being on time, probably to complete my obligation at all -- our retreat was only one day long: it would be over before it began. Couldn't -- wouldn't -- change my mind or change my plan.

Stay the course. It's good to be persistent, no matter who you are, but never blindly so: when circumstances change, it's stupid to pretend they haven't. Stupid and irresponsible. If things are different now, better acknowledge it and adjust. You'll never get where you want to go if you insist that there's only one way to get there. And sometimes you must admit that the way you chose was the wrong way to begin with. I shouldn't have decided to ride a horse to that important engagement in my dream. I should have gotten my information straight about where I was really going. I should have changed my mind when it was clearly time to do so. And then I should have looked around for some real help. Maybe gotten a ride in a car.

+

The Gambler

On a warm summer's evenin'
on a train bound for nowhere
I met up with a gambler
We were both too tired to sleep.
So we took turns a-starin' out the window at the darkness
And when boredom overtook us,
he began to speak.

He said, Son I've made a life out of readin' peoples' faces,
Knowin' what the cards were by the way they held their eyes.
So if you don't mind my sayin',
I can see you're out of aces,
For a taste of your whiskey,
I'll give you some advice.

So I handed him my bottle
and he drank down my last swallow
Then he bummed a cigarette
and asked me for a light
And the night got deathly quiet
and his face lost all expression
He said, 'If you're gonna play the game, boy,
you gotta learn to play it right."

You got to know when to hold 'em
know when to fold'em
know when to walk away
know when to run.
You never count your money
when you're sittin' at the table
There'll be time enough for countin' when the dealin's done.

Every gambler knows that the secret to survivin'
is knowing what to throw away and knowing' what to keep
'Cause every hand's a winner
and very hand's a loser
And the best that you can hope for
is to die in your sleep.

And when he finished speakin'
he turned back to the window
Crushed out his cigarette and faded off to sleep.
And somewhere in the darkness
the gambler, he broke even
and in his final words I found an ace that I could keep.

You got to know when to hold 'em
know when to fold'em
know when to walk away
know when to run.
You never count your money
when you're sittin' at the table
There'll be time enough for countin' when the dealin's done.

Words and music by Kenny Rogers
Copyright © 2018 Barbara Crafton
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