For fifteen seconds a year, Steve Buttleman is the most famous man in America. On the first Saturday of every May, sporting his famous red jacket and tiny black hat, he marches from the white pagoda behind the Churchill Downs Winner's Circle, lifts a polished brass horn to his caramel-colored mustache, and plays "Call to Post." Buttleman's rendition—a brief ditty that signals jockeys to lead their horses into the starting gate—grabs the attention of movie stars in Millionaire's Row, infield drunks, and countless television viewers. It's also the sign for Kentucky Derby fans to clutch their betting slips and start praying.
He was imprisoned a state away from his teenage sons in North Carolina. He lost his corporate sponsorships. He lost two years of racing. He lost the right of motion. He lost—as he’d tell me later, quite simply—a lot.
Victor Campbell carries a chunk of Tennessee Williams’s soul around New Orleans every day in a black leather briefcase. He keeps the rest of it in the back of his bedroom closet, in an olive-green Samsonite suitcase, the weight of half a man.
The man climbs the stairs after the boy. He wants only to watch the boy play; he will say this later, later he will swear to it. But the watching does something to him, changes something in the man, and from then on it is like he is in a dream. He walks up behind the boy and he hooks his forearm around the boy’s throat. He squeezes. He lifts the boy into the air. The boy goes limp.
Since the day my mother had driven south out of our red-clay driveway on Shiloh Church Road, never to be seen or heard from again, Daddy had changed. And one way the change announced itself to me—slowly unfolding over time—was his newfound interest in TV preachers.