Narrow Roads April 2017

I heard a very cool story the other day about a horse named Sleepy Tom.  Sleepy Tom lived in Ohio back in the late 1800’s.  He was what was commonly referred to in the day as a scrub horse.  The type of horse that is used to pull carts or do menial labor.  Today, he would be called a hack, or trail horse.  That was not always Tom’s destiny.  Tom had been sired from good racing stock. There had at one time been high hopes that he would become a great harness racer like his parents.  But Tom fell prey to poor training and several bad owners.  Though he did race, he showed poorly and after a bout of illness it was determined that he would never amount to anything in the racing world.  He was sold to an abusive owner and was consigned to live out his life pulling a cart, as a common workhorse. 

But then old Tom’s luck took a turn.  With more than ½ his life behind him, Tom was purchased by a man named Steve Phillips, who saw something in Sleepy Tom that had escaped the notice of everyone else.  Phillips knew a good pacer when he saw one and he believed that Tom could be a great harness racer if properly trained.  Having purchased Tom for pennies on the dollar, he personally went about training Tom to become a pace horse.  Observers claimed that Phillips regularly talked to the horse in kind and gentle words, showing him the love that he had failed to experience from his prior owners.

Phillips harness raced Tom in several county fairs and continued to groom him until Tom was ready to run in the big league.

His first race as a new horse was in Jackson, Michigan in 1879, Tom was nearly 11 years old.  Some who attended were quite skeptical of the old horse’s chances and many questioned the wisdom of trying to turn a workhorse into a racehorse. Spectators claimed that just before the first race they heard Phillips tell Tom; “Go on Tom and win.” And that he did.  With Steve Phillips riding the sulky, old Tom made a name for himself that day. But the story doesn’t end there. Sleepy Tom went on to win in East Saginaw, Michigan, Cincinnati, Louisville and Columbus Ohio.  In Rochester, NY he ran against a world class field winning 3 heats in one day. But it was in Chicago Illinois were Tom would set a world record which would stand for two years. Not bad for a horse that nobody wanted, with half its life gone and no future. Oh, and did I mention that Tom was also blind. That’s right, Tom lost his sight when he was much younger, as a result of a severe cold which had settled in his eyes. That’s why Phillips spoke to him. How else could you encourage a washed up blind scrub horse to run and beat some of the best pacers in the world?

Sleepy Tom and his owner Steve Phillips are an amazing example of how a man with insight and a horse with heart can reshape a destiny. By all rights, Tom should have lived out his life pulling a cart, ultimately being sent to a glue factory. Instead, because of the vision and compassion of one man, he saw the winners’ circle and finished well.

Perhaps you view your life as similar to that of Sleepy Tom. Perhaps there is far more behind you than what lies ahead. Maybe you have a questionable past and a future that seems to already be written in shades of grey. Well be encouraged. There is a God in heaven who is an expert at redemption and restoration. Moses was a murderer and fugitive when God placed him in charge of an entire nation.  Rahab was a woman with a sordid past and no future when God put her into the lineage of the Messiah. Matthew was a tax collector and Roman collaborator when Jesus called him to be a disciple. Paul was a persecutor and murderer of Christians. Jesus used him to plant Churches and write ½ of the New Testament books. Yes, God has far greater insight into who you are and vision of what you can be, than you can imagine. His compassion for the injured and disheartened is legendary. “A bruised reed He will not break and smoking flax He will not quench.” And yet,He will bring forth justice for truth. He will not fail nor be discouraged. Which means that He is compassionate, but He’s not weak, He will bring about what He designs to accomplish.

What must one do to get a second chance at building a bright future?  Start by trusting in the very One who holds the future in His hands.

You think about that…

God Bless you and See You on the Road.

Bob Anton: Christian Motorcyclists Association

For more information on CMA or questions or comments concerning this column, please contact Bob Anton at 631-897-8122 or