The Man Had Sand … And Salt
















All sorts of clichés ran through my mind when I was asked to say something about Jay Palmer’s life on the day of his final tribute. Straight-shooter; no-nonsense; tough cowboy; they don’t make ‘em like that anymore; gravel in his gut; blunt talker; the man had sand.

All of these words describe Jay Palmer, but the one I chose for Jay’s eulogy was salty.  Here’s what I said that day.

Jay was salty.   With his physical limitations, most men would have given up on horses a long time ago.  Jay, however, was listed as trainer for two horses at Lone Star Park as recently as two weeks ago.

He’s been salty all his life. There was that time in Albuquerque in the fifties when he took a rank mare and trained it to outrun three world champions.

He served his country in many theaters all over the world for nine and one-half years.  He had to stuff himself with peanut butter sandwiches to meet the minimum weight of 120 pounds when he volunteered.

This good man maintained a crusty exterior and fit all of the terms that we use to describe a man’s man, but he was much more.  Here are few other words that describe Jay Palmer:


I’ll wager that there are several seats in this house filled with someone who has benefited from Jay’s generosity.  He helped people in need, but did it in such a way that the person being helped was not demeaned.  Some people will hold a debt over you and boast about who they have helped.  Not Jay.  You had to find these things out from somebody else, because he would not tell you.


A lot of people here knew Jay better than I, but I know that we hit it off from the first time we met.  I think that was because Jay was my kind of fellow.  He had tons of good old-fashioned horse sense.  If it didn’t make sense to Jay, it probably was not sensible.  He understood how the world worked and seldom repeated his mistakes.  When he did repeat a mistake, he had a purpose (helping somebody else, usually) and would make fun of himself while he was doing it.


What word describes the opposite of politically correct?   We need to come up with a term that is the antonym for political correctness.  When we do, I think we should put the word in the dictionary and put Jay Palmer as the definition.  Irreverent is the closest word I could think of.  I, for one, admired his irreverence.  He had little tolerance for stupidity and made no bones about expressing his opinion.  I think the world would be a better place if more people were like that.

When I received the call about Jay Wednesday night, I was in the middle of a poker game with five other fellows about fifty miles from here.  When I announced to the group that Jay had died, four of the five men there knew him or knew of him.  Only two had ever owned a horse.  It seems that almost everybody knew the man.

When my son called and told me to be on the lookout for a horse for my granddaughter, I thought of Jay Palmer.  When we took a covered wagon across Texas in 1998, we met a fellow on the Brazos River called Oaks Crossing Slim.  He knew Jay Palmer.  Jay told me about Slim’s habit of not snapping the cuffs on his shirts.

My favorite Jay Palmer story involves, however, a septic system.  He told Benny Herman and me this story on the way to a team roping many years ago.  The fellow who had installed Jay’s new aerobic system was explaining the wonders of it to Jay.  Jay, like I would have, grew increasingly irritated as the man explained the inspection fee that would have to be paid, the pills that would have to be used, the maintenance of the sprinkler heads, and on and on.

When the man demonstrated the sprinklers, Jay asked.  “How do I know when they are going to come on?’

Answer.  “You don’t.”

Jay said, “I don’t get around as good as I used to.   What if I’m out here in the yard and get sprayed?”

“Oh, don’t worry.  What comes out of those sprinklers is as safe as drinking water.”

“You really believe that?”

“Yes, sir.”  Jay looked at the man for a few seconds and started for the house.

“Where are you going?”

“To get you a water glass.  I want to see this.”

This review is by Loretta Kibler: Go Down Looking is truly a masterpiece and one worthy of movie consideration. The continuation of the Rivers’ story weaves an intriguing tapestry through vivid details and heart-moving emotions about the family’s life, love, struggles, loss, and determination. I felt I was experiencing the events myself as I laughed, cried, and feared for Jake during some of his escapades. His character is so fascinating that a broad spectrum of readers will enjoy the survival of a very complex young man. Just as I experienced, they will find themselves recalling their past and reflecting on the true priorities of life. Jake is a young man when the book ends, but when I finished the last page, I was already looking forward to the next amazing book that only Jim can pen. 

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