Published Nov 19, 2019 at 8:00 am
(Updated Nov 19, 2019 at 9:48 am)
These days Leroy Augustus rides a scooter, but for most of his life horses were his preference.
Its how he got his nickname, given at an early age by his parents Albina and Samuel.
My parents called me Poker because I always liked poking around with horses, the 87-year-old said.
His mother knew exactly where to look whenever she couldnt find him at home: helping his grandfather, Fred Smith, with his horses or at the nearby stables at Government House.
The day his parents surprised him with his first pony remains a happy memory. He was seven and his mother sent him to the barn, ostensibly to take care of the family cow.
I saw this little pony, he said. I ran back to my mother in the kitchen and said, Mama theres a pony in the stables! She said, Yeah, I dont know anything about it.
My father worked for the electric light station, climbing poles and doing things like that. When he came home I said, Pop, whose is this pony? He said, What pony? I dont see any pony. Then he said it was my birthday present.
Once hed finished school, he got a job at the old Shelly Bay racetrack looking after Erskine Adderleys horses.
To his great surprise he was one day commandeered to race a sulkie a lightweight horse cart. He took the most useful tip he received to heart: get the horse as close to the rail as possible.
For my first race I was very nervous, Mr Augustus said. I was racing against some of Bermudas top riders, and Id never raced before.
If youre on the outside it takes a fast horse to beat you. I won my first two races. I had a lot of fun.
In the early 1970s he worked at the stables at Government House.
On three occasions he drove a carriage carrying the Queen. Once, on Cedar Avenue, she was surprised when the crowd started shouting his name.
A lot of people knew me, he said. There was so many people in the crowd I couldnt tell who was doing the calling. The Queen said, Goodness, youre a popular man. Do you want me to drive?
Every May 24, Mr Augustus dressed as a cowboy and got his horse Tiger to dance to Tennessee Waltz, a popular country music song, as part of the annual parade.
Tiger won a lot of prizes in the parade, he said. My family taught me how to train horses. The secret is you have to raise them up the way you do a child.
At one point, Mr Augustus ran a horse boarding business, caring for nearly 20 animals out of his homestead in Pembroke.
He vividly recalls a disagreement he had in 1974 with the owner of a horse called Splash. Mr Augustus felt the horse had gone off her feed because the man allowed his friends to ride her too hard. The owner accused him of not taking good care of the horse, and moved Splash to another stable three miles away.
Two years later the horse made a noisy reappearance, breaking away from her new stables at 1am and kicking in the gate to the Augustus paddock in order to have a foal there.
I think the owner was a bit embarrassed, Mr Augustus said.
He gave up the business 20 years ago and started driving a taxi in what became his trademark uniform: a bright red coat, pith helmet and white linen trousers.
He still has a binder full of letters from happy tourists commending his service.
One letter from Sherry Payne, a New York travel agent, recounted how her sister-in-law fell ill after arriving on the Zenith in 1996 and was rushed to King Edward VII Memorial Hospital.
I told Poker what had happened, Ms Payne wrote. My brother had to leave the ship to stay with his wife. Poker immediately took action. This wonderful man escorted my brother to the hospital and stayed by his side for a week and a half. He saw to it that he ate, and he showed him all over Bermuda. He introduced him to his family and they took him in like he was one of their own. I was so grateful that Poker was there.
The experience made her want to sell the island even more, she said.
Although now retired, Mr Augustus will still help out friends with horses on occasion. Sometimes when he rides his scooter, he likes to wear his old taxi uniform.
Lifestyle profiles the islands senior citizens every Tuesday….
Top Ten Poker Products
- Poker chip set housed in a silver aluminum case
- Includes 500 11.5-gram Claytec striped dice poker chips
- 150 white and 100 blue chips; 150 red chips; 50 green and 50 black chips
- Da Vinci Imports
- ONE KIT, SO MANY OPTIONS: You don't need a casino to achieve the thrill of a high stakes poker or blackjack game. With the Rally and Roar poker accessories set, this all-inclusive...
- WHAT YOU RECEIVE: Our poker playing supplies include 500 chips (11.5g), 2 full decks of cards, 1 dealer chip, large and small blind chips, 5 resin dice (19mm), and an aluminum travel...
- SUPERIOR CRAFTSMANSHIP: The gambling sets exude high-quality, professional-grade build. From the protective, aluminum shell of the case to the durable, detailed chips, our complete game...
- Includes 200 dual-toned poker chips
- One deck of poker cards plus dealer chips
- Housed in a beautiful and sturdy aluminum case
- 100pcs of plastic counters/mini poker chips/Game tokens with storage box
- Diameter: 1 inch (25mm)
- Great for Sorting, Colors, Matching and more!
- 11.5 gram chips
- Dice Striped chip design
- One roll of 50 chips
- Chips are heavy 14 gram clay composite with denominations as shown
- Attractive chip design with a golden laser ring around the chips
- Due to high quality material the chips stack up nicely without slipping