They made the move in the late 80s and never looked back. They were doing what they always did, working the track during operating hours. One day on the last day of a season, an official launched a tirade against a group of stoopers. The main point was that people picking up tickets should also have to pick up trash. He was serious, but thought that would just run off the stoopers, most of whom stomped off cursing at him. When the next season started, there was Jerry, with a large Hefty in one hand and his normal ticket bag in the other. He went about picking up tickets and also nearby garbage. The track official was flabbergasted. One of those good-for-nothing stoopers was actually willing to do some good! That was their big break.
After they won over the track manager, they were given a couple of Turfway windbreakers and were under the protection of the track. Eventually, they were allowed to collect after hours. With other stoopers being run off, they could scoop up massive trash bags of unsearched tickets. Peggy would help the cleaning crew pick up garbage, and thus won over that group of employees. They were welcomed into the family, going to company picnics and blending right in. As new track managers came and went, the crew would let them know that those two stoopers were alright. At that point, they didn’t need to worry about heat or grief from competing stoopers. They could simply refine their craft.
They were only at the track two nights a week That was all they needed to harvest a mountain of paper that would take them all week to examine. A friend of theirs at the track printed out all the results at the end of the night. This was helpful since the track had added races from other tracks via simulcasting. Jerry & Peggy transcribed the results onto posterboard to make it easy to read. Then they would begin churning through the garbage bags full of tickets. This was Jerry’s specialty. He quickly learned where on the boards to look for the results and could go through thousands of the slips in a day. When one of them found a big score, the catchphrase to the other was always the same: “This can’t be right!” When they had their quarry of winning tickets, Jerry would go to the track and cash them in. However, for large scores that might have brought heat, he would have Peggy or one of their friends make the claim. They never had any problems cashing out.
The Jim Beam Stakes was Turfway’s biggest race and was also a big problem. The size of the event drew Boy Scout troops volunteering to clean up afterwards. Jerry & Peggy had nightmares of eager little hands grabbing up their white gold and taking it straight to the Dumpster. The solution was simple. Ask the scouts to pick up tickets separately. They were told that ticket paper was recyclable and valuable. Of course, Jerry and Peggy would helpfully cart off the bags of tickets.
Even they didn’t really know how much money they made. Unlike many stoopers, they didn’t blow it at the track. They did that once in the first few months of their career and felt terrible about it. After that, horse bets by Jerry were small and only occasional. However, they did live their lives hand-to-mouth, so no records were kept. Jerry claimed they made $42,000 in his best year (one of the few years he tried to keep track), but that number contained one of their largest hits ever, a find of $8,000.
One thing was for sure: A bad week was a lot of work for little reward. They might only find $250 in a bad week, with over 40 hours each invested. It was hard, filthy work and those weeks, it was at below than minimum wage. However, in addition to the $8,000 hit, there was also a $9,000 strike and a $12,000 score over the years. Also, a find of $1,000 was about a monthly occurrence. It’s amazing what got thrown out!
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