Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Kentuck Derby

A few weeks ago, my family gathered amongst extravagant hats, southern accents, and mint juleps. We made three trips to the paddock and three long walks to the track while the horn blazed a proverbial tune and the crowd bet their hard earned monies on their favorites. My Uncle Larry and Aunt Cindy have been very fortunate these last few years to have good enough horses to race in the Kentucky Derby. First there was Hard Spun, then the beautiful filly Eight Belles, and now Friesan Fire. On one end the Derby is a pretentious crowd of money, booze, and inflated egos. Yet, on Derby Day I see hopes, dreams, and a deep passion for horses. There is something else though, something so addicting yet so fleeting. For less than two minutes - only two minutes – the energy radiates, glowing with passion and anticipation. You feel it in your toes as you prance in place (pardon the pun). This energy travels up knotting your stomach, and spreading to your fingers as you hastily trace the sign of the cross and say a quick prayer in hopes for a favorable and safe outcome.

If you know thoroughbreds, you know they feel it too. As dawn breaks on Derby Day and the fog begins to lift the barns are already in full swing. Tack is meticulously scrubbed and cleaned. Horses are bathed, hoofs are picked. All horses with better hygiene than their grooms. Then, as my Aunt Cindy puts it, the “race face” goes on. The gentlest horse turns – anticipating the challenge; as a football player would syke himself up in the locker room before the playoffs. That energy, that innate drive to run, shinning through their eyes. Horses, especially thoroughbreds live to run. If you’ve lived with horses, or worked with horses on a daily basis, you would know this.

Still there is something else for me, something deeper, than the Derby. The chance to reconnect with my southern roots is priceless. Although city girl now (and forever considered by my southern counterparts as the “Yankee”) there is something I crave, something I connect with in Kentucky. Maybe it’s the slower mentality, the consideration for your neighbor the North has not quite mastered yet, or how real a farm and a southern home cooked meal are. Truthfully, I would trade the big hats and beautiful dresses for a pair of boots and a cowboy hat any day.

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