Triple Crown - Misty Bluegrass...by Rebecca Mance on 09/13/15
Thank you once again to my fans worldwide. As a simple country girl I am particularly honored to be internationally recognized in my blog by people in places in the furthest reaches of the world. When I see this, I become very emotional. I cannot believe it. I am certain I do not deserve such an honor, but I appreciate more than feeble words can express. Why anyone would follow a socially awkward, little known author with banshee hair….perhaps shows you the magic of life.
Of course, any arrogance I might achieve is quickly narrowed by my humble and necessary work life as an ordinary person. However, in truth it is sort of fun to be ordinary in day life…but have a secret following of some worldwide notability outside of an ordinary job. It makes me feel a little like Batman or something. Or Wonder Woman perhaps…..the only thing missing is my square glasses during the day. However, too many women in SF do that, so I think I am better off without the square glasses. Far too many “wonder women” in SF. I will stick to being the eccentric author with too wild of banshee hair and forget the square glasses..... It is more me. Besides, I don't think I shall ever look smart in any venue and I don't care. Looking smart is not being smart.
However, as a romance writer trying to fit into a day job and not get myself into loads of trouble is not easy. I have not always been successful. However, I enjoy my current work very much and seem to have found a place where I can excel despite my social work deficiencies and oddities and somewhat magical view of the world….at least until I am a best-selling author anyway.
No, I have not kept my promise to blog once a month. My niece even got onto me when I was home to Kentucky. I told her that I would not be half so mysterious if I blogged all the time…giggles. I blog on Sundays when I have time to reflect and something has happened that seems bloggable.
Yes, yes….it is amazing….and a magic story….the horse I pulled out of a hat at the Derby Party in Napa….did turn out to be a Triple Crown Winner. Though I suspect didn’t make me very popular with people there that had horses and I felt bad about that. However, it wasn’t my fault I picked the winning horse out of a hat. I want everyone to win. I didn’t know anyone there had a horse in the race. Yikes. I love people so much and especially anyone who owns and takes care of horses. They are all amazing. It was an honor to stand with anyone who could actually own something so magnificent.
I actually cried that day that the Triple Crown was won. Though I was merely in my apartment alone at the big screen pacing and killing off my anxiety that nobody gets hurt with Charlie and Pam’s (Crocker Starr wine) It has been so long since a Triple Crown winner.
I kept praying that he would be okay. I’ve seen a few horse races. I “ain’t never seen nothing like that.” It was as if….he just decided in a moment… “well, I shall just blow away from them” and his feet took on wings. If you have ever run in a race, which I have, to find that much strength at the end of a race. Plus you have two kinds of runners….short distance sprinters and long distance. Few can do both….
And for him to just pull away pretty far on outside if I recall…I immediately was to call to mind not just Secretariat, who is well known. I have a favorite horse. Though who could not love Secretariat? In Paris, KY where my farm is located (I have no horses) they have “Secretariat Day” where they honor that horse.
My favorite horse, however, is Man O’War. Which is why I featured him in Once Upon Misty Blue Grass Hill. I have local friends that argue that Secretariat had better stats. I am not sure the truth, one cannot make a comparison. However, Man O’War was Kentucky’s horse. There is a main road that runs through Lexington….Man O’War. Secretariat is a side street. Not to take anything from him. However, Man O’War is my favorite. Now I have another favorite. And I believe American Pharoah is a Kentucky horse.....I am pretty sure...my son says he is stabled near our house...can you imagine if magic is on my side, I might actually see him in person someday.
When I saw American Pharaoh in that last race my mind ran to that big red horse and I quote from my book:
“His groom called him "de mostest hoss that ever was". That about sums it up for Man o'War in the eyes of most American racing fans. Man o'War was not just a great racehorse -- he became the standard by which all runners have been compared then and ever since. Everything he did was bigger than life, his accomplishments on the track, his dominance as a stallion, and his tremendous charisma that drew visitors from around the world to see him in life and in death.”
In this day and time with all of the horses now, compared to then, the science, the breeding, the training. It is much harder than in Secretariat’s day and especially in Man O’War’s day. To have a horse pull away like that in the third race of the Triple Crown is simply the stuff of legends.
How lucky was I? Very lucky. Nobody at the party knew I had bet my last ten dollars (having not gone to the bank and worried about having tolls on the way home). Giggles. No tolls but it would not have mattered….that horse had paid my way not just home but lunches after and at least one set of drinks with friends. I am not just an author of minor success, I am a girl that works hard for a living and not ashamed of that.
I love to go to the track in Lexington. Of course now that I can only go home sometimes that doesn’t happen often now. However, arguably it is the finest race track in the country. It is called Keenland. Many Derby horses are seen there before Derby. I have seen many there for very little money but it is a large and elegant experience for just a few dollars (Plus one can get Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale there). It is not a shabby track. It is a place of elegance and many of the college students from UK get dressed up and go there on a weekday as an outing. It is lovely to see.
Whether at Keenland or Churchill Downs I, when I can get to the paddock and close to the track always do this. If you have never seen a horse like that run, I can tell you it is an experience like none other. It makes you realize why so many through the ages honor the horse. In those moments, whether they win or lose, they are magical creatures….elegant, powerful and simply gifts of God to men.
I picked “I’ll Have Another” by seeing him in the paddock. Or perhaps it was because I had many “anothers” while there (Mint Julips at Derby are Amazing). But seriously, I always run back and forth from the paddock to the racetrack (Undoubtedly fueled by the Mint Julips…though I have energy abound anyway) so I can see the horses before the race. I am often overcome with emotion just to see them.
Before I left Kentucky I finished “Once Upon a Misty Bluegrass Hill” and while I could not know what it is like to own a horse like that, or ride it….in this book I did feel it in the moment. It was written in the days when I went to Keenland, to the Derby and walked the endless green of 12 acres…yes, with a Ball Mason jar filled with Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale or Charlie Crocker’s wine, my dogs tagging along.
Perhaps the story I wrote was whispers of all those horses that surround me…all and any could be that horse…I could see them in my back yard, in my side yard….or perhaps it was the green grass of Kentucky where those fine horses have come from. Or it is like the Princess of Jordan once said, “When I was growing up and read Black Beauty, I thought Kentucky must be heaven for horses. I grew up and came to Kentucky….and Kentucky is heaven for horses.”
That book could only be written in Kentucky. As a writer, I am not supposed to give the end of a story. However, in this case, perhaps this part of the story might let anyone who reads it catch the dream of the people who bring legends to life. Also, blogs of authors are to promote books…though typically we give the beginning so people read the book. In this moment, I give the honor of the end of my book to a legend in my time. To all of my fans who follow me. This might have been what some people felt like on that day…on all three of those days. That is the gift of an author. It is not in the writing, it is in the feeling…to see the scene in your head and heart. So that is my gift to you….not just my fans, but for those that make legends for me to write about then see with my own eyes…and pick out of a hat…on some lucky day…on a beautiful winery...in Napa watching the Derby....for a working girl....now how lucky am I to be born as I was...running barefoot all summer....poor...but not spiritless, but to somehow find myself not just with fans all over the world because of my humble gift of writing...but to be in arguably one of the most elegant places on earth...watching my favorite race among such amazing people.... Thank you. God and life have been so good to me and I am so thankful. So, in honor of the winning horse I pulled from a hat and those that I stood with on that day, in honor of the magic of life that gives authors like me the material to write about...thank all of you so much. I am so humbled and grateful....so I give you the ending of my book.
She followed the other horses her heart pounding in her ears and her limbs tingling. Fortunately, she could ride a horse in her sleep. They left the paddock and went toward the tunnel lined with people.
We got here Daddy. Just like you always talked about.
Storm swung his head side to side as they went down the alley that was bricked off from the crowd.
Beautiful ladies in elegant hats were waving from behind the chain link fence.
Men in suits that she only saw in books stood next to them, looking earnestly at the horses, in a final-scene moment to predict which one it would be.
What were Storm's odds? She didn't even know. Did Patrick even tell her?
Did it matter?
She had always known his odds.
They made the walk and Patrick joined them as the owner, holding Storm's reigns. He and Bernie stood on either side of Storm and walked with him to the gate…around the ring, past the crowds.
There were so many people and they were so loud.
Daddy, I don't know if I can.
You can my little girl. He is Dancer's Dream and our dream.
They arrived at the gate.
Big Storm reared up. He pranced and he danced high on his hooves while they pushed the other horses in. She took him on another small circle with Patrick looking on like the world was soon to end. Bernie walked with her and talked in low tones to Big Storm.
Each time they tried to put him in the gate he shied and pranced.
"Don't force him Bernie, let's not force him." It was her voice, but she sounded far away even to her own ears.
The sprinkles came light.
Time was running out.
"Go in Big Storm, go in. We practiced…this is no different."
Several jockey heads turned toward her voice.
When was the last time a girl raced, if ever?
Storm neighed softly and stepped cautiously into the gate on dancing legs. "Now there is my boy."
The gun sounded within seconds of them getting in. The gates opened with a uniform clap.
She wasn't ready.
Something stuck and she felt herself slide to the side of the saddle.
She heard the tear of fabric. Big Storm busted from the gate and Jolene barely missed hitting her head on the pole. She clung to his side.
He looked back with his big round black eyes.
His eyes said…."like get on and ride!"
But she couldn't pull herself up. And they were in the back…really very far in the back.
It was a struggle to climb on his back and get herself back into position. But when she did he lunged forward in a deep jump.
Jolene leaned forward, feeling his burst of power. She closed her eyes for an instant.
It had rained hard that day. Behind her lids, she saw that terrible day in a flash clear picture.
She felt the pain that near cut her in half…and this time she let it hurt. It was time to let it hurt and ride it out as fast as she could.
Jolene didn't take him to the center. He didn't need it. She gave him space to use his full leg span.
They moved to the middle of the pack. She didn't look anywhere but forward…seeing the horses in front of her…the dirt…the hooves.
Hang on tight!
Were they almost all in front of her? Every single one dammit?
Don't cuss Jolene.
Holy Mary, Mother of God…I can't remember the rest…even though I said it a million times.
Stop thinking, press forward.
Big Storm puffed in perfect rhythm like a big steam engine. She followed him in movement caressing his spirit with her own.
She leaned close to his head and whispered to him softly, "It is time."
The lightening cracked and the thunder rolled.
Storm leapt forward and it was all Jolene could do to hold on and keep her seat. That is all one could do with Storm once he decided on something important. The rain deepened.
Rain from Heaven.
Tears of sadness and tears of joy.
Jolene leaned forward and put her head down clinging to Storm with all of her strength. He had lost his head and wouldn't do anything she wanted.
Jolene leaned down as far as she could go…he was passing the other horses now…lots of them…she felt his strides lengthen even more. It was close but he was on the outside and had plenty of space.
"Go," Jolene whispered. He completely took back his head, only letting it go at the same time.
His stride lengthened even more and he gained speed.
The mud was hitting her and Storm. And her new uniform. But what did it matter?
But of course they had run in the rain so many times.
Running away from a memory…but chasing a dream.
There was only one horse in front, the predicted winner. Crazy Sal.
Go Dancer's Dream.
It was all a blur then. They rode right by Crazy Sal as if he was standing still. Jolene saw the finish line just a second before they passed it.
And it was over.
They had done it.
I give when I can to a farm in Kentucky that takes care of retired race horses it is called Old Friends. I urge anyone that loves racing to give to this fine non-profit organization and perhaps go meet some old champions. Thank you.