When I was a little girl we never missed the Kentucky Derby. It was the only glimpse we got of my mother's home state, that mythical land called "Kentucky".
My mother's stories of her childhood in Kentucky told of mountains and snow, two things we didn't have in suburban Dallas. The closest I usually got to horses was the "Black Stallion" novels in my school library, but I read all of them over and over again.
I loved horses. Still do.
I have a very early memory - I think I was about three years old - of going with my Uncle Marshall to say hello to two horses that lived nearby when he was pastor of a small town church in Central Texas. The horses came right up to the fence and let us pet them. Uncle Marshall said their names were Thunder and Lightning. Since I loved thunderstorms that made me love them even more.
I'm not sure why I've always loved horses. Maybe it's the way they so patiently stand by and let us puny little humans lead them about and faithfully carry us on their backs. Maybe it's the perfect combination of beauty and power so evident as they thunder down the track. But it probably has more to do with their big soft eyes and the way their ears twitch back and forth as they listen to our voices and their soft noses that nuzzle their people.
When I was in sixth grade I used to visit my friend, Tricia, who lived closer to the edge of town where they could keep a horse. Half horse, half Welsh pony, Babe wasn't that big as horses go. Sleepovers at Tricia's house meant big trees, dogs, cats, an illusive, screaming peacock and riding Babe bareback. I did lose my balance and fall off once but I got right back on her and rode some more.
I've had a couple of other opportunities to ride horses (not bareback), usually at a slow walk or an easy trot. But just once, the horse I was riding broke into an easy gallop. It was only for a few strides but I loved that feeling of power and freedom.
Recently, when the movie "Secretariat" came out, I searched YouTube and let my daughter watch Secretariat run those Triple Crown races. She was in awe, just as I had been when I watched them the first time around. Best. Horse. Ever.
So today I'll be watching the Kentucky Derby and remembering my mother's voice singing along with "My Old Kentucky Home".
Happy Mother's Day, Mom.
Watch this video Secretariat's Kentucky Derby win and YouTube will automatically play his Preakness and Belmont races,too.