Before I was a Buckeye (well, by birth I've always been one) I was a Racer. What you say? Yes, I spent my freshman year (1979- 1980) at Murray State University, in Murray, KY with my dear friend Julie and her then boyfriend, now husband. Paul. Yep, we were Little Sisters in the Delta Sigma Phi fraternity- another post in itself.
Anyway, I was majoring in broadcast journalism and minoring in animal sciences, specifically equine science. I rode, then showed horses for the first time, attended my first rodeo, got a foot smashed by my class horse "Happy Jack" and went to the Kentucky Derby with Julie and a fellow lil sis Janet who lived in Louisville. But I digress...
As a member of the horse program, I got to know "Violet Cactus" and once or twice was part of her entourage at a football game. Violet was a Thoroughbred retired from the track. She was a sweet little mare who was mostly the school mascot (now known as "Racer One") and used very little for anything else to the dismay of the other school class horses.
It turned out that Violet's jockey was graduating. Since even at my thinnest I am not jockey material, I persuaded my new tiny friend and experienced rider, Laura to meet Doc Rudolph the department chair and see if she could get the assignment. She did. So, we went to some games and sat by the end-zone to help out. Pretty much we kept Violet comfortable and when it appeared we might score (unfortunately not terribly often), we'd get her and her jockey prepared so the moment it happened they could take a victory lap around the track to the tune of "The Old Gray Mare" (I think.) I still remember the announcer going "Now here comes Viiii-o-let Cac-tuuuussssss" in his southern drawl.
As silly as it seems, I thought of her the other day and got all weepy when I read that she had died in the early '80s. Obviously, I knew she would be dead, but was upset that she would only live a few years after I left. They buried her in that spot by the end zone where she presided game after game for 8 years and there is a statue marking the spot. Now, they only let a horse and rider do one year stints and that's probably for the best.
|"Violet Cactus" and Laura (photo from MSU website)|