Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Peanut's Wild Ride

A while back there was this here man that came through my hometown of Beloved, Kentucky on a business trip. Fate, or somethin' a whole lot like it stopped him smack dab at the Henny Penny Restaurant for breakfast on a Tuesday mornin'. Only reason that is important is that is the only day my cousin Peanut stops by the Henny Penny. Peanut knows that Bessie Bowling always works the mornin' shift on Tuesday mornin's.

Well sir, this feller was havin' two hen eggs, over easy, biscuits an' sausage gravy with a side of grits covered up with butter an' real maple syrup... not none of that Karo stuff. Most folks down home grew up eatin' Karo syrup an' liked the thick taste of the stuff. Not the Henny Penny. They served real maple syrup.

Anyway, Cousin Peanut had come in an' was sittin' at the counter carryin' on since Bessie was workin' the counter. He was tellin' about a mare Hap Collins had bought that was not broke. Hearin' him tell it, he had broke that mare single handed, had rode her up a mountain, straight down a coal mine an' never fell off. Now, Peanut is a fine rider, but all there knew that Cousin Peanut dealt wholesale in truth-stretchin' an' did not mind if folks believed ever'thing that they heard from him.

The feller from out of town had been listenin' the whole time an' had looked over to see Cousin Peanut more than once. He sized him up right good by the time the last grit an' swaller of coffee was down his gullet. He noticed Peanut's small stature an' light weight easily. If folks had looked they might have seen a light bulb brightenin' up over his head as he listened to Cousin Peanut. By the time he stepped up to the counter an' paid his bill he was ready for a plan he hatched as he ate his hen eggs, over easy.

He quickly started up a conversation as he waited for his change. He asked Bessie Bowling if Peanut was really a good horseman an' she told him that despite the stretch in the story Peanut was one of the best horsemen in that part of the mountains. Peanut spoke up an' took up for himself, admittin' that he might have bent the truth a little, but that he did know horses an' was a right good rider.

Before that man left my hometown of Beloved he asked Cousin Peanut to come to Lexington, Kentucky to try out his skills on some of them fancy horses what ride in the Kentucky Derby. Told Peanut that he could make good money ridin' in races. Peanut didn't take to work any more than he took to water, so the idea of ridin' horses an' makin' money appealed to him right well. He agreed to meet up with the man over the weekend at a farm in Lexington an' try out some of them horses to see how he did.

Bright an' early on Saturday my cousin Peanut was at the horse farm in Lexington, Kentucky an' was wanderin' the stables with that feller lookin' at them thoroughbred horses. Peanut took to them right off an' agreed to try an' ride one.

Bein' as them horses is expensive, that feller, known now as George, decided that a new jockey candidate like Peanut was didn't need to be ridin' no expensive horse, just in case there was a problem. George opened the stall of a three year old that was a little bit down on his luck an Peanut commenced to rubbin' on the horses nose an' talkin' to it like they was great pals an' all. George explained that it weren't much of a horse but Peanut didn't mind. They saddled the horse up an' went over to the track for a run.

Now, as you know, cousin Peanut is a little bitty feller, just weighin' a bit more than he did when he should have been in third grade. I say should have been 'cause Peanut didn't go to school much. Thus he was perfect size to be a jockey.

George helped Peanut up on the horse, put it in the gate an' rang the bell. That gate opened an' that ol' horse took off out of there like the gate was haunted. Oh my, Peanut held on for dear life for a while, but soon got the hang of ridin' a thoroughbred racin' horse an' commenced to urgin the horse on...

"Come on Lionheart, come on feller" he roared. Oh, yeah, the horse was named Lionheart. "Come on now, let's show ol' George what you are made of."

Lionheart tried his best, but the time that George clocked wasn't gonna win the Kentucky Derby. Fact is, he was a slow horse an' just would never be in the money at all. 'Bout the only thing he was ever gonna be in was a can of dog food or maybe a bottle of glue. Of course, George didn't tell Peanut that, he wanted to see how Peanut rode. The fact is, Peanut rode pretty darn good.

This was an opportunity for a ne'r do well mountain boy like my Cousin Peanut. He hadn't done much in his life except make a little moonshine an' cause his mama, Mrs. Chapell a good bit of heartburn. Peanut took a likin' to that old horse Lionheart an' when he was offered a small room in the stable to be a training jockey, Peanut jumped at the chance. He lived right there an' spent a whole lot of time with the horses... an' Lionheart received a right smart piece of that attention. Why, they ended up givin' ol' Lionheart to Peanut an that horse avoided the glue factory, came to live down home in Beloved for many years (but that there is another story).

About that time I took to the road again doin' my squirrel fishin' show for several festivals, state and county fairs. I would go an' set up my rig an' show folks my newly invented sport of squirrel fishin'. I took along my little red wagon to which I had welded hamster wheels to the tongue. I placed one of my squirrels in each wheel, held a walnut on a string out in front of them an' they would pull me in that little red wagon all over the place.

I had originally had 8 squirrels - Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and, of course Fluffy. Fluffy had babies a year before an' I had been trainin' Fluffy Jr. to run in the cage with the other squirrels an' Fluffy was supposed to stay home for the summer.

Well, Fluffy didn't agree with my decision and had snuck in Cousin Peanut's satchel when he visited an' had gone all the way home to Lexington an' that horse stable with my Cousin Peanut. 'Course, Peanut let me know about it as soon as he could call an' I decided it might do Fluffy good to spend the summer away from home an' in the big city of Lexington. A squirrel can get mighty bored in my hometown of Beloved, Kentucky. There just ain't much goin' on for squirrels or young folks back home in the summer.

Anyways, Fluffy was right there wherever Peanut went that summer, right on his shoulder. Best of pals.

One day a feller what was a retired Methodist preacher came in with a two year old bay what had some pretty good times on the track. They thought with the right trainin' it might be destined for the big race at Churchill Downs one day. Horse was names "Valley of Dry Bones" but everyone called it "Val".

They gave the trainin' over to Cousin Peanut an' he was so proud. He took the best of care of ol' Val. He rode Val on the track an' was producin' times that folks was a lookin' at with right smart interest.

Then ol' Val broke the track record on that farm an folks started comin' round to see him AN' Cousin Peanut. They was talkin' like Val was goin' to be entered into a maiden race when he turned three. Why, folks talked like he might go all the way to the Triple Crown.

One day when this here Arab sheik was visitin' with one of his horses they decided to put several of the older two year olds on the track to run. Val an' the sheik's horse was in with four other horses, includin' one mare.

When the gates was opened them horses took off an' the leader of the pack was ol' Valley of Dry Bones. Peanut was grinnin' to beat the band an' ever'one includin' the sheik was a' cheerin' for Val.

Val not only won, but beat the other horses by three lengths. The sheik was talkin' about maybe buyin' Val.

The folks at the farm had recorded the race so the owners could watch an' see how their horses won. Everyone sat down to watch an' that is when things fell apart for ol' Val an' Peanut.

Remember how I told y'all Fluffy was the constant companion to Peanut that summer? Well, as they slowed the video down to see how the horses was runnin' someone noticed a hump on Peanut's back, under his racin' silks. Then they saw that hump a'movin'.

It was Fluffy! As they horses ran Fluffy slipped down an' out of Peanut's racin' silk shirt, sat on Val's rump AN' bit Val agin an' agin!

They called Peanut in an' he told them, "Sure, that's how we get Val to run fast. Fluffy bites him in the rump."

They made Peanut an' Val run the race over agin the next day without Fluffy an' Val came in sixth out of six. Seems he couldn't do much without the encouragement of a squirrel bitin' his rump. They ran him five or seven times with other horses, other jockeys an' he was the same dead last ever' time. Val just couldn't run good without Fluffy bitin' him an' encouragin' him on.

However, seems the horse racin' folks didn't allow squirrel assists in horse racin'. Their loss.

They retired Val, gave him to Peanut as a bribe to keep the whole thing quiet. Peanut, Val an' Fluffy was brought home in a big ol' air conditioned horse trailer. They was the talk of my hometown of Beloved for months.

(Yep, Peanut rode in the horse trailer with Val on that trip. He is H2O intolerant, you know. The driver put him out after a few miles ridin' in the pickup, said Peanut was too odoriferous... whatever that means.)

If y'all want to see a couple real live thoroughbreds close up, head on down to my hometown of Beloved, Kentucky. Ask anyone in town how to get out to Booger Holler an' to the Chappell homeplace. Peanut will be glad to show you Lionheart an' Val, the horse who almost was a champion.

Just be sure an' stand upwind of Peanut.

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