Books, then, were part of my heritage. Horses were not, but I found my way to them anyway, and not much later than I discovered reading. One of my father’s cherished possessions was a photograph he had taken when I was about three—four at most. We were living in Louisville, Kentucky, then, and we had stopped by the side of the road during a drive. A fence separated us from a pasture full of mares. The photograph tells the tale: the white-railed fencing and cropped grass, the animals grazing peacefully—and, in the lower right corner, a little girl with long blonde hair, a frilly little dress, and the patent Mary Janes that were popular at the time as children’s footwear, at least for occasions such as going to church or visiting relatives. Not exactly an outfit suitable for climbing fences and dashing across a horse pasture, but clearly that was exactly what I had on my mind if that was what it took to get to the objects of my fascination. I don’t think I got very far up the fence before Dad peeled me off and returned me to the safety of the car, but he snapped the picture first. Later, he had it enlarged, matted, and framed. His handwriting is still on the mat; it reads, “Dawning of a Love Affair.”
I never got any further with getting close to horses, at least not in regard to owning one; multiple moves and a parental divorce got in the way. That didn’t stop me from reading everything horsy I could get my hands on, including everything by Marguerite Henry, Walter Farley, and C. W. Anderson in school and local libraries. By the time I was fifteen, I was starting to accumulate notebooks full of everything I had scrawled down about the pedigrees and histories of Thoroughbred horses. Where those notebooks are now, I have no idea: most probably fell victim to mildew, water damage, or a house fire years ago, along with my early attempts at writing short stories and fantasy fiction. Some were still around when I acquired, among other things, a husband and then a couple of children.
Now, said husband has been well aware of my horse-craziness pretty much from the get-go, along with other quirks that he didn’t share but loved anyway, and probably would have been perfectly happy to get me a horse except for minor problems such as eternally having more bills and other priorities than money to cover them all. In all honesty, I didn’t have the energy to spare either, between family matters and a demanding full-time job in mental health. So, by the time my thirties were sneaking on by, I had rather resigned myself to horselessness. I kept reading, though. I kept making notes. And I kept revisiting favorite books, among them Sir Charles Leicester’s Bloodstock Breeding. I was endlessly intrigued by how he presented the Derby Stakes winners of the 20th century, weaving together their racing histories and their backgrounds. One fine day, probably late in 1999, I was griping to my patient spouse--not for the first time—about the lack of any books in the American market that provided the same information about the winners of the Kentucky Derby and the other American Triple Crown races.
“Well, why don’t you write it?” he joshed.
He should have known better. For the next three years, he handled most of the housekeeping and child care on top of his own full-time job while I spent nights and weekends researching, writing, and wrestling with dial-up Internet access that could be counted on to go down right when I was in the middle of something crucial. By the time I was done enough with the manuscript to search for a publisher, I was ready to nominate him for sainthood. His work and mine were rewarded when Jackie Duke at Eclipse Press accepted the proposal and manuscript that became American Classic Pedigrees 1913-2002. And that’s how this whole crazy business of being an author got started, with the book that became the ancestor of this website.
There’s more to tell, of course. And at some point, I may ask some of you who suffer from the same insanity about combining horses with putting pen to paper if you’d like to share how your journey got started. Until next week….