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Heroes and Horses

Heroes and Horses: Tales of the Bluegrass

Copyright Date: 1996
Edition: 1
Pages: 132
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  • Book Info
    Heroes and Horses
    Book Description:

    War hero. Lawyer. U.S. Senate candidate. Horse lover. Farm boy. Fundraiser. To this impressive list add one more role ably filled by Philip Ardery: master storyteller.

    Heroes and Horsespresents a series of delightful vignettes evoking a way of life almost beyond recall. Bourbon County, the touchstone for Ardery's life, is the center that holds together the tales in the collection. Stories about Ardery's family home, "Rocclicgan," boyhood activities on the farm, and the servants' kitchen gossip paint vivid portraits of a lost time in Kentucky's history.

    Though the Ardery family and most of their neighbors were not horse people, all ages were united in their devotion to the sport of racing, with excitement reaching a crescendo each spring at Derby time. At the 1930 Derby, in which Bourbon County favorite Tannery finished eighth, losses from wagering on the horse hit the county harder than the stock market crash of the previous year. Ardery regales us with memories of hitchhiking to Louisville in 1933, sneaking into the Downs, and witnessing one of the most famous stretch runs of all time. He also tells about Claiborne Farms and its 1984 Derby and Belmont winner, Swale -- a story that takes us from the heights of euphoria to the depths of despair.

    Despite Ardery's spring trips to Louisville, home base for this collection remains pastoral Bourbon County, northeast of Lexington, the very heart of the Bluegrass. Ardery gives us a personal account of the rise and fall of Edward F. Prichard Jr., whose life "seems something of a Greek tragedy." We hear the story of Reuben Hutchcraft, the county's greatest hero of World War I. We learn the history of Barton Stone and the Cane Ridge Meeting House, where the Disciples of Christ denomination was born before the Civil War. And in one of the most moving stories in the book, Ardery tells of his respect and admiration for the wisdom of Cap'n, a former slave who worked on the family's farm during Ardery's boyhood.

    Written by one of Kentucky's favorite sons,Heroes and Horseswill delight anyone with even a passing interest in the Bluegrass State or who enjoys a good story well told.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-4860-1
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vi-vi)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-vii)
  5. [Map]
    (pp. viii-viii)
  6. Prologue
    (pp. 1-1)

    It is difficult for me to say how much is still with me that I learned about Bourbon County as a child. How much is left of the boy who lay belly-down chewing blades of bluegrass and heads of sweet white clover, or of the boy who bent over the high bank of Houston Creek to see the kingfishers wing in and out of their hole in the bank.

    So much of the happiness of those days was somehow connected with water. There was the springhouse down across the road from our home where a clear stream of icy water...

  7. ONE Rocclicgan
    (pp. 2-10)

    Bourbon County, Virginia, was established by the Virginia General Assembly in 1785; Kentucky was not to become a state until seven years later. Out of Bourbon County were carved some thirty other counties of the present Commonwealth of Kentucky, north to the Ohio River and east to the Big Sandy. It was a wilderness then. The Ardery pioneers came into their land the easiest way—by marriage. My great-great grandfather John Ardery Jr. married Elizabeth McConnell on New Year’s Day, 1818. Her father, William McConnell, had fought in the Revolutionary War and for his service had received more than a...

  8. TWO The Folks at Home
    (pp. 11-24)

    My father, William Breckenridge Ardery, was born in 1887, the only child of William Porter and Ellen Adair Ardery. He married Virginia-born Julia Spencer in 1910. He was twenty-seven when I, his third son, was born. My brothers and I, when we were small, called him “Dits”; later I called him Dad. I must have been around three or four years old when my memories of him begin. I recall his taking me up in front of him in the saddle as he rode his mare across the farm. With 365 acres, our farm seemed to me a vast estate....

  9. THREE Bourbon County Boyhood
    (pp. 25-35)

    Bourbon County in my early recollection was heaven. Its gently rolling hills were green and gracious. It had racehorses and cows and chickens and dogs. We were not racehorse people, but we usually had a saddle horse or two, which my father loved to ride, often taking me up in front of him in the saddle on his favorite mare. The salty, musky smell of saddle leather and horse sweat was pure joy.

    My brother Win and I sometimes played a game called chicken. We would take wood shingles from a bale of them kept in the bam for repairing...

  10. FOUR Horse Country
    (pp. 36-47)

    Bourbon is the only county I ever heard of that had a one-horse depression. I called it the “Tannery Panic.” Edward Prichard Sr., father of my classmate Edward Prichard Jr. at Paris High School, owned a strapping big chestnut colt named Tannery, son of a sire named Ballot out of a mare named Blemished. He ran well as a two-year-old and won two important races in the Lexington Kentucky Association meet just before the Derby in the spring of 1930. Almost everybody in Bourbon County was a fan of his, and when he beat so many good horses in Lexington,...

  11. FIVE Ed Simms and Xalapa
    (pp. 48-55)

    Billionaire? What does it take to make a billionaire? How does he count his money? The answer is, he doesn’t. He doesn’t know the extent of his wealth at any moment, any more than Texan Nelson Bunker Hunt did a few years ago when his corner of the silver market broke off.

    Kentuckian Edward Francis Simms, born in Paris, Bourbon County, March 5, 1870, from time to time was clearly in that class. Simms hit it big when oil was struck at Spindletop, near Beaumont, Texas, shortly after the turn of the century. He was one of the first to...

  12. SIX Claiborne Farm
    (pp. 56-67)

    Sometimes the frame of a picture is so interesting that we study it before we really look at the picture in it. The story of Claiborne Farm—a farm that likely has produced more stakes-winning thoroughbred horses than any similar establishment in the history of racing—is framed in the history of Bourbon County.

    “By 1838,” writes Kentucky historian Thomas D. Clark, “the fertile county of Bourbon, reporting a negligible production of grain and tobacco, led the list in livestock … with 10,000 head of cattle, 40,000 hogs, 3,000 horses and mules.” Bourbon County historian H.E. Everman, discussing sheep raising,...

  13. SEVEN A Hero of World War I
    (pp. 68-76)

    In the summer of 1940, Howard Henderson, a hard-punching, cold-blooded political reporter for the LouisvilleCourier-journal, commenting on my having just volunteered for pilot training in the U.S. Army Air Corps, said to me, “Phil, I think a war’s coming, as you apparently do. I was in the Paris Cemetery the other day and noted what a beautiful place it is and particularly the grave of Reuben Hutchcraft.”

    My father had often pointed out Hutchcraft’s grave to me, saying, “Here lies perhaps Bourbon County’s greatest hero of World War I.” Henderson continued, “Hutchcraft was a Bourbon County graduate of Harvard...

  14. EIGHT Prich
    (pp. 77-96)

    Edward F. Prichard Jr., known to us as “Prich,” was easily the most famous of the friends I grew up with. To generations younger than mine, his name in Kentucky seems synonymous with education reform. But to those of us in his own generation who knew him, his life seems something of a Greek tragedy. It is difficult for me to write about him, and I would not, except that much of our lives and times were so close that for me to fail to do so would be, in legal terms, a “material nondisclosure.”

    When we were little boys,...

  15. NINE Barton Stone and Cane Ridge
    (pp. 97-109)

    It must have been about seventy years ago that I first heard the name Barton Stone. It was in the very biblical surroundings of the parsonage occupied by my grandparents, the Reverend and Mrs. I.J. Spencer of Central Christian Church in Lexington. Stone, it seemed to me, was like St. Peter, to whom Jesus said, “Thou art Peter. On this rock will I found my church” (Matt. 11:18). And indeed, as I would later learn, what St. Peter was to the Roman Church, Barton Stone must have been not only to grandfather’s church but to the worldwide denomination to which...

  16. TEN Cap’n
    (pp. 110-117)

    His name was Willis Barton, but the three Ardery children called him Cap’n. We never knew how he got such a dignified name as Willis Barton because we never knew who his parents were, and if he ever knew, he never spoke about them. My earliest recollections of him must have been when he was about sixty years old, and to me that seemed very old. He did say he didn’t remember when the men went away “to waw” (the Civil War), but he did remember when they “come home.” That is how we guessed his age. He was totally...

  17. Epilogue
    (pp. 118-119)

    Bourbon County has left its mark on me. The people of Bourbon County, some of whose lives were distant from mine and some who were closest to me—the Redmons, Cap’n, my brothers, and of course my mother and father—are a part of me now and will be forever. It has been said that if you want to live a long time, pick parents who lived a long time. By the same token, I suppose it could be said that if you want to be a good person, you should pick parents who are wonderful people. By that standard,...