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The Big Picture

Daddy, the Horses, and Me

My dad is on my mind  today, March 7.  He would be turning 85 if he were here.
I was his baby of six girls and two boys.  Little Marge is what he called me.  To him, Little Marge is who I always was.
Some of my earliest memories are of getting up with him at sunrise and feeding the horses; dragging bales of hay that were bigger than I was across the yard; seeing mares give birth or watching in horror as my dad untangled a horse from the barbed wire.   
When  Secretariat won the Triple Crown in 1973, I was eight years old, and my dad tore a picture of him out of a magazine to put up on my wall. While other little girls wanted dolls and dresses for Christmas, I wanted boots and a cowboy hat or some new piece of tack for my horse.
Daddy loved every aspect of horses: caring for them, owning them, riding them, betting on them. I remember once when he was riding our mare, Dolly, she fell and rolled on him, breaking his ribs.  It didn't stop him though.  He eventually got back on.
Dolly's foal, Princess, was my horse.  A princess in name only, she repeatedly tried to throw me.  The boy  next door would laugh at me, but Daddy would always tell me to climb back into the saddle. One day, though, I guess he had had enough of her antics, as I came home from school and learned that Princess had been sold. That's just the way Daddy did things.
By the time I was in 5th grade, we had ten horses that grazed right in our yard.  Every day when I got off the school bus, the horses would start towards  me. Thoroughbreds are known to be spirited and they  scared me to death, but I knew my friends were watching  from the bus and I would resist the urge to run. The young race horses are etched in my memory:  Whiskey Harry, named after my great grandfather; Green Eyed Primp, named after my mother, and Charming Margie, named after-- well, let's just say she gave my siblings more proof that I was the spoiled baby. 
It was Daddy's dream  to win the Kentucky Derby, the Belmont, the Preakness, even the Triple Crown. Since horse racing was illegal in Tennessee, we moved to race our horses and I became familiar with words like trifecta and handicapping.  On the evenings we didn't go to the track, we would sit on our back porch and listen to the races.  I became very familiar with the announcer's call, "And they're off!"  No matter the odds, my mother always bet her lucky numbers,  2-5-8.  Daddy would  tease her, saying the horses didn't know what number they were wearing.  
Green Eyed Primp got us into the Winner's Circle once.  But once was not enough in such a costly business, and we returned to Memphis where Daddy sold cars for a living. I have never forgotten, though, how he had the courage to pursue his dream.
Alzheimers took my dad in 2007, but it cannot take what I learned from him.  He was not a perfect man, but whether I failed a math test--and I failed many--or was thrown from a horse, his message was the same: get back up, he would say, reminding me that if it weren't for failure, success wouldn't mean anything.  
I am grateful today to have memories that most little girls only dream of.  I will always cherish the memories of  Daddy, the horses and me.

11 Comments to Daddy, the Horses, and Me:

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Sherry Shelton on Monday, March 07, 2011 5:11 PM
Margie, thank you for that terrific memory of dad. I just returned from a funeral where Alzheimer's robbed another person of their memories, so he was definitely on my mind. love you.
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margie on Friday, March 11, 2011 3:21 AM
I love you, Sherry. Such an awful disease.

Debbie Riley on Tuesday, March 08, 2011 3:45 AM
Margie thank you for the memory - one I had not thought of while Dad was on my mind on his birthday. Your memories of him are so different than mine. I was already out of th house and married when you had these experiences. Thanks for the reminder.
Reply to comment
Margie on Friday, March 11, 2011 3:20 AM
I know we had two completely different experiences growing up in the same house. And now that I have so many kids myself, I understand why!

Robert Sims on Wednesday, March 09, 2011 7:47 PM
Honey, this is a beautiful tribute to your father. Such a wonderful man. I was / am very fond of him.
Reply to comment
margie on Friday, March 11, 2011 3:18 AM
Honey, He liked you from the very first moment. Remember what he said to me when we had briefly stopped dating, "Whatever happened to Robert? He was the only one I liked!"

Margie on Friday, March 11, 2011 3:17 AM
Uncle John, I know you loved my dad, too! That is a good memory of the winner's circle, isn't it? And I know I have a picture somewhere of all our smiling faces. Daddy had the biggest smile that night. I will never forget it. Thanks for sharing that memory of how his racing career started! I hadn't heard that one before.
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Pam on Friday, March 11, 2011 1:10 PM
Great tribute to your "Daddy" ~ I always loved how you called him that. I was recently telling someone about how you and I met and how your dad brought you and the horses to our little town to try his hand at racing them - only to have you move away a year later. What an ordained time. Now your Daddy and your Papa God are singing over you together! ;)
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Robert on Tuesday, April 19, 2011 8:06 PM
Honey, I could not sleep tonight, so I was re-reading your blog posts. All were so touching - this one particularly so. Common theme of getting back on the horse that threw you. Great theme for life. I loved Pam's comment regarding your heavenly Father and earthly father singing over you. It brought tears to my eyes. Loved hearing your dad was fond of me. There was definate mutual regard there. I love life with you. These blogs remind me why.
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Linda Couch Williams on Tuesday, May 03, 2011 9:41 AM
Margie, You were so very young when I hung around your sister, Susie; Sherry and my brother dated for quite a while. Anyway, I use to spend the night with Susie and we would go back to where the horses stayed - can't swear which horse it was (probably Dolly) and she knew I was scared; she chased me under the same barbed wire fence that you are speaking of and it caught my shirt and ripped it and my bra. But yes, these are great memories of my childhood too! I use to love spending the night at The Simpsons!
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margie on Wednesday, May 04, 2011 2:19 AM
Linda, Thanks for sharing that memory. I remember your brother even though I think I was only about five. He was always nice to me. Glad you have good memories of my family--and those scary horses!

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