It was 1964; I remember because I had just purchased a new car that summer and my wife, Jean, and our three children—Debbie, 10; Sam, 5; and Daniel, almost 2—were planning our first vacation to the United States. I was in charge of picking our destination, so I picked Lexington, Ky.
I had always liked horses and, in my youth, had seen The Story of Seabiscuit (1949), starring Shirley Temple and Barry Fitzgerald, which chronicled the life of a champion thoroughbred racehorse that was foaled and raised in the Bluegrass State. I had also heard there were lots of parks and campgrounds throughout Kentucky. Plus, it was only about an 8-hour drive from Detroit, and we lived about an hour from there on the Canadian side of the border.
Lexington proved to be way beyond anything we expected! The acres of horse farms carpeted with emerald-green grass and bordered by white fences were most picturesque. To me, horses were always the most beautiful animals the Lord ever created, and in Lexington, many others seemed to share my view! The silk-coated thoroughbreds and other horses grazing within those pastures was most pleasing to the eye.
We visited the farms of Castleton, which were bordered with stone fences, and Spendthrift Farm, a thoroughbred racehorse breeding farm and burial site named for the great stallion Spendthrift, where the horses were stabled in barns better than the hotel where we stayed. We were also impressed with the impeccable manners of the people we met, who were good enough to show us their farms and their horses with pride. We found their Southern accents delightful, as well. All in all, it was a most pleasant experience.
We returned home and decided to purchase a hobby farm, complete with a decent house and a good-sized barn, large enough for horses and cattle that we had been looking at just before we left on our vacation. The farm we chose consisted of two parts: 20 acres of pasture and workable land and 20 acres of woodlot of oak, ash and hickory trees, as well as a pond suitable for watering livestock and large enough to provide a skating rink in winter.
The next 30 years was a happy time in our lives that we will treasure forever. I enjoyed raising the horses and the few cattle we bought, and our children enjoyed it, as well. Debbie sometimes rode horses, along with one of the neighbor girls. Sometimes my boys would also ride the horses and ponies.
We skated on the pond in the winter, and it was the one activity my wife enjoyed, too, along with playing cards with the neighbors, who we often visited with. Our pond also became the center of hockey games on the weekends all winter long.
In the summertime, the boys—ours and our neighbors, who all-told totaled eight—built tree houses and an A-frame hut, where they sometimes camped at night, along with our collie.
After 30 years, our children grew up, got married and moved on with their lives, and my wife and I sold the farm and moved back into the city, where we had a new home built. It seemed a good idea at the time. However, we miss the farm: sitting on the porch, watching the blue jays and monarch butterflies, and the peace, solitude and privacy of living on our own land and the pride that goes with it. Still, we have wonderful memories of that time.
As it has been said many times: “You never know what you have ’til it’s gone.” How true!