My primary purpose for the trip was a conference at Lexington, Kentucky, which is famous for its confederate history which I am less interested in, and its horse racing which I am more interested in. Not so much the racing as the horses. However, this being the South and this being Trump’s America where an Indian man was recently shot dead in a bar, I was apprehensive about whether I should actually venture out and about in Lexington. When I floated the idea by my brother-in-law who is half Black, he immediately said: “Hell no!”
Nevertheless, when I landed in Lexington airport, I noticed people were perfectly friendly. While I was waiting for the hotel shuttle bus, and went in and out of the airport doors, a man from one of the airline counters came and asked me if he could help me. That was my first taste of Southern hospitality, which I had been hitherto unsure extended to non-white people.
During lunchtime on the first day of the conference, I did a short walk down the block, and it was uneventful. I did notice that the white collar people were almost uniformly white, and the working class people were mostly coloured. In the street though people actually made eye contact and greeted you, which to me coming from Hong Kong is a bit of a shock, and I fear I came across as the rude one as I figured out that people were indeed wishing me a good afternoon.
You know what else threw me? This old school elevator panel that didn’t have a ‘door close’ button. I almost pushed the red alarm button instead, such was my confusion. There was a ‘door open’ button though, but repeatedly I found myself lurching, true Hong Kong style, for the missing door close one. Not that I would have shut it intentionally in anyone’s face, mind you; I’m not that Hong Kong.
So, encouraged by my walk around the block and the fact that downtown Lexington is really very pretty, I forayed out in the evening the next day. I even had a whole bowl of salad only for dinner, a historic first, because I was sick of eating cheesy, fried and sweet things.
I also decided to book a horse farm tour. I was a bit apprehensive about this because I wasn’t sure how many non-white tourists these tours get, but I decided I just had to see some horses. It turned to be more than fine. The tour guide was super nice, and the other ladies on tour were friendly too (except for one grandma who totally blanked me, but I’m putting that down to being hard of hearing. ahem).
We first drove around the downtown and looked at some buildings of historical interest. While I had already strolled past these, hearing their history made them come alive. For example, on at least two occasions, a rich man or woman decided to buy houses side by side for their daughters so they wouldn’t be separated. Or to buy houses with acreages in between so they would be. But what stuck with me was the buying houses for daughters part.
We went by Keeneland racecourse, though just to view the tracks and drive by the barns. it was more interesting than I thought. The guide explained to us about the horse racing business, how horses are bred, how much a prize-winning thoroughbred stallion can earn on adate. Must say the whole thing doesn’t sound like fun for the horse, and I’m not 100% sure I support racing as a sport, but the horses have huge paddocks and generally seem fine.
When stopped by our first horse farm I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. These fillies came running up to us, possibly in anticipation of carrots, and allowed us to pat and take photos of with them. I totally fell in love.
We even got to see a mum and her baby. Baby horses have loooong legs, and sometimes have trouble getting up. This one was about six weeks old!
Met a horse named Hong Kong Lane. He was not impressed by my Hong Kong vibe though.
The grave of multiple prizewinner Seattle Slew. While only the head, hooves and heart of horses are usually buried (and I’m wondering who has the job of carving up the dead horse), this guy was buried in his entirety. Behind him is not a house, but a barn for other houses.
Then we proceeded to Old Friends Farm, where retired and rescued horses live. This is Kentucky Derby prizewinner Silver Charm, who I fed carrots to.
The star of Old Friends Farm is Little Silver Charm, who writes his own blog and who I am not friends with on Facebook. Lots of carrots for this one too. He was the first to be rescued by the couple who run the farm. He was bought for $40 en route to the slaughterhouse. Now he has his own paddock, a shed with posters of his derby favourites and footballs to play with. He also goes into the house to watch TV sometimes.
I am so glad I did this tour. Blue Grass Tours were fantastic. When I sent V pictures of me with the horses, “You look so happy. Maybe we can get you one if we move to India.” So there’s that.