The Orchard Creek Derby

Ready for the race.  The floozy is second from left

I have to tell you, I never thought I’d experience the following event—at age 67 or at ANY age! And it’s all Roseann’s fault: my “friend” snookered me into this….

It all started when Kasha, our OC dynamo social director, came to our breakfast table last Friday and said, “I am looking for some jockeys for our horse race.” Without a moment’s hesitation, Roseann said, “JUDITH has always wanted to be a jockey. She’ll do it!”

Bad Roseann! What she didn’t know is that as a 5th grader, in the heights of my horse craze, I DID want to be a jockey. Of course, with my passion for ponies, I would have happily settled for being a stable person. I used to play these mind games with myself: if I were a jockey, what would make me the BEST jockey in the world? I was undaunted by the idea that I might have to eat two cornflakes a day, and – harder yet – find myself a real, live horse to ride. I slid away into my dreams, complete with a stunning horse proudly decorated with a horseshoe wreath of red roses, and I looking skinny and unimpressed by the cheers of an adoring crowd, dressed in crimson and white silks.

That daydream disappeared a year or so later, to be followed by the Florence Nightingale dream, the tightrope walker fantasy, and finally the Peggy Lee syndrome. Again, no matter that I wasn’t real keen on the sight of blood, that I was deathly afraid of the second rung of a stepladder, can’t sing and carry a tune, and that I never was skinny in my entire life…

So here was Roseann, offering me a chance to fulfill a childhood dream, and unthinkingly, I said, “Sure. I will be a jockey!”

“Great”, said Kasha. “We have four steeds and you will be riding this reddish-brown one. The others were all taken—Big Brown, Hari Kari, and White Lightening. She held them up—hobby horses on broom sticks with decorated stuffed heads. I immediately disliked White Lightening: she reminded me of my old playmate Connie Wilson whom I threw into the watercress pond. White Lightening was pure white, with long dark eyelashes and pouty red lips. Worst of all, she had a pink satin horn between her ears—a unicorn masquerading as a race horse. Fah!

Kasha also informed us that attendees were to wear fancy hats, and mint juleps would be served, along with tiny cheesecake squares. Everyone would be issued to paper Bingo dollars so they could place bets, and redeem their winnings at the OC ice cream parlor.

Well, by now I am into this! I scurried back to my room, and researched paper hat construction on the Internet. I took the front page from our local paper, The Leelanau Surprise, and followed the directions exactly. I added the pen with the flower on it that I received as a Mothers Day Present from OC. Viola! A hat for the party.

Here’s me in the hat:

Here are some of the others in their hats.

Jockeys were given a special derby to wear, but rebel that I am I preferred my own concoction.

OC Derby Jockeys

People arrived, placed bets with our facility manager, and found chairs on the patio, where there is sun and shade, so everyone could be pleased. The essence of the show was that each jockey threw a single large plush die, and her horse was moved the number of spaces showing on the top of the thrown die.

The horses, ready to go

Kasha led the applause—we clapped and whistled for losers, winners, and those that just needed cheering up. And in about fifteen minutes, the race was over—down to the end of the walkway and back, with enthusiastic cheering all the way.

Of course that floozy White Lightening won (but only because of her good looks). The rest of us (all three) placed second. The bets were paid off, and we adjourned to mint juleps (really good, though boozeless—Mint and sugar syrup mixed with Seven Up) and small cheesecakes of various flavors in little fluted cups. Then we took our ill gotten gains, marched to the Ice Cream Parlor, and traded bingo dollars for ice cream.

So my childhood dream comes true, I guess, in a whimsical and surprising setting. I lost the race to the glitzy tart of a unicorn—but there was no real skill involved, no real competition, just the gentle laughter of some friends sitting in the sun, enjoying the ridiculous and the sublime.

Gussied Up--that\'s Roseann in the hat made of her socks


7 thoughts on “The Orchard Creek Derby

  1. OHHHHHHHHHHHH the sun shines bright on my oooooooooooooooooooooooold Kentucky hooooooooooooooooooooooooooooome. . . on my oooooooooooooooooooooold Kentucky hooooooooooooooooooooooooooooome far awaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay! Love the hat!

  2. 5/23/2008 Well, the Floonicorn may have won, but odds are on you being the youngest jockey on the track!

    Thanks for a bunch of chuckles and a couple of big laughs today. I was in Chicago and wasn’t staying up to date on the Gertie Chronicles.


  3. If my email reminder is correct, you celebrated a birthday on May 22. It has been a while since I’ve visited your blog. Imagine my surprise that we share another love (besides mysteries: have you read Dick Francis?)–horses! I can only hope that if I end up in a group living situation in retirement, they will be as creative with their activities as the OC is. It is delightful to see your smiling face and sense of humor, as well as the wonderful hats. My well wishes to you! Wendy

  4. My dream horse was an Appaloosa, I too was a jockey, ego allowed me to win all races, but I did remain humble. The closest I get is when I ride the carousel at the mall – then I always pick the Indian horse – he always comes in first!

    Glad to hear that you will be home today! Yahoo!! and ride ’em cowboy!

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