Photo: Barbara Cunningham

SRW photo

SRW photo

My story

On 7 January 1981, The Thoroughbred Record, a niche international publication for racing and breeding of thoroughbred horses, published “Woodburn Stud.” I would like to say that I was chosen to write this article because I was the best-trained and equipped person to be rustling through dusty publications in Keeneland Library.  I wasn’t.

I had gotten to this point in my career by a circuitous route that included a major in chemistry, followed by a Masters in Agronomy–Soil Chemistry at the University of Kentucky, a stint in Research and Development with Hunt-Wesson Foods in California, followed by a Research Associate position at the University of Kentucky.

I decided I needed to get my hands dirty, learn how to drive a tractor, and talked a friend into hiring me on his farm. Women driving tractors on horse farms in Central Kentucky at that time fell squarely into the category of Not Done. My friend relented only because I agreed to help with mares and foals. Having mastered making turns without taking out fence posts, tractor driving quickly became monotonous. But I Ioved working with mares and foals. I transferred to Three Chimneys Farm to work exclusively with horses.

After a year or so, I decided I needed to get back to what I was educated to do, took an interim job at The Thoroughbred Record working on the annual stallion publication. Seasonal work expanded to eight years. Research and proofreading led to copy writing, to feature writing, and finally to Editor.

In 1984, I immigrated to Canada for love and marriage. I worked as Contributing Editor at Canadian Thoroughbred, and continued writing freelance, winning an American Horse Publications Award for Personality Profile in the United States, and a Sovereign Award in Canada. NBC Sports hired me to be a racing consultant for the broadcasts of the Breeders’ Cup and Arlington Million in 1984 and 1985.

I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2000 and took a hiatus from writing during treatment. Once in remission, I began pursuing other interests. I became active in the church choir, took improvisation classes at Second City, and joined Act II Studio at Ryerson University, performing in many theatre productions.

In 2006, I was drafted to untangle and straighten files, settle and completely restructure accounts in the office at Kinghaven Farms. I have since stepped back from office management. My son recently became President of Kinghaven Farms, which today is less about horses, though we still have boarders, and is more about generating solar energy, beekeeping and honey production and sales.

The “Woodburn Stud” feature, written in 1981, was not the first, or last feature I have written, but is it the one that haunts me.  There is much story yet to be told of R. A. Alexander, a complex man living in an equally complex time, echoes and ghosts of which inform our own time today.  I have begun researching this story again and am immersed in the letters of the Alexander family but have been feeling the need for structure and input.

On a recent trip to the Canadian Arctic, I met Jennifer Bain who was enrolled in the MFA Creative Nonfiction program at King’s College, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia.  Jennifer’s description of the program was incredibly exciting. Here was the program I needed to get this story completed: mentorship, an editor, deadlines. I don’t have to be in residence and have freedom to travel and do necessary research.

Ah yes – freedom to travel. The Pandemic has changed all that. I was counting on being able to go back to Kentucky to search for missing pieces of information among the dusty, dirty and certainly undigitized pieces of flotsam and jetsam that are stashed in tiny archives. Now I need another way to chase ghosts…