Once upon a time (actually, it was Apri1 1, 1764), in a country whose coasts stretched between the Irish Sea to the northwest, the Celtic Sea to the southwest, and the North Sea to the east, a chestnut Thoroughbred colt was born. His owner the Duke of Cumberland christened the stud colt Eclipse and sold him to a sheep dealer. The sheep dealer sold half-interest in the horse to Captain O’Kelly, who was married to a brothel owner.
Eclipse would go on to be one of the world’s great racehorses. He died in 1789 and, as was the tradition in England, just his head, heart, and hooves were buried (now wouldn’t that make for a gripping scene). When the London surgeon performing the autopsy cut him open, he found that the racehorse had a massive heart weighing 14 pounds—6 pounds heavier than the heart of an average horse.
|Pocahontas with colt|
In 1973 (the same year Jonathan Livingston Seagull was at the top of the bestseller list), Secretariat won the Triple Crown, setting track records and world records at the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, and the Belmont. He died at the age of 19 after siring more than 600 colts. His heart wasn’t put on a scale and weighed as Eclipse’s had been, but the veterinarian who performed the autopsy estimated the great champion’s heart at more than 22 lbs. He was a power-house.
How, then, does a heart fuel not only our legs, but also our dreams? How can a heart urge us to go the distance in the face of overwhelming obstacles, urge us to remain loyal in the face of betrayal, or urge us to keep writing that novel, or poem, or memoir, despite all odds against publication? These are the questions that some of our greatest authors explore, filling the pages of the books we love with stories of champions whose victories cannot be measured by mere physical stamina or prowess, but who are heroic because they lift someone else up even as they themselves are falling down. Or, like John Steinbeck’s heroes, perhaps they are heroic not because of their greatness but because of their frailties. In Mary O’Hara’s young adult novel My Fiend Flicka, I could feel my own heart racing as young Ken McLaughlin rode down the mountain after seeing Rocket’s filly for the first time:
No dream he had ever had, no imagination of adventure or triumph could touch this moment. He felt as if he had burst out of his old self and was something entirely new—and that the world had burst into something new too. So this was it—this was what being alive meant—Oh, my filly, my filly, my beautiful—
Heart-filled prose. But Mary O’Hara didn’t finish Ken’s sentence for the reader. Instead, she left it to our imaginations, perhaps even to our pens. I like to think that she hoped we would write our own everlasting stories—ones that will be felt pulsing in the palms of the reader’s hands even as we race toward the finish line.
|Kate Chenery Tweedy signing at|
Denver Women's Press Club
January 16-18, Kate Chenery Tweedy will be at the North American Veterinary Conference, Orlando, FLA signing books. Important Links: Event Calendar for Secretariat's Meadow. Author Leeane Ladin's Book Tour Blog. Free Rein Blog Talk Radio featuring Secretariat.